Football: Depth paying off for Shen

While Ryan Van Galen and Jordan Zlogar hooked up on two touchdown plays and Matt Taft scored twice,

While Ryan Van Galen and Jordan Zlogar hooked up on two touchdown plays and Matt Taft scored twice, a couple of other Shenendehowa football players stepped out of the shadows with impact contributions in last week’s 27-20 regional win over John Jay-East Fishkill.

Matt Dillon had three quarterback sacks and blocked a punt that led to Taft’s second TD and a 27-7 lead. Vinny Gramuglia started in place of injured Brendan Marra, and after picking off two passes, the junior recovered a late onside kick to help quell John Jay’s comeback.

“He [Gramuglia] has been knocking at the door all season as our fourth defensive back,” said Shenendehowa coach Brian Clawson. “He waited for his opportunity, and when he got it, he stepped in and shined. He made big plays. Real big plays.”

Shenendehowa (11-0) will need more of them to derail a hot Newburgh Free Academy (8-2) team in tonight’s state Class AA semifinal game at Dietz Stadium in Kingston. The Goldbacks have won six straight times heading into the 7 p.m. contest, capped by a 15-7 overtime verdict against Monroe-Woodbury in the Section IX final. The Goldbacks’ streak also includes three games in which they piled up over 60 points.

“I think we’ll come out with a lot of energy. We know they [NFA] are going to be energized,” said Clawson. “Our guys are eager to go out and perform.”

The Goldbacks will be without one of their best players in Anthony Dubose, a 1,000-yard back who was suspended earlier this week for violating a school policy, according to the Times Herald-Record. Dubose scored the winning touchdown before NFA made a final defensive stand against Monroe-Woodbury.

Newburgh still has its other 1,000-yard back, Aaron Forbes, and fullbacks Lakeem Thompson and Xavier Drummond to call on for tonight’s East Region contest.

“They’ve got a great rushing attack. They’re a run-first team,” said Clawson. “Last week, we put together a defensive plan and had success. Our defensive coaches put together a good plan for this week, and the guys have executed well in practice.

“We’re ready for the run, but we’ve also got to be prepared for wrinkles.”

Shenendehowa’s defense recorded 10 sacks last week and forced three turnovers, with Taft returning a third-quarter interception for his first TD. Inside the final 3:30 of the first half, Van Galen sandwiched touchdown passes to Zlogar around a key three-and-out defensive stop.

“Getting those two scores just before the half was so important for us,” said Shenendehowa’s third-year coach. “We took that momentum into the second half.”

Shenendehowa put together one of its best drives of the season in the third quarter, when Zlogar caught an eight-yarder on a fourth-and-seven, Dakota Rainville snagged a 10-yard pass on third-and-six, and Oliver Robinson got the needed yard on fourth-and-one from the four.

Taft finished the drive that Keegan Bock started with his recovery on Dillon’s block.

“Their defensive interior is pretty big; good tackles and ends. They’ve got excellent speed around them and they fly to the ball,” said Clawson. “For us to have success with the ball, our offense has to establish the line of scrimmage. We need those guys in order to run effectively and pass the ball efficiently. We’re looking to continue the trend.”

Shenendehowa is also looking to end a historical trend after semifinal losses to NFA (16-6) in 2011 and New Rochelle in 2003. Shenendehowa beat NFA in 2002 and Roosevelt in 1995 semis. The Plainsmen lost another semifinal to Fairport in 1992, the year before the state tourney went to three tiers.

“Our philosophy going into the playoffs was win one game. After that, you get another game,” said Clawson. “We’ve held true for four weeks. If we win one game, we’re in the Dome.

“It’s a goal the players set for themselves way back last season.”

That goal of a long playoff run was established after a stunning Section II quarterfinal loss to Shaker. The Plainsmen’s unblemished record since then includes a 25-20 comeback victory against Christian Brothers Academy in the Section II final before their hold-em-off effort against John Jay.

“All along, it’s been about getting better every week, and building on each win,” said Clawson, whose team is ranked No. 4 in the state; NFA is No. 9. “We’ve been able to do that. Let’s try to do it again.”

Today’s 4 p.m. West Region game at Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester pits Henninger (Section III, 11-0) and Jamestown (Section VI, 10-1). The state title game is Saturday, Nov. 29, at the Carrier Dome, starting at 6.

Categories: High School Sports

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