Clifton Park

In state semifinal, Shenendehowa football thriving with two-platoon system

Plainsmen meet New Rochelle Saturday in state semifinal
Senor receiver and safety Josh Szwarcberg is one of only three two-way players for Shenendehowa.
Senor receiver and safety Josh Szwarcberg is one of only three two-way players for Shenendehowa.

HALFMOON — Shenendehowa’s starting offense rattled off one play after another against a scout team late Tuesday afternoon in preparation for the Plainsmen’s upcoming state Class AA semifinal football game against New Rochelle.

At the other end of the field at the Halfmoon Sports Complex, Shen’s starting defense was getting a good look at what New Rochelle will present when it has the ball.

“The high amount of reps we get gives us a better understanding of the opponent’s offense,” Plainsmen senior defensive end Patrick McCane said. “By game time, we’ll know their offense. We can make our reads better and quicker.”

That was part of the plan when Shenendehowa head coach Brian Clawson and his staff made a major adjustment in the way his team would do things this season.

“We talked about it before but never pulled the trigger,” Clawson said. “After the Shaker game we decided to take the leap of faith and do this, and we came up with a plan.”

“This” was a two-platoon system that’s paid off in a big way since that 28-14 loss to Shaker in Week 2. Shenendehowa (10-1) hasn’t lost since, and will take a nine-game win streak into Saturday’s 6 p.m. matchup with New Rochelle (Section I, 11-0) at Middletown High School.

“We approached the boys with our plan and told them, ‘We need you to buy in,’ ” Clawson said of the roughly 50-50 offense-defense split of his roster. “‘Down the road, this is going to help us.'”

Shenendehowa’s streak of success includes nine double-digit wins, and playoff victories against CBA, Guilderland and Pine Bush in which the Section II and regional champions outscored those teams 117-14.

“That was the turning point,” Shenendehowa senior receiver and safety Josh Szwarcberg. “If we beat Shaker, we don’t do this.”

Szwarcberg and juniors Dyvante Terrelonge (receiver, cornerback) and Jaysiah Woodrow (fullback, defensive tackle) are now the only Plainsmen who see significant action on both sides of the ball.

“After seeing how that game unfolded, we got worn down,” Clawson said of the setback against Shaker. “We’re fresher now.”

“In our first game, by the third quarter I was cramping up,” said McCane, who played both defensive end and tight end to begin the season. “In Week 2 it was the same thing by the third and fourth quarter. A lot of two-way starters couldn’t go 100 percent. Now we’re fresh for four quarters.” 

“If we score on them and then get a whole new group of guys in there, it can deteriorate their mental state,” Szwarcberg said.

Clawson said he and his staff had to make some difficult decisions as to which players would play which positions. McCane, who was recently named the Section II Class AA co-Defensive Player of the Year, was one of those difficult calls.

“I didn’t want to give him up on offense because he’s such a good player there, but he’s also one of our best defensive players,” Clawson said. “We made some decisions based on what we thought was best for the team.”

After the Shaker game, another change was moving junior Brody Vincenzi into the starting quarterback position to run the two-platoon offense.

“Think about it. In our old system, Monday was offense, Tuesday was defense, Wednesday was combination day and we had pregame Thursday,” Clawson said. “We’re doubling our practice time. Every day is offense practice and every day is defense practice. Twice as many reps. It’s been a big part of our success.”

Clawson said there have been other benefits.

“The up-tempo practices help with our conditioning,” he said. “It’s made us deeper, and more kids are involved and engaged. Everyone has a role.”

Shenendehowa beat Pine Bush in its regional game 41-7, while New Rochelle defeated Proctor 21-7 to reach the state semifinals.

Shenendehowa’s last state tournament appearance in 2014 included a 27-20 regional win over John Jay-East Fishkill, followed by a 21-20 overtime loss to Newburgh Free Academy.

Saturday’s state tournament game will be the fifth in as many years matching New Rochelle against a Section II opponent. New Rochelle defeated Shaker in the 2018 semifinals, lost to Troy in the 2017 regionals and 2016 semifinals, and lost to Saratoga Springs in the 2015 semifinals.

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Jim Schiltz at 518-395-3143, [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.

Categories: High School Sports, Schenectady County, Sports, Your Niskayuna

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