Sabres are doing it right

The Schalmont football team is too good for its own good. One of the creative challenges for the coa

The Schalmont football team is too good for its own good.

One of the creative challenges for the coaching staff, whose team is averaging 63 points a game, is figuring out how not to score.

Does that make any sense?

Maybe not, but the truth is, as the Sabres begin another attempt at a Class B state championship, they’re in a weird position, where a cartoonishly lopsided 88-0 score may look like an obvious humiliation of an opponent, but is not.

That was the final when the Sabres played Ichabod Crane last weekend, and similar scores certainly loom on the horizon.

In the meantime, these games aren’t doing much good for the 7-0 Sabres, who are ranked No. 2 behind Maine-Endwell, the team that beat them, 22-21, for the state championship at the Carrier Dome last year.

Schalmont has dominated its opponents, 997-84, over the last two seasons.

But head coach Joe Whipple faces a tricky balancing act, in which the Sabres do what they can to not embarrass people, while realizing that his starters rarely get a feel for a real four-quarter challenge.

As crazy as this sounds — and it may not seem like much — but that could put the Sabres at a disadvantage at the most important time.

“It’s good to get the other kids in, but I go back to last year where we really didn’t play a four-quarter game until Maine-Endwell, and I really think that hurt us,” Whipple said on Tuesday.

“But I’m not one of those coaches who is going to leave our starters in when we’re up, 60, 70 to nothing. I just don’t think it’s right.”

I just finished Joe Layden’s book, “The Last Great Fight,” about Buster Douglas’ knockout over undefeated Mike Tyson in 1990, and the description of Tyson’s devastating and short early fights sounds remarkably similar to what Schalmont has been doing.

Here’s a sampling of some of the ridiculous numbers that have exploded on Schalmont’s scoresheet this season:

The Sabres were up, 41-0, at halftime of a 61-0 win over Glens Falls.

It was 49-0 at halftime of a 69-13 win over Cohoes.

Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk was down at the half, 39-0, before losing, 59-0.

It was 68-0 at the half against Ichabod Crane.

The Sabres scored 50 points in the first quarter — the first quarter — of a 76-6 win over Hudson, which sounds almost physically impossible in the span of 12 minutes.

Whipple and his staff are sensitive to the fact that other teams can take this type of dismantling the wrong way.

Other than some second-hand social media comments, Whipple said he hasn’t heard any complaints, including from Ichabod Crane coach David Wagner.

“The coach was good,” Whipple said. “I actually spoke to a parent whose son, unfortunately, got injured in the fourth quarter and talked to him on the field. He came right up to me and said, ‘You’ve got a good program, and we all understand up in the stands that you’re not trying to run up the score.’ ”

Against the Riders, Whipple said Schalmont brought extra JV players for the game, ran simple plays up the middle, didn’t dispute questionable ball spots by the refs and even invented two formations that used offensive linemen who had never played tight end to line up at that position.

The Sabres took an 8-0 lead eight seconds into the game from the five-yardline after Ichabod Crane fumbled the opening kickoff, and scored on back-to-back punt returns at the end of the 39-0 first quarter.

“It was unfortunate, because, obviously, we tried very hard not to score, but, with the turnovers they had in the second half, our third-string safety had an interception and a fumble recovery and took off with the stuff into the red zone,” Whipple said.

Schalmont was moved from the West Division to what was supposed to be the tougher division, the Reinfurt, but the scores say the change had no effect.

Schalmont led by just 6-0 over Albany Academy at halftime, then scored 42 points in the third quarter.

Whipple scheduled Class A powerhouse Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, and the Sabres led after three quarters, 34-7, before holding on for a 34-28 win.

“That’s why we played Burnt Hills,” Whipple said. “We knew we could play four quarters with them. Even then, we struggled at the last part of the game, because we have not played four quarters.

“And that’s exactly what happened last year with Maine-Endwell. But there’s nothing you can do. You can either be sportsmanlike — and I think that we are — or not.”

Schalmont isn’t the only team that has been producing blowouts.

It seems like there’s a lot of that going around in Section II, and perhaps it’s linked to declining participation. That could lead to greater disparity between programs that put extra emphasis on the sport with offseason workouts and strong feeder youth programs, like Schalmont’s, and those that don’t.

Whatever the reason, Schalmont likely will experience dropoff, since the Sabres are top-heavy with seniors.

In the meantime, this is their best chance to win that highly coveted state championship.

Unlike Tyson, they won’t be fat and complacent when the time comes. After last year, you have to believe they’ll be hungrier.

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