Niskayuna tried to go toe-to-toe with Colonie in their Class AA Liberty Division football opener Friday night, but the bigger Garnet Raiders muscled their way to a 22-21 win with a fourth-quarter touchdown.
The Garnet Raiders pounded the ball at the Silver Warriors all night. Wayne Burt did the most damage, racking up 179 yards and scoring the touchdown and two-point conversion that gave his team the lead with 7:11 to play.
He teamed with fellow seniors Kevin Johnson and Devon Edwards and gave the Silver Warriors’ defense a variety of styles and angles to try to defend.
“I’m real proud of our guys, I thought we played real good defense as a team,” said Niskayuna coach John Furey, whose team took a 21-14 lead before Colonie struck right back for the winner. “They have some big boys inside, with some quality running backs. They had us on size and speed.
“That’s what I feared, when the good teams started to run the things we run. When they start spreading the field and passing, I knew it would come to that. And they can do it.”
Aidan O’Brien’s third touchdown of the game gave Niskayuna its 21-14 lead, but Colonie needed only a kick return, one play and 20 seconds to retake the lead. Ben Taylor returned the kickoff to the Niskayuna 38, and on the next play, Burt took a handoff from sophomore quarterback Will McCann — whose knee appeared to be on the ground as he lunged to make the handoff — got around the left corner and outran the pursuit to the end zone.
Colonie coach Bill Roemer decided to go for the two-point conversion, a decision made easier when the Silver Warriors jumped offside and made Burt smash in from only a yard away, though no official signal was given right away for a successful conversion.
Furey wasn’t pleased with those two plays, but didn’t use them as an excuse.
“The two-point conversion was questionable. The play before that was questionable,” he said. “It’s a tight game.
“What I’m most pleased about is we came out and played well against a good team, a team a lot of people are talking about. I think we represented ourselves well. I think people can say Niskayuna is in the fight.”
The teams were tied, 14-14, at the half, with Niskayuna scoring last when O’Brien grabbed what looked to be a sure interception and sprinted down the right sideline for a 52-yard score. The 11th-grader had scored earlier on a 10-yard run, while Colonie got TD runs from Edwards and Johnson.
“Aiden is just amazing. If you get him the ball, in space, on a route, or running the ball, good things are going to happen,” Furey said.
O’Brien’s third touchdown came on a drive littered with penalty flags, both teams committing their share of mental mistakes.
“First-game game jitters for both teams, maybe,” said Roemer. “Our coaches upstairs said the Niskayuna coaches were pulling their hair out, and there were times we were doing the same thing. There were stretches with penalties, and nothing going on. That happens, especially in first games.”
His team, with its trio of backs, was better able to recover its composure, with Burt helping to maintain possession.
“It depends on who we’re playing, and what type of game it is,” said Burt of which Colonie back gets the majority of carries.
The Colonie defense kept O’Brien from breaking off any long runs, holding him to 72 yards on 20 carries. He also caught seven passes for 85 yards, and made Roemer nervous every time he touched the ball.
“He’s a threat running the ball. He’s a threat catching the ball. Tonight, he was more of a threat catching the ball. He had some big third-down conversions where he caught the ball out of the backfield.”
Colonie 6 8 0 8 — 22
Niskayuna 7 7 0 7 — 21
C — Edwards 1 run (kick failed).
N — O’Brien 10 run (Dare kick).
C — Johnson 11 run (Johnson run).
N — O’Brien 52 pass from Sise (Dare kick).
C — Burt 38 run (Burt run).