Kevin Toote made a lot of plays for the Saratoga Springs defense this fall, and made an impact even when he didn’t.
That’s a rare quality found in only the best defensive players.
“When we put him at defensive end, teams ran away from him,” Blue Streaks coach Terry Jones said of the Daily Gazette Defensive Player of the Year. “That was okay. We stacked our defense away from Kevin. Rather than run to Kevin’s side they ran to our stacked side.”
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The Blue Streaks flourished with that defensive scheme, a key element in their drive to the Section II Class AA title game. Toote had played defensive tackle his first two years before Jones put the 6-foot-3, 265-pound team captain out wide.
“We had extra defensive linemen which allowed us to do that,” Jones said. “He’s strong, but pretty quick, too. We put him inside and outside.”
The Class AA Empire Division overall Player of the Year was a sure tackler when the ball came his way on the edge, and a major disrupter on the defensive interior. He made tackles there, too, and pressured quarterbacks and messed up blocking schemes, and often occupied multiple blockers which enabled his teammates to do defensive damage.
“Watch him on film and he just destroyed things,” Jones said. “To me, he’s the best defensive lineman in Section II. He’s not 6-5. That’s the biggest knock on him. He’s got everything else going for him.”
Toote had 44 tackles, 6 sacks, 10 tackles for a loss, a fumble recovery and 3 pass knockdowns for a defense that gave up 12.9 points per game. He is being recruited by many schools including UAlbany, Bryant, Stony Brook, Wagner, Hofstra, Fordham and Maine.
Toote started on both sides of the ball for three seasons, and as a sophomore helped Saratoga reach the state title game.
Holy Trinity got to Syracuse this year behind a host of All-Area players including first-team end Jacob Cross, linebacker Cameron Kiser and defensive back Nelon Priest. Cross led the Pride with 126 tackles (93 solo), Kiser was in on 120, and Priest led Section II with 10 interceptions, to go along with 49 tackles. Cross was awarded for his play after each of Holy Trinity’s three state tournament games, and Priest had three picks and a TD run in a regional win over Ogdensburg Free Academy.
Jeremy Clayton of state Class A semifinalist Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake and Joe Casale of state Class AA champ Troy helped their teams in numerous ways, including their All-Area-worthy secondary play.
Clayton, the Section II Class A All-Purpose Player of the Year, had 55 tackles, 5 interceptions, caught 4 touchdown passes and settled eight of his punts inside the 10-yard line. Casale quarterbacked Troy’s offense and threw for 1,561 yards and 21 TDs — 3 in the state final — while on the other side the Gazette first-team repeater had 82 tackles and 5 interceptions. Casale recently signed with UAlbany and will play defense for the Great Danes.
Troy’s Matt Ashley is part of the Gazette’s all-senior, All-Area linebacker group that includes John Shaw of Burnt Hills, Keegan McHale of Mechanicville and Brian Tucker of CBA.
Ashley had 108 tackles, 27 tackles for a loss, and 8 sacks for the 13-0 state champs.
Shaw’s LB stats include 100 tackles and 2 fumble recoveries, and he was a special teams ace with 25 additional tackles.
“He has a nose for the ball and he’s a really good tackler,” BH-BL coach Matt Shell said of the Class A all-star. “He just made plays.”
McHale was in on 90 tackles and picked up key yards rushing and receiving as Mechanicville’s big but quick-footed fullback. He started for three seasons, the same as Tucker, who’s superb season included 48 tackles, 5.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for a loss.
Class AA Empire Division Defensive POY Nick Krause of Shenendehowa and Class A Defensive POY Gavin Ryan of Averill Park had monster senior seasons. Krause piled up 108 tackles as Shen’s nose guard and had 5 sacks. Ryan’s 58 tackles included 20 for a loss, and the defensive tackle caused 2 fumbles and had a recovery.
Matt Miller of Mohonasen returns as the Gazette first-team punter after averaging 44 yards on 30 boots. The two-time Class A first-team pick had the last of his 6 60-plus-yard punts in the Section II Senior All-Star game. The co-captain also topped the Mohonasen receivers in yardage and played in the defensive secondary.
“In pregame practice we put him at the far end of the end zone because he was kicking it past the 50,” recently retired Mohonasen coach Scott Sabourin said.
- DL — Kevin Toote, 12, 6-3, 265, Saratoga
- DL — Jacob Cross, 12, 6-0, 190, Holy Trinity
- DL — Nick Krause, 12, 5-11, 230, Shenendehowa
- DL — Gavin Ryan, 12, 6-0, 295, Averill Park
- LB — Matt Ashley, 12, 5-9, 190, Troy
- LB — John Shaw, 12, 5-11, 170, BH-BL
- LB — Keegan McHale, 12, 6-2, 230, Mechanicville
- LB — Brian Tucker, 12, 6-0, 210, CBA
- LB — Cameron Kiser, 12, 6-0, 220, Holy Trinity
- DB — Joe Casale, 12, 6-3, 190, Troy
- DB — Nelon Priest, 11, 5-9, 165, Holy Trinity
- DB — Jeremy Clayton, 12, 6-2, 210, BH-BL
- P — Matt Miller, 12, 6-2, 185, Mohonasen
- DL — Timothy Dahl, 12, Cobleskill-Richmondville
- DL — James Rumbaugh, 12, Schalmont
- DL — Mike Raimo, 12, CBA
- DL — Tyler Barnes, 12, Ballston Spa
- DL — Zach Washington, 11, Ballston Spa
- DL — Aidan Feurer, 12, Shaker
- LB — Mark Leuchten, 12, Saratoga
- LB — Darnell Green, 11, Schalmont
- LB — Derrick Cipriani, 12, Troy
- DB — Avery Mickle, 12, Saratoga
- DB — Joe Park, 12, Guilderland
- DB — Dylan Gotay, 12, CBA
- DL — Chris Yarush, 12, Fonda-Fultonville
- DL — Dylan Olson, 11, Guilderland
- DL — Dom Nassivera, 12, Queensbury
- DL — Joe Trembley, 12, Canajoharie
- LB — Mike Ahern, 12, Stillwater
- LB — Agapito Davila, 12, Lansingburgh
- LB — Brodryk Benton, 11, Broadalbin-Perth
- LB — Korey Cotugno, 12, Gloversville
- LB — Omar Raheem, 12, Schenectady
- DB — Dan Motta, 11, Mechanicville
- DB — Cameron Strang, 12, Cobleskill-Richmondville
- DB — Isaiah Burdette, 12, Troy
Reach Gazette Sportswriter Jim Schiltz at 518-395-3143, [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.
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Categories: High School Sports, Sports