Schenectady showed off its firepower with a three-touchdown spurt in the first half of last week’s football game at Christian Brothers Academy, and displayed its grit by shutting out the Brothers in the fourth quarter, an effort capped by Kahzeir Simmons’ block of a field-goal attempt in the last second.
“We talk all the time about finishing games. We talk all the time about playing every second,” Schenectady coach Jim Kramer said. “That’s what they did. It was a great team effort.”
If the Patriots can finish again, they’ll find themselves in a Section II championship game for the second time in their 25-year history.
Schenectady will be trying to do so tonight in a Class AA semifinal on the road against a Shaker team it was unable to put away after building a quick two-touchdown lead in a 21-14 Week 4 loss. Schenectady has rattled off four wins since, capped by its 28-27 triumph at CBA in the quarterfinals.
“Our kids understand what a good football team Shaker is,” said Kramer. “They also understand we’re a good enough team to reach our goals.”
Schenectady (No. 3 seed Liberty Division, 6-2) ended its sectional drought with last week’s win when it turned a 14-0 deficit into a 28-21 advantage, and then held off the Brothers. CBA had humbled Schenectady in the 2011 quarterfinals, 40-0, and Ballston Spa ousted the Pats in the first round in 2010, 27-21.
Schenectady beat Shenendehowa in a 2009 quarterfinal, 33-13, before a 32-0 semifinal setback against Saratoga Springs.
“Anytime you can win a playoff game, it’s a positive. There are good teams in the playoffs. It’s good for your program and good for your confidence,” Kramer said. “We’re eager for the next challenge.”
Schenectady gave Shaker (No. 1 Liberty, 8-0) its toughest test, with the Blue Bison winning their other seven games by at least 14 points. Shaker’s streak to a perfect regular season included 35-8 and 47-12 wins over Shenendehowa (No. 1 Empire, 7-1) and Columbia (No. 2 Liberty, 5-3), tonight’s other Class AA semifinal participants.
“Shaker is the most complete football team we’ll play this year. They’re good in all three phases,” Kramer said of the state’s No. 3-ranked squad. “We have to be ready to play.
“We did some good things the first time that we’ll try to build on, and we did some things we’ll try to correct. They’re going to try to do the same thing.”
Kwame Jarvis threw a touchdown pass to Felix Rodriguez and another to Jeremy Kent to complete Schenectady’s first two drives when the teams met at Larry Mulvaney Field back on Sept. 21. The Patriots squandered opportunities afterward, though, and turned the ball over twice after Kenny Jackson gave Shaker the lead on a scoring run with 2:17 left in the contest.
“Even though we moved the ball, we stalled,” said Kramer. “We’ve got to finish drives.”
Schenectady’s offensive line group of Tyler DePasquale, Lasheen Brunson, Emanuel Zamora, Josh Fisherauer and Justin Richards will play a significant role in tonight’s outcome with their run and pass blocking. Their work helped Hassan Rainey and Rodriguez rush for touchdowns last week, and gave Jarvis time to find Alex Phann and Nakia Boozer with touchdown passes.
Rainey ran for 133 yards, and the junior’s 65-yard dash to the end zone broke a 21-21 third-quarter tie.
“Shaker is huge, talented and physical, and our line understands the challenge that’s ahead of them,” said Kramer. “They want to prove how good they are.”
Schenectady will be facing a Shaker defense that flourished in last week’s 42-6 win over Ballston Spa. The Blue Bison stopped three fourth-down plays, intercepted two passes and forced four fumbles, that last of which was returned 65 yards by Patrick Hoey to complete their scoring. Earlier on, Ryan Griffin rushed for three touchdowns, and Chris Landers threw a TD pass to Jackson to help Shaker build a 28-0 halftime lead.
Landers ran for a touchdown, and Griffin caught a pass from his quarterback as part of Shaker’s comeback win at Schenectady last month.
“We turned them over a bunch of times,” Kramer said of that game. “We caused four or five turnovers which was a nice thing, but we have to be improved in our tackling and minimize third-down conversions.”
Schenectady has yet to lose on the road this season, winning at Ballston Spa (34-27), Colonie (33-21), Troy (19-12), Niskayuna (49-20) and CBA.
Schenectady had only won one road playoff game before last week, that coming in the 2001 quarterfinals at Shenendehowa. Schenectady beat Ballston Spa and Niskayuna at home in 2008, and then lost to LaSalle on Colonie’s field in its only Super Bowl appearance.
Tonight’s Columbia at Shenendehowa game is a rematch from last fall’s Section II large-school final which the Plainsmen won, 49-6, for their 11th championship. Shenendehowa clubbed Colonie last week, 48-14, and Columbia topped Guilderland, 30-10, to set up the rematch.
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (7-1) will be in search of its seventh straight Class A title-game berth when it hosts Queensbury (5-3) tonight. The Spartans have won the last four titles, taking the crown last year against Amsterdam. Burnt Hills lost its opener against Troy (17-7) and its seven-game winning streak includes a 49-14 triumph over Queensbury and three games with over 60 points.
Rivals from the old Big 10 collide at Troy when the Flying Horses (6-2) host Amsterdam (5-3) in the other Class A semifinal tonight.
Schalmont (7-1) will put its 10-game Section II playoff streak on the line against Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk (7-1) in a Class B semifinal tonight. The streak includes a title-game win over Ravena in 2010 when the Sabres earned the second of their three straight championships.
Schuylerville (4-4) goes to Glens Falls (7-1) Saturday for the other Class B semifinal (1 p.m.). Glens Falls has lost only to Schalmont, that setback coming in Week 1. Schuylerville pulled off a big quarterfinal upset when it edged top-seeded Lansingburgh, 20-19.
Saturday’s Class C semifinal double-header at Stillwater sends Mechanicville (6-2) against Chatham (8-0) at 1, and Fonda-Fultonville (5-2) against three-time defending champion Hoosick Falls (8-0) at 7. Hoosick Falls beat Fonda-Fultonville for the 2011 flag, and owns a 38-game win streak against Section II competition.
Saturday’s Class D semifinal double-header at Schuylerville sends Whitehall (5-3) against Rensselaer (7-1) at 1, and Salem (4-4) against Cambridge (8-0) at 7. Cambridge beat Rensselaer in the last two small-school finals.