The Schenectady football team needs two wins in its last two Liberty Division games in order to be certain of procuring a spot in the Section II Class AA playoffs.
It’s a simple equation for the Patriots to figure out. The hard part will be the doing, starting with tonight’s homecoming game against nemesis LaSalle Institute at Larry Mulvaney Field.
“We control our own destiny,” said Patriots coach Jim Kramer. “A split puts us in a tie-break scenario, which we want to avoid. If we win our games, we’re in.”
Schenectady travels to Niskayuna next Friday to complete its regular-season schedule. The Patriots secured a postseason berth last year in Week 6 with a wild, 35-34 overtime win against the Silver Warriors, and stumbled afterward in a 39-13 setback against LaSalle.
“Our kids are focused on LaSalle. That’s the task at hand, and the kids are excited to play. We’re treating LaSalle like a playoff game,” said Kramer. “Let’s accomplish that goal, and then we’ll move on.”
The Patriots are 1-2 in the division, just like LaSalle and Niskayuna. Shaker sits on top at 3-0, with Colonie and Columbia showing 2-2 marks entering their matchup tonight.
Shaker hosts Niskayuna tonight and entertains LaSalle next week.
“Two really good football teams are going to be playing crossover games in Week 8. That’s something I was talking to the boys about the other day,” said Kramer. “Any team in our division can beat any team. That’s what makes it so exciting every week, but it’s also what keeps the coaches awake at night.”
The series between Schenectady and LaSalle began to heat up in 2008, when the teams shared the Liberty Division top spot. The Patriots earned the playoff No. 1 seed by routing the Cadets in a league tilt that season, 34-7, and LaSalle turned the tables with a 26-14 Super Bowl win. LaSalle also prevailed in 2009, 12-0, in a Week 7 game that decided the Liberty championship.
Schenectady beat LaSalle in 2010, 49-13, as part of a must-win, three-game sweep that propelled the Pats into the playoffs.
“We’ve had some big games with them. Each of us has had success, as well as some down experiences,” said Kramer. “This is certainly another big game for both teams. I’m sure [LaSalle] coach [Al] Rapp will have his team ready to play.”
LaSalle (2-3 overall) was ready last week, and forged a 12-0 win against Columbia that greatly enhanced its playoff hopes.
“Any time you throw a shutout against Columbia, that’s an impressive stat,” said Kramer. “They bring 11 helmets to the football. They play hard, and they create opportunities by causing turnovers.”
Kramer said turnovers are something his Patriots must avoid.
“On offense, we have to value the football. We have to minimize our penalties and turnovers,” he said. “We were unable to finish drives multiple times inside the 20 in the Shaker and Troy games. We could have scored more points, and we squandered opportunities. We’ve talked at length about finishing drives.”
Schenectady (3-2 overall) overcame its woes to win at Troy last week, 19-12, beating the state’s then No. 7-ranked Class A team after a 21-14 loss to Shaker. Schenectady beat Colonie and Ballston Spa, and lost to Columbia by one point after a superb late-game rally before that.
“Not many teams go into that place and win. Troy has a heck of a football program. Any time you get a win there, it’s a plus for your program,” said Kramer. “Now, we have to move on and play another top-rate program. We have to move forward.”
LaSalle features a much different cast than the one that humbled Schenectady last year. One of the Cadets’ main holdovers, senior Gabe Smith, went 94 yards with a touchdown reception in the Columbia win.
“We’ve watched film, and even though they lost a lot of seniors and are playing some younger guys, they find themselves in a lot of games. They spread the ball around, and they’re scrappy,” said Kramer. “They still have a lot of good players, and we’ll have to play four quarters.”
Schenectady quarterback Kwame Jarvis threw his league-leading 10th touchdown pass to Alex Phann, and Felix Rodriguez ran for his league-leading 12th touchdown, in the Troy win. Hassan Rainey scored the clinching fourth-quarter touchdown on a 49-yard run as the Patriots extended a 13-12 lead.
Schenectady is in search of its sixth consecutive postseason berth.
Class B Reinfurt Division leaders collide tonight when Lansingburgh (4-0, 5-0) hosts Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk (4-0, 5-0). Burnt Hills-Ballston (3-0, 4-1) Lake can complete a perfect Class A Northwest Division campaign Saturday at Amsterdam (2-0, 3-2).
Lansingburgh (No. 8), Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk (No. 12) and Burnt Hills (No. 8) are among the Section II teams ranked this week on the New York State Sportswriters Association polls. The others are Shaker (5-0, No. 8) and Shenendehowa (4-1, No. 21) in Class AA, Schalmont (4-1, No. 7) in Class B, Hoosick Falls (5-0, No. 2) and Chatham (5-0, No. 17) in Class C, and Cambridge (5-0, No. 6), Rensselaer (5-0, No. 8) and Canajoharie (4-1, No. 15) in Class D.
The honorable-mention group includes Schenectady and Christian Brothers Academy (5-0) in Class AA, Troy (3-2) in Class A, Albany Academy (4-1) and Glens Falls (4-1) in Class B, Fonda-Fultonville (3-1) in Class C, and Greenwich (4-1) in Class D.