Ask any letterman on the Shenendehowa football team about last year’s season-opening game at Schenectady, and the thought still stings.
The Patriots put up three first-half touchdowns and played shutout ball into the fourth quarter in a rousing 36-7 win which served as a springboard toward their greatest campaign. The Plainsmen, on the other hand, never fully recovered.
“We have a lot of returning starters, and we’re a little more comfortable with the things we’re doing,” said Shenendehowa two-way lineman Austin Lane. “We’d love to return the favor.”
The Plainsmen will attempt to do so tonight in the inaugural game their new turf field in a Class AA crossover matching teams with division title aspirations.
“I don’t think there was one iota of complacency in our planning for Schenectady,” said Shenendehowa coach Brent Steuerwald, Section II’s all-time leader with 296 wins. “We need to be at our best, or we’re not going to walk away with a win. Our next two games are very challenging. We’re at Ballston Spa Thursday, and if we can get by these games, I think we can get on a roll.”
“We’re taking it one at a time and not looking past anyone, especially Schenectady,” said Shenendehowa quarterback Andrew Kalish. “There are a lot of quality teams out there.”
Shenendehowa knocked off one of them last week, piling up 310 rushing yards in 27-14 win at Shaker, and Schenectady broke in its new turf field with a 47-20 rout of Albany to set the stage for the early-season showdown.
“The game is going to be on TV [Time Warner Cable channel 3]. There’s going to be at least 1,000 people there,” said Schenectady quarterback Tim Cox. “There’s going to be a lot of hype, but we’ve got to get past that, and play the game we know how to play.”
Schenectady did not play well in the first quarter last week, with Cox throwing an interception and the Patriots punting twice while allowing an Albany touchdown. The Falcons fell apart after that, turning the ball over five times and committing two key special teams miscues, and Schenectady cashed in for its seven scores.
“We were a little over-hyped coming out of the locker room, and we messed up a couple of assignments early, but we understand the big picture,” said Jim Kramer, Schenectady’s first-year coach. “The team that executes the best for four quarters is going to win. Whoever doesn’t get distracted and plays the best football is going to win.”
Pats focus on run
Kramer said his Patriots must run the ball at a more efficient rate and contain Shenendehowa’s potent ground attack in order to beat the 10-time Section II champions for a third time. Shenendehowa holds a 6-2 lead in the series, including a 21-0 win in 2006.
“Our running game was not up to the standards that we prefer. We had some big plays, but not enough consistent plays,” Kramer said of the Albany game. “We need to put more positive plays together.”
Cox led Schenectady with 57 yards, and tailback Herman Seise was limited to 47 against Albany. The Patriots’ longest scoring drives covered 44 and 35 yards.
“Albany was crashing holes, and we couldn’t get much going except for a couple of big plays,” said Cox, who ran for two touchdowns and passed to Jason Nesmith and Steve Kent for two more. “The line did a pretty good job blocking, but they’ve got to block longer and push the defense farther so our backs can get beyond the line and make things happen.”
“Our key focus is to get Herman going early, and we’ll feed off that,” said Kramer.
Shenendehowa will counter with a speedy group led by tailback Suhayb Banks, who churned out 166 yards and scored on runs of 58 and 50 yards against Shaker. Bronson Greene and Cody Case-Therrien also scored touchdowns out of Shenendehowa’s power-I offense.
“Brent Steuerwald will do what he’s done for years, and that’s run the ball,” Kramer said. “He’s got two outstanding running backs and a line that will hit you in the mouth. We’ve got to control the line of scrimmage, and put hats on the football.”
Schenectady forced four fumbles by doing just that last week, while Mister Taylor stripped an opposing runner and turned it into an 85-yard touchdown return for the reigning Liberty Division champs.
“Albany was terribly rattled by Schenectady’s aggressiveness. They put nine up front at times, and came from all angles,” Steuerwald said. “We have to control the football, and not turn it over to their aggressive defense.”
“Banks and Greene are quick and dangerous,” said Cox. “Our corners and safeties have got to crash down, and our big guys have to fill holes.”
Banks ran for 104 yards and scored on a 13-yard jaunt in last year’s game with Schenectady. Seise ran for 80 yards as a backup to Marc Thompson, and also scored from two yards out to cap the Pats’ victory. Schenectady won seven more times after that before losing to LaSalle in the Section II Class AA final.
“Our focus is on playing the very best football we can play. We have great respect for Shenendehowa. They’re a perennial power, but I’m confident we’ll perform,” said Kramer. “I’m confident the kids will bring their ‘A’ game.”
Sabre up for grabs
LaSalle and Christian Brothers Academy will meet for the 59th time in the battle for the Sabre tonight on the Cadets’ field, with the host team looking for its eight consecutive win in the series, which dates back to 1932.
LaSalle raced to a 34-0 halftime lead in last year’s contest and went on to prevail, 48-6, though CBA still leads the series, 32-20-6. The Cadets, winners of two straight Section II Class AA titles, opened their season with a 21-16 victory over Saratoga Springs. CBA lost to Colonie, 29-20, and has dropped eight straight games.
Defending Section II Class A champ Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, a 46-14 winner against Scotia-Glenville last week, travels to Niskayuna tonight. The Silver Warriors topped Glens Falls last week, 22-14, behind Ryan Alden’s three touchdowns.
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Categories: High School Sports