Throughout this breakthrough season, the Schenectady football team never executed a game plan any better than Friday night.
The Patriots used their ball-control offense to produce three touchdowns and a pair of field goals, and harrassed and hammered Niskayuna from beginning to end in a 27-8 Section II Class AA semifinal victory at Larry Mulvaney Field.
Marc Thompson got three touchdowns and over 100 rushing yards for the eighth straight week, while only a spectacular diving catch by Ryan Alden kept Schenectady (8-1) from notching a shutout.
“We knew we had to do everything perfect,” said senior guard/linebacker Dan Desbiens, who recorded a sack and recovered a fumble to set up the first of two field goals by Johnny Best. “We had to stop their quarterback, and we had to control the ball.”
By doing both so well and beating Niskayuna (6-3) for a second time, Schenectady earned its first Super Bowl berth in its 21st season of play. Schenectady will take on a familiar foe in LaSalle (7-2) next Friday night at 7 at Colonie, after the Cadets rallied in the final seconds to beat Saratoga Springs, 41-39.
Schenectady defeated LaSalle, the reigning Section II champ, in Week 6, 34-7.
“They’re tough,” Schenectady coach Carm DePoalo said of LaSalle. “The last time they turned the ball over a little bit, and we capitalized. I’m sure Marquis [Terrell] and the rest of them are going to come into it very determined.”
Schenectady’s often-blitzing defense was just that Friday night, and excelled in pinning down Niskayuna senior quarterback Dan Peters and his cast of quality receivers. Behind Peters, Niskayuna built a 42-27 lead against the Pats in Week 3, only to have them rally for a 64-42 win.
Niskayuna won five straight games after that, scoring at least 32 points in each.
“Overall, I would say it’s our best defensive game because of what happened in the last game,” said Thompson, a senior tailback/linebacker. “They put up 42 points on us in the first half. We made adjustments in that game, and we carried it through to this game.”
Kwami Hilts sacked Peters twice, Billy Rios had a sack and a forced fumble, Tim Cox picked off a pass and Marcus Brandon recovered a fumble as part of Schenectady’s defensive onslaught in the first playoff game between the two neighboring schools.
“This was the coming out for our defense,” said DePoalo, whose Patriots limited Niskayuna to 132 yards of offense and nine first downs. “We gave them some different looks in the secondary, and we got our bigs up the middle and put pressure on them. We were relentless with our defense.”
Peters was 8-for-23 passing for 85 yards with his interception and touchdown strike to Alden on a fourth-and-five play to end the third quarter. Schenectady had built a
24-0 advantage before Peters extended his school touchdown pass record to 27, and then hit Gregg Rahn for two.
“Our game plan was to get in there and stop Dan Peters from dancing around and running,” said Hilts, a junior two-way lineman. “We did that.”
“Their defense was great tonight. They were real physical up front, and they played great coverage on our wide receivers,” said Peters, acknowledging the Pats’ secondary of Ozire Murphy, Anthony Cooper, Herman Seise, Steve Kent, Korey Tillman and Cox. “They got the job done.”
“We were overmatched,” said Niskayuna coach John Furey. “We sucked it up and did what we could, but give it to Schenectady’s defense.”
Thompson and Schenectady’s offensive line factored greatly on the flip side, with Thompson rushing for 147 yards on 27 carries. The senior scored on a two-yard run to cap Schenectady’s game-starting seven-play, 56-yard drive, and went 10 yards to the end zone to finish off an eight-play, 65-yard sequence in the second quarter.
Thompson’s one-yard surge in the third quarter ended a seven-play, 63-yard drive, and Best’s third extra point made it 24-0.
“We rode our horse,” DePoalo
said of the 6-foot, 195-pound Thompson. “Part of our plan was to control the football, and we did that, especially in the fourth quarter when we ran 10 minutes off the clock.”
A fumble recovery by Brandon set up Thompson’s second touchdown, and another fumble recovery by Desbiens led to Best’s 27-yard field goal and a 17-0 halftime lead. Best, a senior, kicked a 32-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to answer Alden’s diving touchdown grab.
Seise complemented Thompson with 65 rushing yards on 14 carries, and Pats quarterback Nick Ottati was 6-for-7 passing for 102 yards. Cooper hauled in a
43-yard pass to set up Thompson’s first touchdown, and made a
33-yard reception before Thompson’s third TD.
“This feels great, but we’re not done yet,” Thompson said.
Schenectady had lost in its only other sectional semifinal appearance, in 2001, against Troy.
Niskayuna 0 0 8 0 — 8
Schenectady 7 10 7 3 — 27
S — Thompson 2 run (Best kick).
S — Thompson 10 run (Best kick).
S — Best 27 FG.
S — Thompson 1 run (Best kick).
N — Alden 5 pass from Peters (Rahn pass from Peters).
S — Best 32 FG.