Resilient Pats bounce back, top Shaker (with photo gallery)

Korey Tillman saw the loose ball, and knew he had to get a hold of it. It was a good way to start fo

Korey Tillman saw the loose ball, and knew he had to get a hold of it.

It was a good way to start for Schenectady. Tillman’s fumble recovery on the third play of the game gave his team great field position, and the Patriots took advantage.

Schenectady struck early on the road, scoring on its first two possessions — including eight plays after Tillman’s fumble recovery — to bounce back from a tough loss last week and open divisional play with a 20-6 win over Shaker on Thursday night.

The Pats used an effective passing game to start and a strong defense throughout to improve to 2-1 and open Liberty Division play by avenging their sole regular-season loss from 2008.

Tim Cox went 9-for-17 passing for 165 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Cox completed his first six passes and seven of his first eight. Steve Kent caught four passes for 98 yards receiving.

Herman Seise ran for 78 yards on 19 carries, and D’Metri Gilbert ran for 76 yards on 11 carries. The Patriots’ defense limited Shaker to 168 yards of offense, including 49 passing yards.

Conor Alund ran for 103 yards on 21 carries to lead Shaker (1-2).

Schenectady suffered a difficult defeat last week when Shenendehowa beat the Pats on a two-point conversion in the waning seconds. Schenectady wanted to put that loss behind it.

It didn’t take long for the Patriots to move forward.

Isaiah Earing forced a fumble on the Blue Bison’s third play of the game, and Tillman pounced on it at Shaker’s 39-yard line.

“I saw the middle, and everyone crashed down,” Tillman said. “Isaiah Earing hit him, and the ball popped out. I didn’t want to scoop it up, since there were a whole lot of people in front of me. I fell on it to secure the ball and make sure we had a good drive to put points on the board.”

Schenectady used seven plays to move the ball up to the 23 before Cox hit Ozias Murphy in the right corner for a touchdown and a 6-0 lead.

The Patriots need only four plays to score on their next possession, as Cox found Steve Kent open down the left sideline for a 49-yard touchdown. Kent outran his defender to make an over-the-shoulder catch and run in for the score and a 13-0 lead less than 81⁄2 minutes into the game.

“Definitely, it was a good job to get the lead quickly,” Cox said. “This starts the season of league play, and it was good to get that first touchdown pass in and get the game rolling.”

“Any time you go on the road, it’s very important to get the lead and play the clock to your advantage, make them chase you,” Schenec­tady coach Jim Kramer said. “I think we came out of the locker room ready to go, and to Shaker’s credit, they settled down and made some plays on us. We bent a couple of times, but we didn’t break.”

Shaker had a chance to trim the Pats’ lead to open the second quarter, marching 65 yards on an 11-play drive, largely on the broad shoulders of Alund. But the Blue Bison couldn’t convert, with a 27-yard field-goal attempt sailing low.

Still, Schenectady couldn’t pad its lead before halftime, and Richie Hendrickson intercepted Cox on the first play of the second half, returning the ball 22 yards to Schen­ectady’s 19. Alund burst through the middle for a one-yard touchdown six plays later, bringing the Blue Bison to within 13-6 less than 3 1⁄2 minutes into the second half.

“Great effort again [by Alund],” Shaker coach Dennis Bender said. “We’re going to have multiple running backs this year, and he’s going to be our pounder.”

The Patriots responded on their next series, though. The Pats went 83 yards on 13 plays in 5:35 for a 20-6 lead, and then held Shaker the rest of the way.

“The defense helped out great because if there was an interception, we had a good defensive stand to keep the momentum in our favor,” Tillman said.

“We know we have to go back to the film room and fix things up and sharpen things up on our offensive side especially, but I thought our defense played exceptional today,” Kramer said. “We tackled much better today.”

Schenectady used as much of the clock as it could to close it out. The Patriots had control of the ball for the final 7:13 of the game.

“The key thing about Timmy [Cox] is he’s such a competitor and he’s such a team leader that he rallied that offense and understood that we needed to put a drive together and milk that clock in the fourth quarter.”

“Those wide receivers are good, they can run with the ball,” Bender said. “The quarterback’s excellent, and he’s got a great supporting cast.”

“There was a good hard, practice this whole week,” Tillman said. “Everyone went 100 percent every single practice.”

Schenectady 13 0 7 0 — 20

Shaker 0 0 6 0 —  6

Schenectady — Murphy 23 pass from Cox (pass failed)

Schenectady — Kent 49 pass from Cox (Earing kick)

Shaker — Alund 1 run (kick wide)

Schenectady — Cox 2 run (Earing kick)

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