SCHENECTADY — After putting together second-half comebacks in the first three weeks of the season, the Shenendehowa football team was determined to change up the script.
“We were a second-half team before,” Plainsmen coach Brian Clawson said after Friday night’s 51-0 win over Schenectady. “We had to create some offense early.”
Shenendehowa did just that for the second week in a row, putting up four touchdowns in the second quarter to set the tone for a Class AA victory at Larry Mulvaney Field.
Michael McElrath began that decisive outburst with an 87-yard dash to the end zone, and Plainsmen quarterback Mason Courtney completed it with an 8-yard touchdown run. In last week’s 41-6 win over Bethlehem, the Plainsmen put 34 points on the board before the intermission.
“In the second quarter, it was just clicking,” Courtney said after his team scored on all four of its possessions in that stanza. “Kids see open green, and you run faster.”
Faster is the way Shenendehowa (3-1 Class AA, 4-1 overall) has played in recent games, changing up its offense after a second-half rally fell short in a 28-14 loss to Shaker in Week 3.
“We decided after we played Shaker we needed to go to full go,” Clawson said.
Shenendehowa looked smooth in its up-tempo, no-huddle offense Friday after losing the ball on a fumble late in the first quarter.
“The main focus is we want to play fast,” Clawson said. “We needed to up the pace on offense. We practice it all the time now. The players love it. The players have bought in.”
“We’ve got to come out and jump so the other guys can get in there,” said Courtney, who saw one of Shenendehowa’s reserve backs, Sam Bartlett, score from 22 yards out on a third-quarter run. “They come to practice and work their tails off. They make us better. They deserve to play.”
Schenectady (0-4, 0-4) played tough in the first quarter, forcing a 29-yard field goal by Danny Morris with a third-down stop and then causing a fumble.
“We came out with a lot of aggression today,” Schenectady coach Carm DePoalo said. “We started off well. We were right there.”
Things went downhill for the Patriots after Nik Sanchez found Majestic Tyler with a 29-yard pass and Jakeim Edge with a 17-yard pass in the final moments of the first frame to push the ball to the Plainsmen 29. Sanchez threw incomplete twice to start the second quarter and then was sacked, and two plays after a punt, McElroy broke off his long TD run.
McElroy, who totaled 156 yards on nine carries, scored again in the second quarter on a 14-yard run. Afterward, Luke Plumadore scored on a 14-yard run and Courtney padded the visitors’ advantage.
“Michael has great vision. He runs hard with the ball and has breakaway speed, and he can make people miss,” Clawson said of his senior tailback. “On that 80-yard TD run he had guys running at him and he made that sharp cut.”
Following McElrath’s second scoring run, Miguel Flores turned a leaping grab into what appeared to be an 85-yard Schenectady touchdown, but it was called back on a blocking from behind penalty. A blocked punt soon after led to Plumadore’s TD.
“It took some momentum we had,” DePoalo said of his team’s negated touchdown.
Patrick House and Quinn O’Connor added third-quarter touchdowns for Shenendehowa, which rallied to beat Queensbury and Guilderland to begin its campaign before the loss to Shaker.
“It accelerates the process of wearing down the other team,” Clawson said of his team’s up-tempo look.
Shenendehowa 3 28 20 0 — 51
Schenectady 0 0 0 0 — 0
Shen — Morris 29 FG
Shen — McElrath 87 run (Morris kick)
Shen — McElrath 14 run (Morris kick)
Shen — Plumadore 14 run (Morris kick)
Shen — Courtney 8 run (Morris kick)
Shen — House 51 run (Morris kick)
Shen — Bartlett 22 run (kick failed)
Shen — O’Connor 30 interception return (Morris kick)