Guilderland football gets history-making win

Playing in his first varsity game, sophomore Conner Traeger sealed a historic win Friday for Guilder
Guilderland's Stefan Brantley, left, hugs teammate Joe Park after Brantley scored a touchdown against Shenendehowa Friday in Guilderland's 47-44 win in Clifton Park.
Guilderland's Stefan Brantley, left, hugs teammate Joe Park after Brantley scored a touchdown against Shenendehowa Friday in Guilderland's 47-44 win in Clifton Park.

Playing in his first varsity game, sophomore Conner Traeger sealed a historic win Friday for Guilderland in a wild Section II Class AA Empire Division clash with Shenendehowa.

“It’s crazy to think about,” a still-breathless Traeger said moments after the Dutchmen’s 47-44 victory in Week 7.

Traeger, called up for this week’s game from the JV because the Dutchmen needed some extra healthy bodies, recorded a pair of interceptions in the fourth quarter — including one at his team’s 5-yard line with less than a half-minute to play. Traeger’s first interception thwarted a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, but his second one ended an improbable comeback from the Plainsmen for good.

“I read the quarterback, jumped the pass, and got the ball,” Traeger said of his game-saving pick.

Guilderland (6-0, 7-0) entered the fourth quarter up 26 points, but Shenendehowa (4-2, 4-3) dominated the final stanza to almost pull off the comeback victory. The Plainsmen scored three touchdowns and forced a safety in the final period while also recovering a pair of onside kicks and intercepting a Guilderland pass.

“This was a wild game. A wild game,” said Shenendehowa head coach Brian Clawson, whose team threw three interceptions in the fourth quarter and had eight turnovers in all. “I mean, what was it — 47-21 [to start] the fourth quarter?”

Guilderland had staked itself to such a lead to start the fourth quarter after senior running back Stefan Brantley had rushed for three touchdowns and caught one of senior quarterback George Marinopoulos’ four touchdown passes through the first three periods. For the game, Brantley finished with 153 rushing yards on 10 carries while Marinopoulos was 18 for 30 passing for 263 yards.

With the victory, Guilderland completed its first-ever undefeated regular season, and cemented its position as one of the No. 1 seeds for the upcoming Section II Class AA postseason tournament. Meanwhile, the loss slotted Shenendehowa into third place in the division for the second consecutive year. The Plainsmen will play at Shaker next week in the quarterfinals, while Guilderland will play host to Bethlehem.

“We had a great opponent here,” Brantley said. “I’m just excited about this good fight. It was a really good fight, and I’m glad we came through at the end. We just kept on working hard.”

The victory clinched Guilderland its first-ever regular season in which it won all of its games. In winning the Empire Division outright, the Dutchmen — which started playing football in 1955 — also claimed their first solo league title since the 1963 season when they finished 5-1-1.

“The kids earned this [in practice] this week,” Guilderland head coach Dan Penna said of the victory. “[They] put themselves in position to win a classic.”

With Guilderland ahead 47-21 heading into the fourth quarter, Shenendehowa senior quarterback Mike Spulnick began to engineer the Plainsmen’s comeback. Spulnick — who played wide receiver in the first half and switched to quarterback after junior starter Cole Vincenzi threw three interceptions in the opening two quarters — ran for a 1-yard touchdown two plays into the fourth quarter.

“We needed a spark. We went to him after halftime and he was ready for us,” Clawson said of Spulnick, who was

14-for-23 passing for 240 yards. “He showed great leadership and was the driving force behind our comeback.”

The Plainsmen recovered an onside kick after Spulnick’s rushing score. Six plays later, Spulnick found senior tight end Mike Pizziketti for a 16-yard touchdown to bring the Plainsmen within a dozen points after senior Nathan Fankhanel’s extra point with 9:37 to play.

After a Guilderland turnover, Shenendehowa drove to the Dutchmen 7 — but Traeger made an interception in the end zone with 5:28 to go. Shenendehowa got the ball back after a Guilderland punt, but the Plainsmen again had a drive end deep in Dutchmen territory after Guilderland junior Kevin Murphy intercepted a pass at his team’s

3-yard line.

Two plays later, though, Shenendehowa had wrapped up Brantley in the end zone for a safety. Seven plays after Guilderland’s ensuing punt, a couple Spulnick completions set up Shenendehowa senior Nick Cosgrove for a 3-yard touchdown run to bring the Plainsmen within 47-44 with 1:01 left in regulation.

Cosgrove recovered the onside kick, and Spulnick followed by running for a first down and then passing for two more. His final pass attempt, though, ended up in the arms of Traeger.

“I was super nervous, to be honest,” Traeger said of playing in his first varsity game. “I didn’t expect this to happen and I’m just excited it did.”

Guilderland 13 13 21 0 — 47

Shenendehowa 7 7 7 23 — 44

S — Cady 4 run (Fankhanel kick)

G — Brantley 78 run (Try failed)

G — Brantley 12 run (Clark kick)

S — Cosgrove 5 run (Fankhanel kick)

G — Custard 7 pass from Marinopoulos (Try failed)

G — Brantley 14 run (Clark kick)

G — Brantley 10 pass from Marinopoulos (Clark kick)

G — Fedorchak 58 pass from Marinopoulos (Clark kick)

S — Cady 6 run (Fankhanel kick)

G — Gallup 8 pass from Marinopoulos (Clark kick)

S — Spulnick 1 run (Fankhanel kick)

S — Pizziketti 16 pass from Spulnick (Fankhanel kick)

S — Safety

S — Cosgrove 3 run (Fankhanel kick)

Categories: High School Sports, Sports

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