When Jake Smith hauled in his third touchdown pass from Frank Gallo, it represented one last response by Guilderland’s gritty football team Friday night.
“Everyone on this team stepped up. Everyone on this team had the guts to step up to the plate,” Gallo said after the Dutchmen knocked off Shenendehowa in their homecoming game, 29-22, and assumed the top spot in the Class AA Empire Division. “People should start believing in Guilderland.”
The Dutchmen scored on their first drive before the Plainsmen tallied three of the next four touchdowns to go up, 22-15, in a physical matchup of state-ranked teams.
“This team answers. When something happens, they bring it,” Guilderland coach Dan Penna said. “They don’t quit.”
Guilderland (4-0, 5-0) answered a two-point conversion by Shenendehowa with one of its own in the second quarter, and in the third frame, the Dutchmen scored on a fourth-down play, just as the Plainsmen had in the series before.
“Coach puts a big emphasis on when we face adversity, we have to stick together,” said Smith. “We did it last week, and we did it again tonight.”
Guilderland outlasted reigning Section II Class AA champion Shaker in overtime last week, 31-29, before coming from behind to halt Shenendehowa’s Empire Division winning streak at 15 games.
“This is the first time we’ve beaten them at home since 1995,” Penna said. “Our kids, I’m really proud of them. Shenendehowa is a tough football team.”
Guilderland’s defense delivered late after Smith’s 33-yard touchdown catch with 7:36 left broke a 22-22 deadlock.
Smith ended Shenendehowa’s follow-up drive three plays in when he dove for an interception on a pass from Ben Sibson. Matt Drum kept Shenendehowa’s hopes alive on its final possession with a
16-yard, fourth-down reception before Ryan Van Galen — the Plainsmen’s other quarterback in their two-starter system — fired incomplete four times.
“I remember last year. It was 34-0,” said Smith. “This was a big statement on our part.”
Gallo was 16-for-31 passing for 242 yards with his three touchdown passes to Smith and an interception. Smith caught five passes for 144 yards, and also took in a two-point conversion toss from Gallo.
“We stay after practice every day and perfect our routes,” said Gallo. “We can do it in the dark. We have it down pat.”
Smith sifted across the field on a right-to-left pattern, snagged the ball at the 20 and beat Shenendehowa’s defense to the end zone for the winning touchdown.
Guilderland caught a break beforehand when Shenendehowa failed to handle a punt and Dutchmen long snapper Ryan Curry recovered the ball at the Plainsmen 48.
“That was a heads-up play by him,” said Smith.
Guilderland back Micaiah Henningham raced 56 yards for a touchdown on a fourth-and-inches play in the third quarter, and Andrew Sentz — one of the stars in last week’s win over Shaker — tied the game at 22-22 with an extra point.
Drum took a quick screen and raced 30 yards to the end zone for a Shenendehowa touchdown earlier in the quarter on a fourth-and-three play.
Shutout not only last season but also in 2011 against Shenendehowa, Guilderland ended its scoring drought when Gallo found Smith down the left sideline for a 43-yard touchdown bomb 2:53 into Friday’s contest. Erik Kromer took in a dink pass from Sibson in the right flat and went 16 yards for touchdown in the second quarter, and Matt Taft’s three-yard scoring run and Kromer’s two-point catch gave the Plainsmen (3-1, 4-1) a 15-7 advantage.
Guilderland scored with 22.2 seconds left in the half on a 38-yard pass from Gallo to Smith, that coming on a left-to-right crossing pattern, and the senior combination hooked up again on a two-pointer to tie the game at 15. Gallo completed four of six passes in a fast-paced drive, including an 11-yarder to Henningham before Smith’s TD.
“We had good coaching, good blocking, good running and I guess pretty good passing,” said Gallo.
Henningham ran 17 times for 95 yards, and Taft paced Shenendehowa with 52 yards on 15 attempts. Plainsmen receiver Jordan Zlogar caught three passes for 89 yards, including a 28-yard grab that helped set up Drum’s TD.
Shenendehowa 0 15 7 0 — 22
Guilderland 7 8 7 7 — 29
G — Smith 43 pass from Gallo (Sentz kick).
S — Kromer 16 pass from Sibson (Drum kick).
S — Taft 3 run (Kromer pass from Van Galen)
G — Smith 38 pass from Gallo (Smith pass from Gallo).
S— Drum pass from Sibson (Drum kick).
G — Henningham 56 run (Sentz kick).
G — Smith 33 pass from Gallo (Sentz kick).