Shenendehowa returns to the site of its most lopsided state football tournament victory tonight, and goes against the same school that it pounded nine years ago behind star running back Lee Bates’ five touchdowns.
“It’s good for the ego, but the film doesn’t really help us in terms of preparation,” Shenendehowa coach Brent Steuerwald said of a 42-0 win against North Rockland at Dietz Stadium in 2002. “They’ve got a new coach now, and they do things a little differently.”
One thing North Rockland does very well is play defense. And that’s Steuerwald’s most pressing concern heading into tonight’s Class AA quarterfinal rematch at 7 on the turf field in Kingston.
The Raiders (9-1) sealed their 14-7 overtime win over John Jay of East Fishkill in the Section I title game with a pass knockdown in the end zone, and ended their 19-14 triumph against New Rochelle in the semifinals in the same manner.
“Without question, they’re the best defensive team we’ve played all year,” Steuerwald said. “They have great size and great speed. They tackle very well. They have excellent corner people who come up very well. They have a great history of domination.”
Steuerwald said history, as in that 2002 game, won’t help his Plainsmen (10-0) tonight. They’ll have to help themselves in the form of sound, physical offense, like they employed in last week’s 49-6 Super Bowl win over Columbia when Tony Fusco rushed for 188 yards and five touchdowns.
“We’re going to have to work and block and change the equation,” said Steuerwald, whose Plainsmen have piled up over 30 points in every game but one. “We’ve got to put points on the board on them.”
Led by linebackers Nick Connell and John Dapolito and inspired by first-year coach Tom Lynch, North Rockland has limited seven of its last eight opponents to eight points or less since opening the season with a 17-10 loss to Clarkstown North and a 19-15 win against White Plains.
“We’re not looking for a picnic,” Steuerwald said. “We’ve got to play well and avoid mistakes. Penalties and turnovers can be a big issue in big games. They can change a game. We’ve been a pretty disciplined team, and we have to continue to be.”
Like North Rockland, Shenendehowa has also been a stingy defensive team. The Plainsmen have five shutouts, and last week was their second game with only one touchdown allowed.
“They’re not a great offensive team. They’re kind of vanilla, but they have talented athletes,” said Steuerwald. “They’ll be a challange.”
Connell ran for a touchdown in the third quarter and another in overtime last week as North Rockland reached the state tournament for the first time since 2005. The Raiders beat Section II’s LaSalle in a state quarterfinal game that year, 22-6, before losing to Monroe-Woodbury, 28-0.
Shenendehowa’s last state tourney appearance in 2003 ended in a 14-7 semifinal loss to New Rochelle. Shenendehowa followed its win over North Rockland the year before with a 42-0 rout of Newburgh Free Academy before losing in the state championship game, 28-7, to Webster Schroeder.
“When we did our film exchange. I met up their their former head coach [Joe Casarella], who is now North Rockland’s athletic director. He reminded me right away of that game in 2002,” said Steuerwald. “He remembered it. A lot of other people down there remember it, too.”
Steuerwald will be joining Casarella in retirement when Shenendehowa’s playoff run comes to an end. Section II’s all-time wins leader with 317 announced in August that this season will be his last in charge of the Plainsmen.
“I’m very proud of the efforts and accomplishments of this team. They’ve been very devoted,” Steuerwald said of his 11th Section II championship team. “Whatever happens from here on, I can say it was a great pleasure to work with this group.”
Shenendehowa is striving to reach the state title game for a third time. Newburg Free Academy (Section IX, 8-1) drew the bye and gets tonight’s winner in the East semifinal next Saturday at 7 at Dietz.
“Our boys want to get to the Carrier Dome,” Steuerwald said. “They don’t want it to be over, either. There’s been no lack of effort or focus on their part.”
Spartans, Sabres return
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake will be making its fourth state quarterfinal appearance in as many years tonight at Shenendehowa’s Steuerwald Stadium, and Schalmont will be making its third straight regional showing today at AuSable Valley High School.
The Spartans (9-1) take on Franklin Academy (Section X, 9-1) at 7 in a rematch from 2009 when the Section II champs rolled to a 54-13 triumph. The Sabres (10-0) meet up with Peru (Section VII, 10-0) at 1 in the first exchange between the teams.
Burnt Hills got two touchdown passes from Ryan McDonnell to Eric Dillon, the second inside the final minute, to beat Amsterdam last week, 26-23, and extend its win streak to eight games. The Spartans reached state title games in 2008 and 2009 and were derailed in the semifinals last season.
Franklin Academy advanced with a 48-20 win over Potsdam in which Mitchell Gallagher threw four touchdown passes and ran for three scores.
Niko Nicoletti scored his second touchdown of the game in overtime, and Devon Willis ran for the two-point conversion, to give Schalmont a 36-35 win over Albany Academy in the Section II final. The win kept the Sabres’ hopes alive for back-to-back trips to the state title game after they made it to the state semis in 2009.
Taylor Rock threw a touchdown pass and ran for another to lift Peru over Beekmantown last week, 21-14.
The Schalmont-Peru winner meets either Croton-Harmon (Section I, 9-0) or Marlboro (Section IX, 9-1) next Saturday at 3 at Dietz. The Burnt Hills-Franklin Academy winner meets either Poughkeepsie (Section I, 9-0) or Cornwall (Section IX, 9-1) Friday night at 8 at Dietz.
Hoosick Falls and Cambridge won state quarterfinal football games Friday night, with the Panthers avenging their only loss from last season.
Hoosick Falls defeated Saranac Lake in a Class C game at Stillwater, 47-13, and Cambridge beat Ticonderoga in a Class D game at Ausable Valley, 44-25.
Hoosick Falls (11-0) got unanswered first-quarter touchdown runs from Brad Burns, Tanner Williams and Josh Mulready in building a 19-0 lead, and went on to avenge last year’s 15-12 overtime loss to Saranac Lake (Section VII, 8-2).
Burns scored three touchdowns and Williams delivered two for the state’s No. 1-ranked team, while the Hoosick Falls defense gave up one touchdown while another came on an interception return. Saranac Lake came in averaging just over 40 points per game.
Skyler Saunders ran for four touchdowns to spark Cambridge (11-0).