When Schenectady maintains possession of the football, wonderful things can happen for the Patriots.
“At the half, I told the kids to take a deep breath,” coach Jim Kramer said after his Patriots rallied for a 42-21 Class AA win over LaSalle Institute Friday. “We had a great homecoming crowd tonight. Our kids wanted to perform for our crowd, and they were pressing too much.
“In the second half, they came out and played hard, they played together, and they played well.”
Hasson Rainey ran for three second-half touchdowns, Kwame Jarvis added another after Felix Rodriguez’s second interception, and Schenectady soared to a Liberty Division victory at Larry Mulvaney Field that greatly enhanced its playoff hopes.
Schenectady turned the ball over three times in the first half and was denied a possession when LaSalle converted an onside kick. The Cadets had woes of their own with four turnovers in a back-and-forth opening half that left the teams tied at 14-14.
“The turnovers hurt us major, but like coach says, you’ve got to forget it and keep going hard,” said Rainey, a junior tailback. “You’ve got to go as hard as you can.”
Rainey ran for 148 yards on 15 carries, and reached the end zone on a 51-yard burst to begin a string of 28 unanswered points by Schenectady in the second half.
“He had a big night,” Kramer said of Rainey. “We’ve had different guys step up for us all season. Tonight was his night.”
“I just try to put up numbers so the team can win,” Rainey said.
Schenectady improved to 2-2 in the division (4-2 overall), and strengthened its bid to make the large-school sectionals for a sixth year in a row. Schenectady can clinch a spot with a victory next Friday at Niskayuna (1-3, 3-3).
“We came out kind of lackadaisical. At the half, coach gave a speech,” said Rainey. “He said, ‘This is for the playoffs, and it was time to either put up or shut up.’ ”
“Nothing is locked up. We’ve still got some work to do, but this win was a must,” said Kramer. “We’ve got to come back with a solid week of practice and be ready to play Niskayuna. It’s going to be a tough game. Anyone who knows about Niskayuna and Schenectady knows we’ve been in some barnburners, and I’m sure Friday’s game will be no different.”
Schenectady and LaSalle were in a tussle before the Patriots pulled away, and avenged last season’s 39-13 loss to the Cadets.
Javar Tillman began Schenectady’s thrust when he intercepted Will Williams and returned the ball 32 yards for a touchdown late in the second quarter.
“Last year, we stole one from them. We did a great job. Not this year,” said LaSalle coach Al Rapp. “We played them tough in the first half. In the second half, we made too many youth mistakes. In the second half, we didn’t execute, offensively or defensively.”
Jarvis scored on his 51-yard run on the first play after a LaSalle pass from punt formation came up short of a first down, and the Patriots added to their lead with touchdowns just over a minute apart in the fourth quarter.
Jarvis ran for four yards on fourth-and-two to begin the fourth period, passed to Rodriguez for 34 yards on the next play, and Rainey scored on a three-yard burst to double the Patriots’ lead. Rodriguez picked off a pass on LaSalle’s next play, returned the ball 35 yards to Cadets’ five, and Jarvis scored on a one-yard keeper two plays after that.
Rainey added his third touchdown on a 40-yard scamper with 3:33 left.
“We put the ball on the ground a couple of times,” said Kramer. “When we hold on to the ball, we’re tough to stop.”
All four first-half touchdowns came after turnovers. Vincent Winfield recovered a fumble in the first quarter to set up a seven-yard touchdown run by Rodriguez, and Justin Tuttle’s fumble recovery led to a six-yard scoring run by LaSalle’s Connor Lizzi in the second quarter. Tyler Gagnon scored on an 11-yard run for the Cadets (1-3, 2-4) after Ian Parkinson pounced on an onside kick.
Backup quarterback Seamus Kelley scored LaSalle’s third TD from the one with 1:23 to play.
Rodriguez ran for 78 yards on eight carries, and broke off 31 and 28-yarders before his TD. Gagnon rushed for 61 yards on eight carries, and Luizzi ran for 69 yards on 12 carries.
LaSalle 0 14 0 7 — 21
Schenectady 7 7 7 21 — 42
S — Rodriguez 7 run (Boozer kick).
L — Luizzi 6 run (Connolly kick).
L — Gagnon 11 run (Connolly kick).
S — Tillman 32 interception return (Boozer kick).
S — Rainey 51 run (Boozer kick).
S — Rainey 3 run (Voozer kick).
S — Jarvis 1 run (Boozer kick).
S — Rainey 40 run (Boozer kick).
L — Kelley 1 run (Connolly kick).