The trap has been set. The question is, will Schenectady High School’s unbeaten football team fall into it?
Coming off a huge win at Newburgh Free Academy, and with reigning Section II Class AA champion LaSalle coming to town next week, Schenectady hosts
Columbia tonight in its homecoming game at Larry Mulvaney Field.
Will the Patriots be looking ahead to next week’s Liberty Division showdown when they take the field tonight? Will they still be basking in the glory of last week’s 21-19 win over their state-ranked foe? Patriots second-year coach Carm DePoalo said they cannot afford to do either in a game that begins the regular season’s stretch run.
“Last week’s game was great, but we’ve tried to put that behind us. And we haven’t talked a whole lot about LaSalle,” DePoalo said. “They [Columbia] would like nothing more than to beat us, especially on our homecoming, so we’ve got to be focused on them.
“They’ve shown a lot of character. They’ve come back in some games, and they’re not going to lay down for anybody. We’ve got to be ready.”
Columbia coach Anthony Servidone said his Blue Devils (1-1 Liberty Division, 2-2 overall) are ready. They beat Colonie last week for their first shutout since 2003, 34-0,
and edged Bethlehem the week before on Alex Tesoriero’s late field goal, 20-17. Their only Section II loss came against Niskayuna on a touchdown pass in the closing minutes, 24-21.
“We’ve been playing real good football. Everything has improved. Everything is clicking right now, and the kids’ confidence is up,” Servidone said. “They feel they can compete with anybody.”
Schenectady (2-0, 4-0) is no ordinary team, though, also showing wins over Shenendehowa (36-7), Colonie (52-14) and Niskayuna
(64-42), and sporting a No. 13 state ranking. Schenectady set a team record with its fourth straight season-starting win last week, and will look to extend it tonight.
The Patriots will also be trying to equal their program-high of five wins, set last season.
“We definitely know Schenectady is a very good football team. They’re well coached. They put points on the board. They have athletes and they utilize them well,” said Servidone. “They present a big challenge. We’re the underdog, but we’re looking forward to that challenge.”
Schenectady built a 32-6 lead on Columbia last year behind Nick Ottati’s three touchdown passes and Marc Thompson’s two scoring runs before the Blue Devils roared back in what ended as a 32-27 Patriots’ victory.
“We have basically the same team that came back on them last year,” said Servidone, whose young 2007 squad went 1-8. “They have most of their guys back from last year, too. I’m hoping it’s a very competitive game.”
Columbia turned a close game into another victory last week when it scored 21 fourth-quarter points against Colonie. Jim Madden ran for 153 yards and two touchdowns, and Tesoriero scored on a run and a fumble return in the big fourth quarter. Quarterback Bob Smith also ran for a touchdown.
“They’re the real deal. They’ve got a decent quarterback and running back, and they’re strong up front,” DePoalo said of the Columbia offense, which has been stymied only by Minisink Valley in a 26-3 non-league loss. “They’ll mix it up.”
Madden has rushed for over 100 yards in three straight games, including a 198-yard effort against Bethlehem. The 5-foot-7, 170-pound senior ran for a touchdown in that game before Tesoriero kicked two field goals as Columbia rallied from a 17-7 deficit.
“We’ve got to stop him,” DePoalo said of Madden. “If we miss tackles, he’ll break it.”
Linebackers Bobby Peluso and Ian Bridegroom, and safety Shane Reed anchor the Columbia defense, which hasn’t allowed a touchdown in its last six quarters.
“The last two weeks, we’ve forced seven turnovers and haven’t committed any,” said Servidone. “We’ve taken advantage of some of those turnovers, and maybe we can do that again.”
Columbia will be targeting the senior quarterback-tailback duo of Ottati and Thompson, who have accounted for 21 touchdowns. Ottati threw three touchdown passes to Marcus Brandon last week, boosting his season total to 12 TD tosses, and Thompson had his third straight 100-plus yard rushing game with 108. Thompson has scored a team-high eight touchdowns, including two on interception returns.
Thompson, fellow linebacker Dan Desbiens, tackle Billy Rios and Brandon at end have been among Schenectady’s defensive leaders.
“We’re healthy and we feel we’re prepared. We’re confident, but not overconfident,” said DePoalo. “We have a lot of respect for Columbia.”
LaSalle (2-0, 3-1) is tied for first place with Schenectady, and plays at Shaker (1-1, 1-3) tonight. LaSalle has lost only to Monroe-Woodbury, the 2007 state Class AA runner-up.
Class AA Empire Division leader Saratoga Springs (4-0, 4-0) hosts Albany (0-4, 0-4), while two of the three teams tied for second place, Shenendehowa (2-1, 2-2) and Bethlehem (2-1, 2-2), meet in Delmar.
Lansingburgh (2-0, 3-1) hosts Bishop Maginn (2-0, 4-0) in a Class A game matching Southeast Division tri-leaders. Troy (2-0, 4-0) is tied with those teams, and will travel to Averill Park (0-2, 1-3) in search of coach Jack Burger’s 100th victory.
Class C South Division front-runners Fonda-Fultonville (4-0, 4-0) and Chatham (4-0, 4-0) collide on the Panthers field. The Braves are Section II’s highest scoring team, averaging over 51 points per outing, while the Panthers put up 62 points against Voorheesville last week.