Shenendehowa football coach Brent Steuerwald scouted Troy’s Section II Class AA semifinal game with Niskayuna last Saturday. After three quarters, after the Flying Horses had scored 56 of their school playoff-record 63 points, he’d seen enough and headed for the exit.
“We have a lot of respect for their program. We have a lot of respect for what they’ve accomplished, and their potential, but I’m not going to say we can’t play with these guys,” Steuerwald said. “I think we’ll be prepared.”
The Plainsmen know what they have to do to win tonight’s Class AA championship game. Whether they can will unfold on the Colonie High School field starting at 7 in the third title matchup between the teams, and first since the 2003 season.
Troy is 9-0 and ranked No. 7 in the state after its 63-7 dismantling of Niskayuna. Shenendehowa is 7-2 after ousting Ballston Spa last Friday, 24-14.
“We watched film of their game with Niskayuna, and I think the biggest help was its shock value to the kids,” Steuerwald said. “When you play Troy, you can’t let up.”
Steuerwald said his offense, led by running back Bronson Greene, will need to be sharp against a Troy defense that forced five turnovers and recorded seven sacks against Niskayuna. That defensive unit also has five shutouts to its credit, including one in a 34-0 blanking of Shaker that wrapped up the Liberty Division championship prior to the playoffs.
“We need to control the ball for a fair amount of time or we don’t beat them,” said Steuerwald. “We have to take advantage of every opportunity, and we have to keep them off the field. Every possession will be important.”
Greene ran for two touchdowns and Teddy Van Galen hit Brendan Miller with a scoring pass as Shenendehowa reeled off 21 unanswered points in the second half to overhaul Ballston Spa. Greene upped his touchdown total to 20, and, with 77 rushing yards, increased his season yield to 1,250.
“We’ve seen total run. We’ve seen total pass. We’ve seen teams in the middle,” said Troy coach Jack Burger. “I’m hoping all of those experiences will help us.”
The Flying Horses helped themselves considerably with their defensive effort last week, consistently shutting down Niskayuna and getting the ball into the hands of quarterback Brian Marsh and a running back unit led by Jordan Canzeri and Shatiek Lewis.
“They’re extremely aggressive,” said Steuerwald. “They sent one of their linebackers on just about every play. I wouldn’t be surprised if they do that again.”
Troy was aggressive with the ball, too, and scored on its first eight possessions in earning its ninth Section II title-game berth. Lewis ran for two touchdowns and 207 yards, Marsh ran for two touchdowns and 102 yards and Canzeri delivered three TDs and 95 yards to increase his season total to 1,300.
Lewis gained the end zone on runs of 73 and 77 yards in his most significant action since sustaining a high ankle sprain in Week 5 against Saratoga Springs.
“Their two backs [Lewis, Canzeri] have great speed, and we’re not talking 4.7 or 4.8. We’re talking 4.4 and 4.5,” said Steuerwald. “We’ve talked to our players about taking proper angles when they get into the second level. We have to limit them. We have to make them earn everything they get.”
Shenendehowa played one of its finest defensive games in the sectional quarterfinals, in a 48-6 win over Shaker, before holding Ballston Spa scoreless over the final three quarters last week. Those two wins followed consecutive losses to Guilderland (37-13) and Saratoga (14-12) that cost the Plainsmen the Empire Division championship.
“I was thinking it could go one way or another,” Steuerwald said. “As a staff, we kept after it, and the kids recommitted themselves and figured out what went wrong.”
Shenendehowa has done enough right things in Super Bowls to forge a 10-3 record, with those 10 wins tying Cambridge for the all-time Section II lead. Shenendehowa won its last Class AA title at Troy’s expense in 2003, 30-0, while the Flying Horses beat the Plainsmen in the 1997 “AA” final, 35-6.
“Both teams know each other very well. There won’t be very many surprises,” said Burger. “As a coach, you worry about the intangibles. Will the field be a factor? Will there be a a key turnover? Will there be a penalty in a critical situation?”
Troy was in this situation last year at the Class A level, showing a 9-0 record before losing to Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, 33-18. That loss left Troy 6-3 in Super Bowls, with its last victory coming against Bishop Maginn, 31-14, in the 2000 Class AA final.
“Last year, we were a younger team. We were happy to be there, and we came up short,” said Burger. “This year, we expected to get back there. Anything short of getting to the Super Bowl would have been a disappointment.”
Also tonight at 7, Hoosick Falls (9-0) and Chatham (9-0) play for the Class C championship at Stillwater, and Cambridge (8-0) and Rensselaer (6-2) play for the Section II Class D title at Schuylerville. Hoosick Falls defeated Chatham in last year’s Class C final, 17-14, as part of its 19-game winning streak against area opponents.
Burnt Hills (9-0) has won 29 straight games inside Section II, and will look for another in Saturday night’s Class A title game at 7 against Lansingburgh (8-1) at Shenendehowa. Lansingburgh was the last area team to beat BH-BL, in the 2007 Super Bowl.
Before Burnt Hills goes after its third title in a row and fourth since 2006, Schalmont (9-0) and Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk (8-0) will tangle for Section II Class B honors Saturday at 3 at Schenectady. Schalmont won its first sectional crown in 2009.
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Categories: High School Sports