Steuerwald’s home finale may also decide title

Coach Joe Burke and his Christian Brothers Academy football team want to spoil a party in Clifton Pa

Coach Joe Burke and his Christian Brothers Academy football team want to spoil a party in Clifton Park tonight.

While they have a great deal of respect for Shenendehowa football and its head man, Brent Steuerwald, it is their job to try to do so.

After all, both teams are 4-0 in the Class AA Empire Division and 5-0 overall, state ranked and with playoff destiny in their own hands.

“We’ve got kids who want to win bad. We have kids with great drive and great desire to play the game of football,” Burke said. “We’re not going there to get a consolation prize. Our kids are going there to win, and as a coaching staff, we’ll try to put them in the best position to be successful.”

Steuerwald, Section II’s all-time wins leader and the orchestrator of 10 Section II Super Bowl victories, announced in August that his 44th season with the Plainsmen would be his last. Tonight’s contest on the Shenendehowa field that bears his name will be his final reg­ular-season home appearance.

“I’ve said as little as possible about that to my team,” Steuerwald said. “They have enough pressure on them. Their focus should be on the game.”

“We’ve had the CBA game circled for a long time,” Shenendehowa senior quarterback Teddy Van Galen said after firing three touchdown passes in last week’s 37-20 win at Ballston Spa. “We knew it would be coach Steuerwald’s last one at home, and now it means a lot for the division. We can’t wait to play them.”

Shenendehowa’s win against then-unbeaten Ballston Spa coupled with CBA’s 41-14 victory over Saratoga Springs set up tonight’s cable-televised showdown between Section II’s only spotless Class AA teams. A brief ceremony honoring Steuerwald’s legacy will begin at 7, with the game to follow.

“There are a lot of rewards for a great performance, and that’s what I talked to my players about,” said Steuerwald. “A number of things go our way with a win. We win the division. We get the No. 1 seed and homefield advantage in Weeks 8 and 9. We get to play the [Liberty Division] No. 4 seed first.”

CBA can get all of those things with a win tonight and another next week at Ballston Spa (4-1, 5-1).

“We have to keep everything in perspective, and move on. We have to make sure, win or lose, that we’re balanced,” said Burke. “Even in victory, we know Week 7 is another tough opponent, and Week 8 is here before you know it.”

Burke knows Shenendehowa is not only a difficult team to score on, but one that’s difficult to defend against. The Plainsmen have produced points in every quarter this year, with Corey Acker’s fourth-quarter field goal keeping that streak alive last week. Tony Fusco ran for two touchdowns and Van Galen threw scoring passes Brandon Miller, Alex DeRusso and Derek Boland before that.

“We’ve got to remain strong,” said Burke. “We are prepared for their single back sets and Van Galen throwing the football. And we haven’t forgotten about their power back formations.”

Fusco has been Shenendehowa’s most consistent offensive figure. The senior tailback has rushed for over 100 yards four times, and has scored at least two touchdowns in every game.

“He’s a 25-carry guy. They want to get the football to him,” Burke said. “He’s very patient in what he does. He lets his line get leverage, picks his spots, and gets going. He’s a tough kid to bring down, and he has got great high school speed. Our goal is to get our guys to him while he’s picking his way.”

CBA will spread its carries among Cameron Wynn, Earl Rickets, Cody Zappone and Joe O’Hagan, while quarterback Teddy Cillis has a pair of superb receivers in Peter Luizzi and Torey Williams. Wynn and Rickets both scored a pair of touchdowns last week, while Luizzi was the star the week before in a 26-25 win against Guilderland with a late TD grab and two-point conversion toss to Williams.

“They’re a little better team offensively than defensively,” said Steuerwald. “They’ve got a quality quarterback. Their line is better than it was last year. We’ll have to be at our best.”

Shenendehowa’s defense set a program record with four straight shutouts before Ballston Spa broke through.

“They like to blitz. We’re prep­ared for it,” said Burke. “Guilderland brought a lot of guys, and we did a good job of countering that with our play selection. Hopefully, we can do that again and get our guys into open space.”

Shenendehowa beat CBA for Steuerwald’s 300th coaching win in the 2009 season, 34-0. Shenendehowa also defeated CBA last year, 20-14.

Categories: High School Sports

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