Saratoga County

Stillwater football gaining momentum heading into Section II Class C playoffs

Stillwater head coach Ian Godfrey during their Section II football game against Fonda-Fultonville in Stillwater on Friday, October 18, 2019.

Stillwater head coach Ian Godfrey during their Section II football game against Fonda-Fultonville in Stillwater on Friday, October 18, 2019.

STILLWATER — For seven weeks, a graph of Stillwater’s 2022 football season more accurately resembled a seismograph during an earthquake than anything remotely pigskin-related.

The Warriors’ first seven games, win or lose, were all blowouts. Their five victories saw winning margins from 33 to 50 points, while their two losses — to Hoosick Falls/Tamarac and Warrensburg/Lake George/North Warren — were just as decisive, by 34 and 36 points, respectively.

It took until the final week of the regular season for the Warriors to finally get into a close one, and when they did, it was the biggest moment of their season — a 7-6 win over defending Section II Class C champion Schuylerville that boosted Stillwater into a three-way tie for second place in the Class C North Division that ultimately ended with the Warriors getting the No. 3 seed and a quarterfinal playoff matchup Friday night at 7 p.m. on the road against South Division runner-up Broadalbin-Perth as Class C kicks off this year’s area postseason.

“We’ve been in games where we’ve been way up or way down,” Stillwater head coach Ian Godfrey said Tuesday. “We hadn’t really been in a game where every single possession is going to matter. I think that was really important for us. Schuylerville’s a fantastic team and program, and that win was huge for our confidence.”

“I feel like that was a test to prove ourselves as a true contender,” senior two-way lineman Michael Campion said, “and we passed.”

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While the defensive struggle with Schuylerville was Stillwater’s first game all season where the result was remotely in doubt, the Warriors (6-2 overall) are a group that’s accustomed to big games — on the gridiron, and in other arenas.

This year’s Stillwater team brought back a number of key contributors who cut their teeth in the postseason last year when the Warriors made a run to the Class D Super Bowl, eventually falling to Greenwich.

There’s also several players who were part of Stillwater’s 2021-22 boys’ basketball team that made a run to the Class C state championship game that was filled with a litany of dramatic finishes on the road to the final.

“We know how to deal with pressure,” senior tight end/defensive back Michael Marinello said. “We’re not going to buckle under it.”

The Schuylerville win means the Warriors are riding a three-game win streak into Friday’s playoff matchup with Broadalbin-Perth. During that stretch, the Stillwater defense has allowed just 22 points.

Meanwhile, an offense that had to replace standout running backs CJ McNeil and Caleb Dyer from last year’s squad has quickly developed some new playmaking stars to supplement senior quarterback Colby Paffen. Junior Jaxon Mueller has emerged as a tough-to-tackle running back at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, and junior Lukas Lilac provides a dynamic threat from the slot as a rusher and receiver.

The line is led by the trio of Campion and brothers James and Anthony Cocozzo — sons of former NFL offensive lineman and Mechanicville legend Joe Cocozzo. Campion plays tackle, eighth-grader James Cocozzo plays guard and junior Anthony Cocozzo anchors the line at center.

“We’re getting better,” Godfrey said. “We’re playing well at the right time.”

The Schuylerville game exemplified that, as Mueller’s early touchdown run and Liam Brady’s ensuing extra point gave Stillwater its only scoring of the game, and the Warriors’ defense made the lead stand up.

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“It was one of the first games that I’ve seen these guys play all four quarters as hard as they possibly could,” Marinello said. “It demanded a lot out of our defense, and we stepped up to the challenge and ended up putting up the win.”

It’s a result that’s got the Warriors flying high as they head to Broadalbin-Perth for the Class C quarterfinals, with a win likely meaning a road rematch with Warrensburg/Lake George/North Warren in next weekend’s semifinals.

“We’re on our high horse right now, for sure, coming off that huge win,” Marinello said. “So, we’ll see what’s in store.”

Categories: High School Sports, Sports, Sports

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