Ryan Alden is a modest Warrior.
“The rushing touchdowns, there’s no way I would have gotten near the end zone without the guys up front,” the Niskayuna senior said of his performance in Saturday’s 22-14 season-opening win at Glens Falls. “And the ball I threw, the guy made a great catch.”
Alden had a hand in every point scored by the Silver Warriors in their return to Class A-level football. His 60-yard interception return for a touchdown with just over five minutes left broke a tie, and he followed up his gallop to the end zone on Putt LaMay Memorial Field with a successful two-point conversion pass to Nick Schuler.
“It was a passing situation. I was reading their quarterback’s eyes all the way and guessed what receiver he was going to,” Alden said of his interception. “I caught the ball, got some good blocks and busted it wide open.
“The game had been tied since halftime, and that broke the deadlock and gave us momentum. It was a great feeling.”
“That’s typical Ryan. It’s no surprise to hear him say that,” said Niskayuna football coach John Furey. “He’s always crediting his blockers, talking up other guys on the team.”
The team won in large part due to the efforts of its star safety and new starting quarterback. He’d never say that, though.
“He’s fast and quick, and he has a great field sense. He showed it on that interception,” Furey said of the 6-foot-2, 185-pound team captain, who also excels in lacrosse. “He stepped right in front of their eceiver and brought it to the middle, wrinkled it out and outran everybody.”
Alden earlier ran for a pair of first-half touchdowns, and sprinted for a two-point conversion after the second to bring the teams even at 14-14. As a wide receiver, Alden scored only two touchdowns as a junior, including a sprawling end zone reception in Niskayuna’s 27-8 Section II Class AA semifinal loss at Schenectady.
“The last time I started at quarterback was my freshman year on the junior varsity,” said Alden, who, along with Kyle Bayly, are filling the spot vacated by all-star quarterback Danny Peters. “I was nervous about how I would play. I thought the rest of the team would be OK. I had confidence they’d play well, but I was thinking a lot about making good throws and making the right reads at the line of scrimmage.
“I was nervous, in terms of what I would do.”
“If he had nerves, I couldn’t tell,” said Furey. “He did a nice job of running our offense. He was very efficient. We’re still working on the passing aspect, but that will come.”
Alden saw some action Saturday at wide receiver and caught two passes from Bayly, both coming during Niskayuna’s second touchdown drive. He also handled Niskayuna’s punting chores.
“He’s critical to our success,” Furey said of Alden, who just turned 18. “He’s got other guys around him who have to play well, but he’s critical every game.”
The Niskayuna field hockey team registered its second impressive win Wednesday by knocking off defending Suburban Council champion Saratoga Springs, 2-0. The Silver Warriors opened their season last week by edging Bethlehem, another team expected to contend for the league banner, 2-1, in overtime.
“I’m optimistic,” said third-year Niskayuna coach Alison Broomhead. “I have a good feeling this combination of girls can make it as far as they want to make it, and they want the Suburban Council championship. That’s their ultimate goal.”
Niskayuna features 14 seniors, led by all-state selection Lindsay Mayo, Alicia Aragosa, Katie Farley, Kelsey Leder, Ellen Kolman, Shannon Pfohl and Kristy Macri, and a solid group of underclassmen including promising sophomore Richie Assini. Mayo, Aragosa, Farley, Leder and Kolman were members of the school’s 2007 league title-winning and Section II Class A runner-up team.
“I have 22 girls who love hockey, love playing with each other and want the same thing,” said Broomhead. “It’s a good mix, and they’re in it to win it.”
Mayo scored in seven-on-seven overtime to lift the Silver Warriors past Bethlehem. She assisted on goals by Aragosa and Claire Young in the win over Saratoga Springs, which lost just one of its 14 league games in 2008.
“That’s two big ones,” said Broomhead, whose team won 10 games last spring, including eight in league play. “We learned from the Bethlehem game, and took that into [Wednesday’s] game. We’ll take what we learned today and try to apply it in our next game. We’re going to be in some battles, and game to game, we’ve got to keep improving.”
Niskayuna plays a non-league game at Salem today before resuming its league schedule Monday at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake.
Birchak to Hall of Fame
Four-time Section II diving champion Brandon Birchak will be among the inductees into the Shaker High School Athletic Hall of Fame Oct. 3 at the Century House in Latham.
A two-time All-American and former holder of the Section II 11-dive record, Birchak will be joined by runner Justin Corelli, tennis player Amanda O’Hearn and multi-sport standout Zach Tacelli. Birchak set 16 Shaker diving records from 2001-03 and was also a star gymnast, five times qualifying for the state meet.
Corelli (2002) won eight varsity letters in track and cross country, winning a pair of Section II titles in the latter sport. O’Hearn (2003) captured three Section II individual tennis titles and anchored five Suburban Council championship teams. As a football player, Tacelli (2002) has the rare distinction of being named the Shaker offensive player of the year in 1999, defensive player of the year in 2000 and special teams player of the year in 2001. He was also an impact performer in indoor track and field, as well as in baseball, where he led the Blue Bison in batting three times and set a school record for runs batted in.
Click here for more information on the hall of fame ceremony and reservation forms on the Shaker athletic Web site.