Ward, Troy too much for Shen

Scores four TDs in 50-14 win
Troy's Joey Ward scored four touchdowns vs. Shen Friday.
Troy's Joey Ward scored four touchdowns vs. Shen Friday.

TROY — On most occasions during Friday night’s Section II Class AA semifinal football game, Troy’s Joey Ward had very little room to work his magic. The 5-foot-9, 195-pound senior running back didn’t need much space, however.

Ward zig-zagged all over the field, in between the tackles and around the ends, scoring four touchdowns and rushing for 202 yards on 26 carries to propel the defending state champion Flying Horses to a convincing 50-14 victory over Shenendehowa. Troy (9-0) meets Saratoga Springs in the Section II Class AA Super Bowl next Friday at the University at Albany’s Tom & Mary Casey Stadium. The Plainsmen finish at 7-2.

Shenendehowa’s defensive game plan was to limit Troy’s big-play stars, but both Ward and wide out Dev Holmes were virtually unstoppable. Troy quarterback Joseph Casale completed enough passes to keep the Shen defense honest, while the Flying Horses’ powerhouse running game — and solid defense -— did the rest.

“He’s just a tremendous football player,” Troy head coach Bobby Burns said of Ward. “We give him just enough space, and he makes the plays for us. Tonight, he seemed to have a little more pep in his step. He was definitely more motivated tonight,” Burns said. “We asked him to play both ways tonight, and he helped us out on the corner.”

Casale said he’s never surprised by what Ward can do on a football field. “Our coaches had some great schemes for him,” Casale said. “Everybody tries to stop our big guys like Joey and Dev, but Joey is special. Our offensive line does a good job, but sometimes, they give him just enough space for him to slip through. He doesn’t need much, and then his instincts kick in. Our run game is crucial for us. Sometimes, if it’s going very well, we don’t even have to pass much, but it’s always important for the run game to get us started.”

After a slow start on its first two possessions, Troy capped a six-play, 61-yard drive with 21-yard TD pass from Casale to Holmes.

Following an interception by Holmes, Troy scored on the very next play, with Casale hooking up with Ward on a 17-yard toss to the near sideline to give the Flying Horses a 14-0 edge with 25 seconds left in the first quarter.

A defensive pass interference call and a 13-yard run by Holmes on an end-around set up Ward for a 25-yard TD run with 10:07 left in the half. Ward scored his third touchdown of the game on a 36-yard run up the middle to extend the Flying Horses’ advantage to 28-0, and they nearly tacked on another score just before intermission, but Casale’s 34-yard pass to Ward was nullified by a holding penalty.

Troy put the game away with a long drive to start the second half. Ward ran 10 of the 12 plays in the drive and scored on a 2-yard sweep to increase the lead to 35-0.

Shen, which struggled running the ball most of the night, finally broke into the scoring column when QB Brendan Belott hooked up with Devin Disonell on a 9-yard TD pass. The Plainsmen tried an onside kick, but they were called for a catch-interference penalty, forcing a re-kick. Troy took advantage, scoring in four plays, with Ward Casale tossing a 36-yard scoring pass to Avery Curley.

Shenendehowa scored again with help from two Troy pass interference penalties. Belott found James Altenburger for a 13-yard TD pass with 4:08 left in the game.

Troy capped off the scoring when Derrick Cipriani returned an interception 99 yards for a pick-six.

“Our goal all season was to get back to the Section II Super Bowl,” Burns said. “Our kids have worked hard all season, both on the field and off it, to reach that goal, and now they’ve done it.”

Shenendehowa    0  0  7 7 — 14
Troy    14 14 14 8 — 50

T — Holmes 21 pass from Casale (Audi kick).
T — Ward 17 pass from Casale (Audi kick).
T — Ward 25 run (Audi kick).
T — Ward 36 run (Audi kick).
T — Ward 2 run (Audi kick).
S — Disonell 9 pass from Belott (Carley kick).
T — Curley 36 pass from Casale (Audi kick).
S — Altenburger 13 pass from Belott (Carley kick).
T — Cipriani 99 interception return (Ragone pass from Casale).

Reach Bob Weiner at [email protected] or @BobWeiner58 on Twitter.

Categories: Sports

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