LATHAM — Without its game-breaking running back, Shaker nonetheless got it done Friday night with a late touchdown and a play-making defense.
Connor McHugh scored on a quarterback sneak with 3:19 left for the go-ahead points, and Shaker made a final defensive stand after picking off three passes earlier on in a 14-7 Class AA football win against Shenendehowa.
Jovani Wiggs scored the Blue Bison’s first touchdown, but wasn’t part of a late 55-yard march after the star sophomore sustained what Shaker head coach Greg Sheeler confirmed was a leg injury late in the third quarter.
Wiggs ran 54 yards for his touchdown on the opening play of the second quarter, part of his 10-carry, 111-yard performance.
“He’s one of our energy guys. He’s always hopping up and down and getting the other guys going,” Sheeler. “When he went down it took the wind out of us. We responded.”
That is, after Shenendehowa had tied the game on a drive just before.
“Coach always says if someone goes down, we’ve got to have that next-man-up mentality,” Shaker fullback and defensive tackle Joe Toutal said soon after his 10-yard run in the waning seconds sealed the victory.
“They have six good running backs,” Shenendehowa head coach Brian Clawson said. “One went down and they put another one in there. Shaker, they showed a lot of courage.”
Shaker beat Shenendehowa for the sixth straight time, winning the game matching 3-0 state-ranked teams by making a few more key defensive plays, and getting one more touchdown.
“We did what Shaker does,” Toutal said.
Shaker’s winning drive featured a 20-yard reception by Logan Souza, and a 12-yard run by Ravion Burt that took the ball to the 1. After McHugh nudged the ball ahead, about two inches from the goal line, he scored on a another keeper, thrusting the ball into the end zone with outstretched arms amid a swarm of Shenendehowa defenders.
“That’s two weeks in a row we had to deal with injuries and comebacks,” Sheeler said.
Kyle Gregor scored Shenendehowa’s touchdown with 8:53 left in the final quarter on a 2-yard run up the middle, two plays after Brendan Belott fired a 35-yard pass to Dyvante Terrelonge that pushed the ball to the 3. Gregor scored after a one-yard effort by Kiernan Shanahan.
“There are a lot of positives you can take away from this game,” Clawson said. “They were averaging over 60 points and we held them to 14. We got a big takeaway early in the game. We had a goal-line stand. Our defense carried us.”
Shenendehowa had drives halted on interceptions by Toutal and Shane Lavender in the second quarter, and by Fred Dorcelus in the third.
“We had a tough time sustaining drives,” Clawson said. “We’ve got to get better. We’ll look at film. We’ll keep in the back of our mind that this is not a good feeling.”
Sheeler lauded his team’s defensive effort.
“Sometimes offense carries you. Sometimes defense carries you,” Sheeler said. “Shenendehowa is an excellent team and their quarterback is very good. We stepped up and made plays.”
Shenendehowa 0 0 0 7 — 7
Shaker 0 7 0 7 — 14
Shak — Wiggs 54 run (Leto kick)
Shen — Gregor 2 run (Carley kick)
Shak — McHugh 1 run (Leto kick)