Schalmont football coach Joe Whipple has that good feeling again, the same mix of calm and great anticipation he sensed before last year’s Section II Class B championship game with Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk.
“We’re confident because the kids are prepared, plus, we have big-game experience. We’ve faced adversity before and responded to it,” Whipple said. “Remember when Ravena drove the field and scored on us last year, and we responded? We have guys who have been there and done that.”
They’ll attempt to do it again tonight in a rematch from that title game in a semifinal contest on the Sabres’ field.
Schalmont will bring a 26-game Section II winning streak that not only includes last fall’s 48-13 title-sealing triumph over the Indians, but also a 13-12 come-from-hehind victory againt them in 2009. All but two other wins in the streak have come by double digits.
“They do what they’ve been doing for a long time. They’ve found ways to win. They have a successful program,” Whipple said. “They’ll present a challenge, but I believe we’re ready for it.”
The Schalmont (8-0) lineup will be bolstered with the return of linebacker Mike Flocuzzio. The standout senior sustained a broken hand in a 28-7 Week 6 win over Hudson Falls, and sat out both a 26-14 win over Schuylerville when the Sabres clinched their fourth straight Class B West Division banner and last week’s 47-0 Section II quarterfinal triumph over Hudson.
“In a way, it could be a blessing in disguise,” said Whipple. “He’s been banged up for most of the season with a groin and his shoulders. With the hand, he was able to sit and heal those things up. We felt if we’re going to make a deep playoff run, we really need him on top of his game.”
Linebacker Jean Gomez excelled in Flocuzzio’s absense last week with 21 tackles, while Devon Willis ran for a season-high 221 yards and three touchdowns for the state’s No. 5-ranked team.
“Our guys pulled together for him [Flocuzzio] so he could play another game,” Whipple said.
Alex Hildebrand also scored three touchdowns against Hudson, two coming on passes from Niko Nicoletti. The senior quarterback added a touchdown run in Schalmont’s seventh consecutive sectional win since a one-point upset loss to Hudson in the 2008 quarterfinals.
“He’s had a great year,” Whipple said of Nicoletti, last year’s backup to Joe Paskevich. “With him, Devon and Alex, it makes us tough to defend.”
Whipple can’t say enough good things about the players who have paved the way for his offensive threats. The group includes linemen Marcus Ramundo, Jesse Ross, Tyler Mattick, Josh Warner and Mike Famolaro, and tight end Pete Kalil.
“We’re one of the top scoring teams in the section, and they’ve had a lot to do with it. We see so many different schemes, and they’ve done a great job,” Whipple said. “They watch a lot of film and ask a lot of questions. They put a lot of time in before each game. Probably more than anyone except for our quarterback.”
Ravena quarterback Conner Zeoli fired a touchdown pass to Ryan Rivers, Cam Grecco ran for a 104 yards and score, and a late 25-yard field goal by Harlan Hoose gave the Indians (6-2) a 17-14 quarterfinal win over Schuylerville.
“What Ravena does is take advantage of other teams’ mistakes. Every game I’ve seen of them, they’ve capitalized on things,” Whipple said. “We have to protect the ball and be productive when we get field position.”
Willis helped seal last year’s victory over Ravena with a pair of touchdown runs. His first was part of a string of 35 unanswered points after the Indians tied the game at seven apiece.
Albany Academy (6-2) will host Cobleskill-Richmondville (5-3) Saturday at 1:30 in the other Class B semifinal. Schalmont beat Albany Academy in 2009 and 2010 as a steppingstone toward its back-to-back Section II championships.
Shenendehowa (8-0) will host LaSalle (5-3) and Columbia (7-1) will entertain Christian Brothers Academy (7-1) in tonight’s Class AA semifinals. Retiring Shenendehowa coach Brent Steuerwald will be making his final home appearance, as will departing Amsterdam coach Pat Liverio when his Rugged Rams (8-0) host Queensbury (5-3) in a Class A tilt.
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (7-1) goes to Troy (8-0) for tonight’s other Class A semifinal in a game that will pit 2010 Section II champions. Burnt Hills won its third straight Class A title last year, and Troy prevailed at the Class AA level. The Spartans knocked off the Flying Horses for the 2009 Class A banner.
The Class C semifinals are Saturday at Stillwater. Watervliet (6-1) plays Hoosick Falls (8-0) at 1, and Chatham (5-2) meets Fonda-Fultonville (7-0) at 7. The Class D semifinals are Saturday at Schuylerville. Whitehall (5-3) plays Cambridge (8-0) at 1, and Fort Edward (6-2) goes against Rensselaer (7-1) at 7.
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Categories: High School Sports