Patriots advance; defense leads way

When Schen­ectady’s defense flies to the football and makes hard contact, good things happen.
PHOTOGRAPHER:

When Schen­ectady’s defense flies to the football and makes hard contact, good things happen.

“We put our hats on the ball,” Schenectady coach Carm DePoalo said after Friday night’s 27-21 Section II Class AA quarterfinal win over Ballston Spa. “We caused some fumbles. The turnovers went our way, and we capitalized on them.”

The Patriots forced five fumbles and intercepted a pass to stymie Ballston Spa, Nick Ottati scored on a pair of quarterback keepers, and Herman Seise delivered a key touchdown to give the hosts just enough leeway in their first home playoff victory in program history, and second postseason triumph in 21 years.

In bouncing back from last week’s 17-7 loss to Shaker, Schenectady

(7-1), the Liberty Division champ­ion and state’s No. 19-ranked team, earned a rematch with Niskayuna (6-2) in the next Friday’s semifinal round at Larry Mulvaney Field. Schenectady rallied past Niskayuna in a Week-3 thriller, 64-42.

“This feels so great right now,” said Seise, a junior running back/cornerback who forced Ballston Spa’s first fumble and gave his team a 27-14 fourth-quarter lead on a

22-yard scoring dash. “To win a playoff game at home, there’s nothing better than this.”

Marc Thompson scored Schen­ectady’s other touchdown and reached 100 rushing yards for the seventh week in a row, with 110 on 26 carries, and Seise darted for 81 yards on 10 attempts. On defense, Dan Desbiens, Anthony Cooper, Thompson, D’Metri Gilbert and Rashawn Champ recovered Ballston Spa (4-4) fumbles after jarring hits, and Tim Cox intercepted a pass.

“Our defense did their job tonight,” said DePoalo. “We knew if we stuck them, and if we stopped their option, we’d be OK. We had a couple of breakdowns against the pass, but for the most part, I’m pleased.”

Ottati’s one-yard sneak and Thompson’s 10-yard touchdown run in the second quarter were set up by fumble recoveries, and the Patriots produced them by covering 40 and 35 yards. Ottati’s five-yard scoring jaunt in the second frame also came after the Scotties fumbled the ball away, and capped a quick 60-yard drive highlighted by Cooper’s 56-yard reception. Johnny Best’s third extra point pushed the Pats’ advantage to 21-7.

“They’re such an athletic team. When you fumble and give them the short field, you’re in trouble,” said Ballston Spa junior quarterback Mark Seager. “It’s tough. The turnovers killed us.”

“We gave up 21 points off turnovers,” coach John Bowen said after the Scotties’ third straight loss. “It’s something you can’t do.”

Seager threw a touchdown pass to Josh Fabian covering 67 yards, fired another to Kyle Warmt covering 37 and ran four yards for a score with 69 seconds left. Ballston Spa’s ensuing on-sides kick failed to travel the necessary 10 yards, and Schenectady killed off the rest of the clock on two kneel downs by Ottati.

“This is a special group,” said DePoalo, after Schenectady became the first city team to reach seven wins since Mont Pleasant in 1982. “When we’re on our game, no one will beat us, but we have to have every phase of our game going. Offense, defense and special teams.”

Schenectady’s defense took center stage in the school’s first playoff win since 2001 by containing a Ballston Spa option offense that had amassed at least 275 rushing yards in each of its first seven games. Warmt led the Scotties with 78 yards on eight carries, Seager gained 76 on 17 attempts, and the visitors finished with 205 on 41 tries.

“Coach said all week, ‘We’ve got to hit, and we’ve got to watch the option,’ ” said Seise, who, at 5-foot-5

and 140 pounds, is Schenectady’s smallest but fastest starter. “That’s what we did.”

Friday night was another frustrating venture for Ballston Spa, which lost last week at Shenendehowa on a kickoff return in the final seconds, 45-41, and bowed to Bethlehem the week before, 14-12.

“We felt we had a good game plan coming in, and we couldn’t turn the corner,” said Bowen, who had guided Ballston Spa to quarterfinal wins in 2007 and 2006. “We feel like we let one get away tonight. We let a great opportunity get away.

“The kids are heartbroken, right now. They’re sick to their stomachs. I feel bad for the kids because they’ve worked so hard. It’s been a very, very frustrating time for all involved.”

A fumble recovery by Fabian led to Warmt’s touchdown reception with 1:15 left in the third quarter, and Schenectady answered on Seise’s touchdown run with 9:14 left, that surge capping a 10-play, 65-yard

series. Thompson ran for three yards on fourth-and-one just before the junior reached the end zone.

“It was all on the line,” said Seise of his TD run. “They got me into the open, and Marc had a great hit in their safety.”

Seager was halted for no gain on a fourth-and-two run from the Pats 10 on Ballston Spa’s next drive, before scoring on its last possession.

Ballston Spa 0 7 7 7 — 21

Schenectady 0 14 7 6 — 27

S — Ottati 1 run (Best kick).

S — Thompson 10 run (Best kick).

BS — Fabian 67 pass from Seager (LaChance kick).

S — Ottati 4 run (Best kick).

BS — Warmt 37 pass from Seager (LaChance kick).

S — Seise 22 run (kick failed).

BS — Seager 4 run (LaChance kick).

Categories: High School Sports

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