Step one is complete.
Shenendehowa spread the offensive wealth in the first half, and its starting defense once again played shutout football in a 48-14 Section II Class AA quarterfinal win over Colonie Friday night at Steuerwald Stadium.
The Plainsmen followed up dominant first-round wins the last two seasons with semifinal success and Super Bowl appearances, and took the Class AA crown last November.
“We think of every game as a big game. You can’t overlook anyone. If you do, you won’t get to the next level,” said Shenendehowa tight end and defensive end Eric Hurd. “This was a steppingstone.”
Shenendehowa (Empire No. 1, 7-1) stomped hard in the first half, scoring on its first two possessions before estabishing control with two more touchdowns in the second period.
Hurd set up Corey Acker’s 17-yard touchdown scamper in the second quarter when he recovered a fumbled snap, and hauled in an 11-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Buss with 31.6 seconds left as the state’s No. 17-ranked team pushed its advantage to 27-0.
“The way the guys came out and executed in the first half and into the third quarter, you could tell they came to play tonight,” said first-year Shenendehowa coach Brian Clawson. “It was evident we were going to win the game.”
Marcelino Christie and reserve back Matt Drumm both ran for two touchdowns, and Kyle Buss caught a scoring toss from his brother and intercepted a pass as part of Shenendehowa’s fifth sectional victory over Colonie (Liberty No. 4, 3-5) in six meetings. Colonie won its only game in the postseason series in 1998, when it rallied from a 27-0 second-quarter deficit to pull off a 47-33 semifinal shocker.
While the effort was there Friday, Colonie never came close to mounting a comeback.
“We got the big lead and held them off,” said Hurd. “It wasn’t the smoothest game, but all that matters is we got the job done.”
“We’ll take this and move on. We did enough good things on both sides of the ball,” said Clawson. “This is something we can build on and hopefully, we’ll peak later on.”
Acker reached the end zone on the first play after Hurd’s fumble recovery, and Hurd capped a five-play, 38-yard sequence with his diving touchdown grab late in the second quarter.
“Eric doesn’t say a whole lot. He speaks softly and carries a big stick,” Clawson said of the 6-foor-3, 205-pound senior. “He brings the wood on defense, and on offense he’s a solid tight end. He’s got three touchdown receptions.”
Hurd and reserve running back Oliver Robinson delivered Shenendehowa’s biggest gainers, with Hurd turning in a short pass in the flat into a 38-yard, second-quarter reception, and Robinson bulling for 38 yards in the third to set up Drum’s first touchdown.
Robinson, Christie and Acker led a balanced Shenendehowa rushing effort with 49, 47 and 44 yards, and the Plainsmen as a whole gained 276.
“Colonie played a real tough football game. They’re big up front, and we showed we can run the football,” said Clawson. “I thought that was important for us.”
Shenendehowa also kept Colonie in check until late in the third quarter, when Wayne Burt scored on a one-yard touchdown run. Zach Latnie scored Colonie’s other touchdown on a 66-yard reception to begin the final period.
“Our defense pursued to the ball and our tacking was great,” said Clawson, whose Plainsmen had shut out CBA and Saratoga Springs in games leading up to the quarterfinal. “Defense is what gets it done in the big games.”
Shenendehowa built its first-half lead with a strong two-way performance. Kyle Buss finished Shenendehowa’s first drive with a 25-yard touchdown catch on a fourth-and-10 play, and Christie scored from 18 yards out soon after before Acker and Hurd padded the lead.
“I was thankful that my coaches put me in a position to succeed,” said Hurd. “I did what I had to do.”
“To get the ball with 1:20 left and no time outs and score, that was big for our momentum going into halftime,” said Clawson.
Shenendehowa will host Columbia (Liberty No. 2, 5-3) next Friday in a semifinal game. The Plainsmen beat the Blue Devils for the 2011 Class AA title, 49-6.
Colonie 0 0 6 8 — 14
Shenendehowa 13 14 14 7 — 48
S — K. Buss 25 pass from R. Buss (run failed).
S — Christie 18 run (Vilardi kick).
S — Acker 17 run (Vilardi kick).
S — Hurd 11 pass from R. Buss (Vilardi kick).
S — Christie 10 run (Vilardi kick).
S — Drum 6 run (Vilardi kick).
C — Burt 1 run (kick failed).
C — Latnie 66 pass from Edwards (Edwards run).
S — Drum 11 run (Vilardi kick).