CLIFTON PARK — Two weeks into the Section II Class AA football season, the 2019 campaign is looking a lot like the 2018 one.
That’s to say that a road to the classification’s area championship appears to go through Shaker, which scored a 28-14 statement win Friday night at Shenendehowa with a rebuilt cast much different from the one that played into last year’s state playoffs.
What’s the same this year?
“We,” Shaker head coach Greg Sheeler said, “believe in our culture.”
Shaker’s style of physical football showed up Friday from the opening kickoff, and the Blue Bison were able to take advantage of some early Shenendehowa miscues to push to a 14-0 lead. The Plainsmen pulled within 14-7 at halftime, but Shaker used a five-play, 75-yard drive to open the third quarter with a touchdown. From there, Shaker maintained at least a two-possession advantage the rest of the way.
“We needed that stop. We were only down a score going into the half — and we’d had an opportunity right before halftime to tie it up, and we didn’t capitalize,” Shenendehowa head coach Brian Clawson said. “But we knew we had to come up with that stop.”
Instead, Shaker sophomore Porter Ninstant’s 58-yard rush set up senior Jake Notarino for a short touchdown run, the senior’s second of three scores on the night.
“That first drive in the third quarter was huge,” said Sheeler, whose program has won seven consecutive games against Shenendehowa. “Porter Ninstant, behind some really good blocking, had a huge run. Awesome balance. That was a huge part in the game.”
Notarino scored his final touchdown for Shaker (2-0) with less than four minutes to go in the fourth quarter, while Shenendehowa (1-1) senior Billy Beach had a touchdown in the game’s final minute.
Notarino opened the night’s scoring minutes into the contest after Shenendehowa fumbled away possession on the game’s first play from scrimmage. Ninstant scored Shaker’s second touchdown, which Shenendehowa junior Dyvante Terrelonge answered with a rushing score of his own.
Down 14-7, Shenendehowa produced a solid drive before halftime, but couldn’t score after getting all the way to the Shaker 12-yard line. The Plainsmen were without Terrelonge — who also had a touchdown-saving interception early in the second quarter — for that final drive of the second quarter, as the junior missed portions of the game because of leg cramps.
“It’s a different scenario [if Terrelonge was in the game for that drive]. When you have the two-headed monster with Beach and Dyvante together, it makes it harder for defenses,” Clawson said. “That definitely hurt us a little bit, but that’s not an excuse. We’ve got to continue to get better and find ways to score.”
Beach finished with 106 yards on 20 carries for Shenendehowa, while Ninstant led Shaker with 137 yards on nine rushes. Shaker outgained Shenendehowa 268-168 in a low-possession contest that saw the teams combine to attempt to pass only 15 times. After halftime, each team only had three possessions, not including a fourth for Shaker that saw the Blue Bison kneel out the game’s final seconds.
“You’ve got to give Shaker credit. They controlled the clock all second half,” said Clawson, whose team only ran three offensive plays in the third quarter.
With the victory, Shaker joined CBA as the lone 2-0 teams left in Section II’s Class AA ranks. Shaker has already defeated a pair of postseason teams from a year ago, as it defeated Guilderland in Week 1, and Notarino said his team’s Week 2 win had a postseason feel to it.
“We know for a fact that we’re going to see these guys again later, down the road in the playoffs,” Notarino said of the Plainsmen.
While Shenendehowa hosts Niskayuna — which lost 50-0 Friday to Guilderland — in Week 3, Shaker will host a Saratoga Springs squad coming off a surprising 30-0 loss to Bethlehem.
Sheeler said his team will quickly get back to work after its big Week 2 win.
“I’m just really proud of the way our guys showed up tonight,” Sheeler said.
Shaker 14 0 7 7 — 28
Shenendehowa 0 7 0 7 — 14
Shak — Notarino 1 run (Osborn kick)
Shak — Ninstant 4 run (Osborn kick)
Shen — Terrelonge 4 run (Ranze kick)
Shak — Notarino 4 run (Osborn kick)
Shak — Notarino 1 run (Osborn kick)
Shen — Beach 5 run (Ranze kick)