EAST GREENBUSH — Amsterdam’s defense turned Friday night’s Section II Class A Capital Division football game against Columbia into an impromptu tribute to 1980s New Wave band Men Without Hats.
Yep, the Rugged Rams were doing “The Safety Dance.”
The sack dance, too.
After falling behind early, Amsterdam dialed up the defensive pressure time and time again Friday night, dropping Columbia quarterbacks Jake Baker and Timothy Neeson for a combined eight sacks and recording a pair of safeties in a 17-6 road win.
“That defense, that’s the best they’ve played in I can’t tell you how long,” Amsterdam coach John Homich said. “They brought pressure every single time. It was back to Amsterdam football, hard-nosed.”
The night’s first safety roused Amsterdam (1-0 Capital Division, 2-0 overall) from a sluggish start.
Trailing 6-0 in the final 90 seconds of the first half and having already turned the ball over twice deep in Columbia territory, Amsterdam’s Alex Simon and Christian Robinson sacked Baker on consecutive plays, forcing the Blue Devils into a third-and-31 from their own 2-yard line.
Baker dropped back to pass again, was immediately put under pressure and threw the ball away while in the end zone, resulting in an intentional grounding penalty that got Amsterdam on the board.
Then, junior Ceasar Thompson returned the ensuing free kick 77 yards for a touchdown, tiptoeing the sideline before breaking free to put Amsterdam in front for good.
“The ball went over my head, I had to turn around and I had a little bobble,” Thompson said. “I had to see the field real quick, a little cutback and just hit the hole.”
Thompson was injured on the final play of the first half when a teammate’s helmet collided with his left elbow, but he returned in the second half and had a pair of sacks while blitzing off the edge.
Robinson finished with three sacks — including the second safety when he hauled down Neeson late in the fourth quarter — Simon had two sacks and Garrett McHeard added one to round out the Rams’ dominating defensive performance.
“We got very creative in our blitz packages,” Homich said. “We saw some things on film, and we wanted to put our best athletes in the best position to make plays. Those guys really rose up to the occasion tonight.”
“We had a lot of fun,” Thompson said. “We practiced real hard, put in a lot of new plays on defense this week, and we just came out and executed.”
Amsterdam, which turned the ball over three times in the first half, spent the second half dedicated to the ground game — save for a spectacular one-handed catch by receiver Tyrell Douglas late in the third quarter — with the trio of quarterback Jhai Vellon and running backs McHeard and Matthew Miller. Vellon provided Amsterdam’s only offensive points of the day on a 1-yard touchdown run with 8:25 left in the fourth quarter.
Tanner Malone scored Columbia’s lone touchdown on a 16-yard pass from Baker to cap off the game’s opening drive. Malone also intercepted a pair of passes for the Blue Devils (0-1, 1-2) to snuff out Amsterdam drives.
Amsterdam, which was coming off a bye in Week 2, will finally play its home opener Oct. 2 against Averill Park. Amsterdam dropped a wild 41-40 game to Averill Park during the “Fall II” season, one of a trio of heartbreaking losses that punctuated the Rams’ 0-5 spring.
“They really had a chip on their shoulder after the ‘Fall II’ season, a lot of the returning guys,” Homich said. “They took that to heart and they worked their tails off this offseason. When we installed that new defense, they ran with it and they’re loving it.”
Amsterdam 0 9 0 8 — 17
Columbia 6 0 0 0 — 6
C — Malone 16 pass from Baker (kick failed)
A — Safety
A — Thompson 77 free kick return (Covey kick)
A — Vellon 1 run (kick failed)
A — Safety