F or a half, Dan Peters and the Niskayuna offense had success against Schenectady like no other football team, piling up 42 points in a Week 3 Liberty Division game.
“The Peters kid is one of the best quarterbacks in Section II. He can make it happen. He can throw the ball, or he can keep it and go all the way,” Schenectady coach Carm DePoalo said of the star senior quarterback. “He put a lot of points up on us. Furtunately for us, we shut it down.”
Schenectady played shutout ball in the second half and put up four touchdowns in a wild and wacky, record-setting 64-42 victory at Niskayuna in that late-September clash.
The two teams get together for a second time tonight at Schenectady’s Larry Mulvaney Field, with the winner gaining a Section II Class AA Super Bowl berth. Five other sectional semifinals are tonight, and three more will he held Saturday.
Schenectady (7-1) has never won a semifinal contest, while Niskayuna (6-2) has prevailed at this stage only once, in 1996 against Amsterdam.
“This is great for Schenectady County,” said DePoalo, whose Patriots advanced with last week’s 27-21 win over Ballston Spa; Niskayuna beat Shenendehowa, 34-28, to move on. “You’ve got two great teams trying to get to the Super Bowl. [Niskayuna coach John] Furey has his team prepared. We’re ready to play, too. We’re ready to rock and roll. I think it’s going to be a classic.”
The first meeting certainly
was, when Peters tossed four touchdown passes and ran for another to help stake Niskayuna to a 42-27 lead. Marc Thompson caught a touchdown pass for a Schenectady touchdown in the closing seconds of the opening half, and in the second half, he scored three more times as the Patriots set a team
record for points.
“Our game plan is to keep them off the field, which means we need to control the ball,” said DePoalo, whose Pats are ranked No. 18 in the state. “We need to open holes, get five or six yards, get first downs and eat minutes off the clock.”
Furey knows all too well what the Patriots can do with their
all-star cast featuring Thompson, fellow running back Herman Seise, quarterback Nick Ottati, tight end Marcus Brandon and wide out Anthony Cooper. Ottati ran for two touchdowns last week and Thompson and Seise both added one, with Seise’s 22-yard end zone dash providing the clincher.
“The problem with Schenectady is they spread you so thin with their great talent. They put you under stress,” said Furey. “I’d like to think our kids are talented, too. It makes for an interesting matchup. We’ve got to try to defend against their speed and ability.”
Schenectady’s defense will be put to the test, as well, against a Niskayuna team that has generated at least 32 points in each game during its five-game win streak. During those five wins, Peters fired 18 of his school-record 26 touchdown passes.
“We know what to expect from them. They’ll throw the football. No doubt. Our objective is to put pressure on Peters. We want him to have happy feet. We’re looking for Dan Desbiens, Kwami Hilts and Billy Rios to come up big,” said DePoalo. “In this game, the team that plays the best defense is going to win.”
Peters got the best of Shenendehowa’s defense last week with three touchdown passes to Kadeem Miller and a pair of scoring runs while accounting for 421 yards of offense. His two
43-yard touchdown runs in the second half gave Niskayuna a
34-21 lead, and the Silver Warriors held on for their first playoff win since 2000.
“Great athletes make great plays,” said Furey. “We’ve got kids who are making plays.”
Peter Furey and Shawn Callahan both caught two touchdown passes in Niskayuna’s first-half outburst against Schenectady before the Silver Warriors fizzled over the final two quarters. During that stretch, Schenectady’s defensive ends, Rashawn Champ and Brandon, played fabulous football.
“They shut us down, and I’m sure they saw some things on film that they’ll try to use again,” said coach Furey. “They’re thinking, ‘We can do this and be successful.’ It’s up to us to counter that with our adjustments. We’ll be challenged in that respect.”
After losing to LaSalle and Schenectady back-to-back, Niskayuna reeled off victories against Shaker, Guilderland, Colonie and Warwick Valley before its playoff verdict against Shenendehowa. That win, coupled with Schenectady’s, set up a first-ever playoff encounter between the Silver Warriors and the Patriots. The Patriots lost to Troy the last time they reached the sectional semifinals in 2001.
“We put up 106 points and had almost 1,000 yards of offense the first time. I wouldn’t be surprised if its 14-13 this time,” DePoalo said. “A lot of people are hyping the game up. Saying watch all the fireworks, but it may not be that way.”
Saratoga Springs (7-1) hosts defending champ LaSalle (6-2) in tonight’s other Class AA semifinal. Bishop Maginn (8-0) hosts Amsterdam (5-3) and 2007 runner-up Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (8-0) entertains Troy (7-1) in the Class A semifinals. Burnt Hills and Troy last met in a playoff game in 1996, with the Flying Horses prevailing in a quarterfinal.
Hudson (3-5) plays at Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk (6-2) in Class B, and Fonda-Fultonville (7-1) plays at Schuylerville (8-0) in Class C. The Braves and the Black Horses, both state ranked, have never met in the postseason.