Albany County

Guilderland shutting out early woes — and everyone

After 0-3 start, Dutchmen have not yielded a point
Guilderland head coach Dan Penna talks to his players during practice Tuesday.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Guilderland head coach Dan Penna talks to his players during practice Tuesday.

GUILDERLAND CENTER — The shutout streak isn’t something Guilderland football coach Dan Penna is all that concerned about keeping intact.

The winning streak his Dutchmen will bring into their Section II Class AA quarterfinal game Friday at Shaker is a different matter.

“We don’t expect a shutout,” Penna said before his surging Dutchmen took to the practice field Tuesday afternoon. “It’s not something we’ve talked about too much. We want them to continue what they’ve been doing, and that’s limiting the big play and putting points on the board.

“Where we’ve struggled the last few years in the sectionals is putting points up.”

Over the last four weeks, that’s wasn’t an issue. Guilderland scored 175 — including a school-record 68 against Niskayuna.

The Dutchmen have surrendered none. As in zero points.

Guilderland started its campaign against a stacked group topped by defending state champion Troy, and went 0-3.

“The previous two seasons we went 6-1 and 7-0 [in the regular season],” Guilderland senior running back and safety Joe Park said. “After our first three games it was, ‘Wow, we’re 0-3. We’ve got to make some changes and step up.’ ”

Penna and his staff made those changes, moving different players into starting roles and moving others to different spots, but the attitude never wavered.

“The coaches remained confident, and we continued to hold our heads high,” Guilderland senior quarterback Mason Leto said. “We made sure we kept a positive att­itude. We continued to remind ourselves that we had the talent. We had the skill.”

Guilderland’s signature win in its streak came in Week 6 when it defeated Christian Brothers Academy 27-0 in a game that ultimately decided the Empire Division’s No. 3 playoff seed.

“The coaches kept pushing us and we kept believing,” Guilderland senior linebacker and fullback Mikey Breton said.

In the CBA game, Leto threw touchdown passes to Nate Collins and Brendan Hoffman and ran for a score, and the Dutchmen forced six fumbles and recovered four of them.

“At the time we knew there was a good chance that was for the No. 3 seed,” Penna said. “Both teams knew what the stakes were, and we pulled that out. That’s the point where the guys knew if we played our best we can be a good football team.”

Guilderland beat Ballston Spa 46-0 to begin its win streak, and then topped Niskayuna (68-0) when Kevin Murphy’s long interception return for a touchdown in the last quarter punctuated its defensive performance.

“After our first three games I told the guys we have an opportunity to string some wins,” Penna said. “I told my guys their records aren’t as strong. I used that as a confidence builder.”
Guilderland (4-2, 4-3) followed up the CBA win with a victory over Albany (34-0).

“Offensively, we’re running the ball better than we were, and we’re passing better,” Guilderland senior guard and linebacker Patrick Winslow said. “And the defense has been awesome. Guys are handling their responsibilities. Doing their job. Guys are hungry to make plays.”

Guilderland didn’t make enough plays on either side when it opened with a 48-27 loss to Shenendehowa. Guilderland bowed to Troy afterward (59-26) and then Empire Division champion Saratoga Springs (32-12).

“We said we’re not going to let our first three games define us,” Winslow said.

Penna said his team is much different than the one that gave up 21 unanswered points to Shenendehowa in the first quarter of the season.

“We were young and trying to figure out chemistry,” Penna said. “Which plays suited our personnel best.”

Guilderland’s breakthrough win against Ballston Spa included four touchdown passes from Leto, who took over this season for 2016 Empire Division Player of the Year George Marinopoulos.

“We weren’t ready play them,” Leto said of Guilderland’s first three games. “If we played them at the end of the season I’m confident we could turn it around.”

Guilderland will be looking to reverse a recent trend against Shaker (Liberty No. 2, 5-1, 6-1). Guilderland was 8-0 when it lost to Shaker in last year’s sectional semifinals, 35-6, and the Dutchmen sported a 7-1 mark when they lost to the Blue Bison in the 2015 semifinals 41-10.

“It’s another solid Shaker team,” Penna said. “We’ve got to move the ball and account for all the gaps. Do the things we’ve been doing.”

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Jim Schiltz at 518-385-3143, [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.

Categories: High School Sports, Sports

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