High School Football: Patriots can clinch berth

Schenectady football coach Jim Kramer gathered his team following practice earlier this week and tal

Schenectady football coach Jim Kramer gathered his team following practice earlier this week and talked at length about the oppor­tunity in front of them.

“We have to take advantage of the spot we’re in, and finish on our home field,” Kramer said moments after his emotional message. “We don’t want to have to try to get in the playoffs in Week 7. We want to position ourselves in Week 7.”

Schenectady can lock up one of the four Section II Class AA Liberty Division playoff seeds available with a homecoming victory tonight against Niskayuna at Larry Mulvaney Field. Niskayuna, Shaker and LaSalle are also in the playoff hunt within the parity-filled div­ision, while Columbia has already advanced.

“Niskayuna is going to bring a crowd. We’ll bring a crowd,”

Kramer said. “We’re excited to play in that environment.”

The game will pit a Schenectady (2-1, 2-3) team that’s looking to keep a good thing going against a Niskayuna (1-2, 2-3) team that’s looking to bounce back. The Patriots edged Shaker last week, 21-19, while the Silver Warriors were humbled by LaSalle, 46-20.

“We haven’t talked about playoff implications, winning record or any of that this week. We’ve talked about what we have to do to win,” said Niskayuna coach John Furey. “We’ve talked about playing great football. If we do that, the rest will take care of itself.”

Some great things have transpired in the heat of this growing rivalry. Brian Grastorf passed for a Section II-record 436 yards when Niskayuna soared to a 39-8 win over Schenectady in 2005, and in 2007, Marc Thompson rushed for 381 yards to spearhead a 34-21 Pat­riots’ victory. In 2008, the Patriots put up a school record for points in a wild 64-42 triumph on their way to the Section II Super Bowl.

Another victory tonight will send the Patriots to the sectionals for a program-best fifth consecutive time. Schenectady first made it four straight times from 2000-03.

“Niskayuna has a very good quarterback and very good wide receivers,” said Tyler DePasquale, Schenectady’s standout two-way tackle. “When they show up, they’ll be a very hungry team. We need to play. We want everyone in Section II to know we’re still here.”

Kwame Jarvis fired a scoring pass to Alex Phann, Felix Rod­riguez and Hassan Rainey ran for touchdowns and Jallah Tarver recorded an interception and two sacks in Schenec­tady’s clutch win on Shaker’s field.

“It was their homecoming, and we had a chance to spoil their party. The thought of doing that drove everyone insane, plus, we were tired of losing. All of my teammates stepped up,” said DePasquale.

“That was a big win. That was the most complete football game we’ve played. The question now is, can we carry it over?” Kramer said. “Consistency is the word for this team. Can we play four quarters of consistent football and reach our expectations?”

Schenectady had lost three games in a row before dealing Shaker its first Liberty Division loss and avenging last year’s 28-21 setback against the Blue Bison. Schenectady also lost to Niskayuna last year, 32-28, as part of a four-game slide that was followed by three straight victories and a playoff reward.

“We put ourselves in this pos­ition. Let’s take care of business,” Kramer said. “People watch us for a quarter and say, ‘Wow.’ Then they’ll watch us for another quarter, and say, ‘Hmmm.’ We need to play our best football.”

Schenectady’s defense will have to deal with Rob Singleton and

Niskayuna’s pass-often offense. The senior leads all Section II quarterbacks with 85 completions, 157 attempts and 1,067 yards, and is tied for second with eight touchdown tosses. His leading receivers, John Callahan and Uwem Akpanikat, have a combined 60 receptions and seven touchdowns.

“We’ve got to keep his [Singleton] feet moving. We can’t let him get settled. That’s when he can hit it,” DePasquale said. “We’ve got to make him as uncomfortable as possible.”

Schenectady pressured Shaker quarterback Chris Landers well and picked off three of his passes, with Rodriguez and Josh Nelson joining Tarver in that department.

“Last week, we were opportunistic and we made plays,” said Kramer. “You have to win the battle up front to give those guys oppor­tunities to make those plays. You’ve got to get the quarterback to slide and throw off his back foot.”

“We expect them to be very aggressive up front,” said Furey. “We have to protect.”

Shaker (2-1, 2-3) plays at LaSalle (2-1, 3-2) in tonight’s other key Liberty Division game. Schenectady is at LaSalle and Niskayuna hosts Shaker to end the regular season.

“This is the first time since our scrimmage with Amsterdam that we’ll have everyone ready to go,” said Kramer. “We’ve been missing a starter here and a starter there. This is the first time we’ll put our full roster out there. We’re excited to see what we can do with everyone healthy.”

Troy (4-0, 5-0) will put its 15-game Section II winning streak on the line when it travels to Lansingburgh (3-1, 4-1) Friday for a game matching Class A Southeast Division leaders.

Friday’s card also includes the Indian Bowl, a Class C North Div­ision game that sends Stillwater (2-3, 2-3) to longtime rival Mechanicville (2-2, 3-2). The Red Raiders have won the last five games in the series.

Categories: High School Sports

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