Sabres can’t afford to squander another lead

Schalmont scored the first two touchdowns in the Section II Class B championship game against Albany

Schalmont scored the first two touchdowns in the Section II Class B championship game against Albany Academy. The Sabres struck four times before an answer by Peru in last week’s state quarterfinal game.

In both contests, it took a late play, one on offense and another on defense, to clinch a victory.

“We’ve let teams back in the game. We let Albany Academy back in it. We let Peru back in it,” said Schalmont coach Joe Whipple. “If we do it again, we’re going to lose. We’re talking about a team that wants to beat us. They’ll be out for revenge.”

Schalmont takes on Croton-Harmon in a state semifinal rematch today at 3 p.m. at Dietz Stadium in Kingston. While the Sabres held on for a 25-20 win over Peru, the Tigers slugged Marlboro in their quarterfinal, 46-3, to bring the unbeatens back together.

“Their offense is very dangerous. Their defense is very good. They graduated some outstanding players, but they’re a notch better than last year desite the seniors they lost,” said Whipple, whose Sabres beat the Tigers, 28-14, before last year’s 50-20 setback against Hornell in the state title game. “They’re the best team we’ve faced.”

Schalmont (11-0) knocked off two good teams in the last two weeks, starting with its 36-35 triumph over Albany Academy. Schalmont won that game on Niko Nicoletti’s overtime touchdown run and Devon Willis’ two-point conversion after letting 14-0, 21-14 and 28-21 leads get away. A jarring hit by Nick Gallo and Jean Gomez’s fumble recovery sealed last week’s game, which Schalmont led, 25-0, behind Nicoletti’s two touchdown runs and scoring pass to Alex Hildebrand.

“We just need to be more aggressive, on both offense and defense. Our play calling needs to be more aggressive. Our defense needs to play more aggressive,” said Whipple. “When we get a lead, we need to build on it, and not have the other team get points and come back on us.”

Croton-Harmon (Section I, 10-0) put up over 40 points for the fourth time in five games last week when Nick Grous rushed for 165 yards and three touchdowns, and star quarterback Jesse Mainero ran for 113 yards and two touchdowns.

“They’re similar to Albany Academy,” said Whipple. “They have a great quarterback, but other players you have to watch, a great line and great defense.”

Mainero has thrown 11 touchdown passes and run for 24 while accumulating over 100 ground yards seven times.

“He’s their best athlete on the field,” Whipple said of Mainero, who ran for six touchdowns in a 41-0 win over Westlake. “He can throw, and he can obviously run. He’s their main guy, but they put a lot of good athletes on the field. We’ve got to be able to stop their core plays. They run very well inside, and they like the sweep. We’ve got to play sound defense.”

Croton-Harmon has been among the state’s stingiest Class B teams, giving up one touchdowns or less eight times, and in each of its last five outings.

“They gave up seven yards in their quarterfinal game. We’ve played some good football, but we didn’t hold any of them to seven yards,” Whipple said. “They tackle well. They fly to the ball.”

Croton-Harmon is ranked No. 2 in the state, two spots ahead of Schalmont.

“We’re the underdog for this one, but if our kids play four quarters of football, I think we can win the game,” said Whipple. “If we play three quarters, we won’t.”

Schalmont will be making its third consecutive state semifinal appearance. The Sabres lost to Nanuet in 2009, 28-7.

“You go one time, and your program is recognized. Three in a row, and people look at you as a good program,” said Whipple. “That’s what we want to be. To be in the top five of the state rankings the last three years, that says a lot about our program, the community, our school and the kind of kids we have.”

Hornell (Section V, 11-0) and Chittenango (Section III, 10-1) are the other state Class B semifinalists looking for a spot in the 3 p.m. championship game one week from Sunday. Hornell has won 37 straight games going back to 2009 when it claimed the first of its consecutive state titles.

Hoosick Falls (11-0) meets Class C foe Dobbs Ferry (Section I, 9-1) this morning at 11 at Dietz Stadium to begin the semifinal triple-header. Hoosick Falls beat Saranac Lake last week, 47-13, while three-time state champ Dobbs Ferry crushed O’Neill, 47-13.

Categories: High School Sports

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