For the first time in weeks, Schalmont’s football team was put to the test.
With a key defensive stop and a touchdown pass from an unlikely source, the Sabres aced it on Broadalbin-Perth’s homecoming night.
“You can’t win every ball game by three or four touchdowns,” Schalmont coach Mike DiCocco said
after Friday’s wild 26-20 Class B West
Division win over the Patriots. “I don’t care what we won by. We won, and that’s all that matters.
“These guys found a way to get it done, and they’ve got to find a way to carry that into the playoffs.”
Linebacker Madison DeCerce halted Broadalbin-Perth’s last-gasp drive with a quarterback sack at the Sabres’ 10 in the final seconds, and tailback Vince Gallo ran for two touchdowns and passed for another before that game-saving stop as the West Division champs closed out the regular season with a their sixth straight win.
Schalmont (4-0, 6-1) had won each of its its previous five games by double digits, including last week’s 38-8 rout of Granville.
“Broadalbin-Perth played a tough game. They never gave up,” said Schalmont linebacker Trevor Gaughan, who had two sacks and an interception. “They were excited and they wanted to win on their homecoming.”
Nathaniel Akey scored all three touchdowns for Broadalbin-Perth (1-3, 2-5), with his 95-yard kickoff return and R.J. Pingitore’s extra point slicing the Patriots’ deficit to 26-20 with 2:38 left.
Andy Weeden recovered an on-sides kick soon after at the Schalmont 48, setting up a dramatic finish in a game that had blowout potential after the visitors went up, 18-0, in the first quarter.
“I’m so proud of my kids and the heart they showed,” said Broadalbin-Perth coach Rick Snyder. “We were banged up. We had a freshman in there playing quarter. The kids played with so much heart.”
Pingitore kept the Patriots final drive alive when he zipped a fourth-and-10 pass to Akey, who went 22 yards to the Sabres 14. After both teams were penalized five yards and Pingitore threw incomplete, the freshman hit Weeden with a six-yarder.
On third and-four with 15 seconds left, Pingitore rolled to his right and was tackled by DeCerce, and the Patriots couldn’t get another play off before time expired.
“Our defense played absolutely amazing,” said DiCocco, whose
Sabres recorded four sacks and also got an interception from McKelvey. “They played with heart and passion, and that’s what you need.”
“We knew they were going to go to the air,” DeCerce, a senior, said of his clutch tackle. “I saw their quarterback roll out and I kept my contain. The defensive line pressured him, so I’ve got to give a lot of credit to those guys. They flushed him out and I was right there.”
“We were trying to get the ball to Akey on that play,” said Snyder, after his team’s fourth loss by a six points or less. “We were trying to get him the ball all game. He’s one of our key guys.”
Akey caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from Pingitore in the third quarter, and scored again in the fourth when he scooped up Kyle McKelvey’s lateral pass that had hit the turf and raced 19 yards to the end zone, making it 18-13.
Schalmont took over at its 33, and after Gallo ran for one yard and lost it on the next play, he took a McKelvey pitch and launched his scoring bomb to Banks, who was wide open down the middle. McKelvey’s two-point pass to Coleman Jennes made it 26-13.
“We used that play a couple of times, and it never worked,” said DiCocco. “I’m glad it worked today. We needed it.”
“That was a great call by DiCocco, or whoever called it,” said Snyder. “We had shut down that toss play. We ran like hell to the toss on that play, and he [Gallo] threw a great ball.”
Gallo capped the Sabres’ first and third drives with touchdown runs of one and nine yards, and McKelvey finished off their second with a quarterback sneak from two yards away. Gallo rushed for 123 yards in Schalmont’s the first-quarter blitz, and ended up with 196 on 31 carries.
Gallo, a junior, turned in his seventh straight game with over 100 yards, and boosted his TD total to a team-high 15.
Ranked No. 20 in the state, Schalmont can equal the school record for single-season wins next week when it hosts its first-ever playoff game, against the loser of today’s Albany Academy (2-2, 3-3)-Hudson (2-2, 2-4) game.
Schalmont 18 0 0 8 — 26
Broad.-Perth 0 0 7 13 — 20
S — Gallo 1 run (kick blocked).
S — McKelvey 2 run (pass failed).
S — Gallo 9 run (pass failed).
BP — Akey 14 pass from Pingitore (Pingitore kick).
BP — Akey 19 fumble return (pass failed).
S — Banks 67 pass from Gallo (Jennes pass from McKelvey).
BP — Akey 95 kickoff return (Pingitore kick).