Rushing was the operative word for Niskayuna on Friday night, as the Silver Warriors beat Gloversville, 33-20, in a non-league football game.
Sophomore running back Aidan O’Brien rushed for over 200 yards and scored four touchdowns, and the Niskayuna defensive front four got a tremendous pass rush all night as the Class AA Silver Warriors improved to 2-1 overall with the win over the Class A Huskies.
“That O’Brien kid is magic,” marveled Gloversville coach Jared Bongo, who had an up-close look at the 10th-grader as he sped past the Huskies bench on a couple of his touchdowns. “We knew that they had some success running against Columbia, but preparing for a Niskayuna team that runs like that is different.”
O’Brien, who has scored at least two touchdowns in all three games this season, got his sixth of the season for the only points in the first quarter. His 13-yard run capped a 10-play, 78-yard drive.
He added scoring runs of 41 and two yards in the second quarter, with Tyler Pantalone returning an interception 80 yards for a score between O’Brien’s TDs.
That score from the defense made it a 21-0 game.
Ben Perreault was instrumental in the play, delivering a big hit on Asa Barnhill as the Gloversville quarterback stepped into his throw.
“I hit him and I looked up, and I saw ‘Pants’ running back down the sideline,” said Perreault. “It’s a big thing. When the defense scores a touchdown, it gets everyone pumped up. That’s the ultimate slap in the face to the other team.”
Perreault, Stephen VanHoesen, Josh Sanzo and Mike Struzzi were in the Gloversville backfield all game. The Niskayuna defense held the Huskies to 61 yards and three first downs in taking a 27-0 halftime lead.
“We knew that the running game wasn’t their best. We knew our defensive line could hold them no matter what,” Perreault said. “What we were mostly worried about was their quarterback throwing deep.
“The first week, I was an outside linebacker. Coach told me I would be playing defensive end, because they needed me to pressure on the edge.”
“The defensive line really got off the ball,” said Niskayuna coach John Furey. “Those guys have good movement for bigger guys. They can get after it. I’m real pleased with their play.”
“They really came after us,” said Bongo.
O’Brien had only three carries in the second half, one a 57-yard touchdown.
“He is an athlete,” said Perreault. “Ever since eighth grade, everyone knew he was going to be a force. He showed that last year when he came up.”
“He had a tremendous game. He’s a tremendous athlete,” said Furey of O’Brien, who has five consecutive games of 100-plus yards rushing over the last two years.
Niskayuna had two touchdowns called back — another interception and a kickoff return after one on Mike Fancher’s two-fourth quarter touchdown runs — by a penalty.
His team’s nine penalties and three fumbles gave Furey some worry as the Silver Warriors prepare for LaSalle, their next opponent.
“I think we came out and did some nice things in the first half,” he said. “What we’ve got to do now is to be more disciplined.
“We’ve got a lot of nice running backs, some good quarterbacks, I think we can do some special things. But we can’t run the ball when we’re going to fumble and jump offsides. Those things have got to change.
“We’ve got to get into the mindset of being a team that plugs and plugs and plugs, and doesn’t make mistakes.”
“Our last game, [a 46-18 loss] against Columbia, was a really tough loss,” said Perreault. “I think the taste of defeat brought our defense together, brought our offense together. We needed a solid win. We needed to run someone over. I think we did.”
Bongo was pleased his team punched across two late TDs, but he knows his team faces two tough opponents next.
“I challenged them at halftime, and they responded,” he said. “Playing against Class AA teams, hopefully, will make us better. We’ve got games coming up against two very good Class A teams, Amsterdam and Burnt Hills.”
Gloversville 0 0 6 14 — 20
Niskayuna 7 20 6 0 — 33
N — O’Brien 13 run (Dorfman kick).
N — O’Brien 41 run (Dofrman kick).
N — Pantalone 80 interception return (Dorfman kick).
N — O’Brien 2 run (kick failed).
G — Murray 31 pass from Barnhill (kick failed).
N — O’Brien 57 run (kick failed).
G — Fancher 17 run (pass failed).
G — Fancher 31 run (Murray run).