Schenectady High football coach Carm DePoalo has had his team quickly dismiss the media attention that followed a 6-0 start.
He’ll certainly want his players to disregard reports of the final game of the regular season.
Attempting to become the only Class AA team to go through the regular season unbeaten this year, the Patriots fell flat Friday night, dropping a 17-7 decision to Shaker.
“It’s like we’ve told them all year, we read the paper, read the headlines, then we throw them away,” said DePoalo, whose team didn’t score until the fourth quarter against the Blue Bison. “We’re going to throw this one away, too.
“We got outplayed, I’m not going to take any credit away from Shaker. No excuses. They just beat us up front.
“Hopefully, this will be a lesson learned.”
After putting up 233 points in its first six games, the Patriots misfired on offense one week after controlling LaSalle in a game that determined the top seed from the Liberty Division for the sectionals, which begin next weekend.
Schenectady was turned away three times inside the Shaker 20 — twice inside the 15 — in the first half, and came away trailing, 3-0.
“We had a serious letdown. I don’t know why,” said Patriots quarterback Nick Ottati. “We came out extremely flat for three quarters.”
Shaker senior defensive back Matt Bendon had a lot to do with that, three times knocking the ball away from Marcus Brandon — Ottati’s 6-foot-4, 225-pound go-to receiver — in the end zone to kill drives.
Shaker’s front seven kept Schenectady running back Marc Thompson in check during the first half, knowing that the Pats’ other best option was finding Brandon.
“I challenged him [Bendon] a little bit,” said Blue Bison coach Dennis Bender of his defensive back. “I told him, ‘We’ve to stop Thompson, obviously, and by doing that, we’re going to match you with with No. 9 [Brandon].’
“That was huge, keeping them off the board the first half, but we also needed to score at the other end.”
Shaker took advantage of two huge Schenectady mistakes to get a pair of second-half touchdowns.
After Scott Somerville fell on a fumbled punt at the Schenectady 11 midway through the third quarter, Blue Bison running back Jeremy Pryor needed two carries to cover that distance.
Schenectady showed some life after falling behind, 10-0, marching 80 yards on 11 plays after a Timmy Cox interception. Ottati got all of his offensive weapons involved, and the quarterback finished the drive with a four-yard run, bouncing off a tackler at the one and spinning into the end zone.
The Schenectady defense then forced the Blue Bison into a fourth-and-two at the Schenectady 39, but Shaker quarterback Mark Ambrosio drew an offsides call that kept the drive alive. Three plays later, Ambrosio went 31 yards for the score with five minutes to play that put an end to the Schenectady winning streak.
“It was huge, because they had scored, and would have gotten the ball back. We we able to get another score and take time off the clock,” Ambrosio said.
That Ambrosio, the son of former Colonie coach Mike Ambrosio, would turn in a smart, eff-
icient game was not a surprise to Bender.
“He’s been around the game practically all of his life. He deserved this,” said Bender. “He doesn’t have many games left.
“We’re not going to the playoffs. He knows this was our big playoff game.”
“We came in playing like we had nothing to lose, to be the spoilers, and we pulled it off,” said Ambrosio, whose team finished division play at 2-3 and takes a 2-5 record into a pair of crossover games. “The defense really played big, and Matt Bendon made three great plays to keep them out of the end zone.”
“I don’t want to call it our Super Bowl, but it was as big as a playoff game for us,” said Bender.
The Patriots will find out Sunday who their first-round playoff opponent will be. DePoalo is confident his team can shake off the loss, and, hopefully, make a long postseason run.
“We’re still a great football team,” he said. “Nothing changes. It’s the same players in the same uniforms. We just didn’t come out and play tonight, and they beat us up.
“They beat us off the ball. We didn’t run hard, we missed a lot of blocks tonight. They ran the ball well, blocked well.
“It’s disappointing, but we’re
going to bounce back. We get to play at home again next week.”
Shaker 3 0 7 7 — 17
Schenectady 0 0 0 7 — 7
Sha — Walsh 25 FG.
Sha — Pryor 9 run (Walsh kick).
Sch — Ottati 4 run (Best kick).
Sha — Ambrosio 31 run (Walsh kick).