Schalmont coach Joe Whipple thinks something big could be on the horizon, and why wouldn’t he?
They say defense wins championships, and Whipple has the stingiest Class B group in the state heading into the playoffs.
“As a staff, we feel very good right now,” Whipple said. “We’ve always had top-five defenses, but this group is a little different. No disrespect to our other teams. They were all real good, but this group is special.”
The Sabres have never before been on such an impressive defensive roll with a playoff game up next. They’ll host Green Tech Friday night in a quarterfinal having allowed a mere 16 points, with four shutouts on their ledger.
“Our defense has been fantastic,” Whipple said. “It’s athletes. We’ve got a lot of them, and they’re running to the ball and tackling.”
Schalmont (7-0) wrapped up its sixth straight Class B West Division championship with shutouts against Cobleskill-Richmondville (27-0), Johnstown (61-0) and Hudson Falls (54-0) while extending its string of not allowing a touchdown to 19 quarters.
Schuylerville was the last team to produce a touchdown against Schalmont in Week 3, when the Sabres prevailed, 34-6. They pinned down Broadalbin-Perth after that, 21-3.
“We try to play guys one way,” said Whipple. “That helps. We’ve got fresh guys going.”
Three-year starter Nick Gallo is the centerpiece of the defensive unit that also includes standouts Marcus Ramundo, Paul Mattick, Jack Batchler, Evan Della Villa, Kevin Paskevich and Trevon Perez-Tucker. Gallo recorded a team-high 11 tackles in the Hudson Falls game, Perez-Tucker was in on nine of them, Ramundo had eight with a fumble recovery and Mattick returned an interception for a touchdown in a 27-point, second-quarter outburst.
“Gallo is so tough. He’s the cornerstone of our defense,” Whipple said of the junior linebacker. “He’s been nominated for Player of the Year in our league.”
Gallo played a significant offensive role running and catching the football up until the Johnstown game, when he was inserted at quarterback. He threw scoring passes to Hunter Gac and Kyle Strube in that game, and connected with the pair again in the Hudson Falls game.
“Our offense is clicking,” said Whipple. “Nick is doing a great job, and [running back Devon] Willis is healthy. We’re going in hitting on on all cylinders.”
Schalmont saw its run of Super Bowl titles end at three when it lost to Glens Falls, 21-14, last season.
“The kids made a vow to each other. They’ve been saying, ‘One game at a time, and we’re going to get it done,’ ” Whipple said. “They remember last year, and they would like to do something about it.”
Whipple scouted Green Tech’s 43-12 loss to Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk Saturday night. The setback left the Eagles (4-3) as the Class B Reinfurt Division’s No. 4 seed.
“They’re excited to be in the playoffs for the first time. They’re going to come to Schalmont and want to play us tough,” said Whipple.
Scotia-Glenville (5-2) will make its second straight playoff appearance — after missing out the previous five years — at Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk (5-2) in another Class B game. The Tartans will take a five-game winning streak — their longest since 1993 — into the contest.
Friday’s Class AA quarterfinal round will include a rematch from last year’s Super Bowl, with 2012 champion Shaker (6-1) hosting Shenendehowa (5-2). Shenendehowa beat Bethlehem and Columbia (2-5) defeated Schenectady in must-win games last Friday to grab the No. 4 seeds in their respective divisions.
Defending Section II and state Class A champ Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (6-1) opens at home against Mohonasen (2-5). Burnt Hills can make Section II history should it claim its sixth straight area title, which would surpass the runs by Amsterdam (Class A, 2001-05), Troy (Class A 1996, Class AA 1997-2000) and Rensselaer (Class D, 1991-95).
Hoosick Falls (7-0) is the four-time Class C champion and will put its 47-game Section II win streak on the line in a quarterfinal against Watervliet (4-3).
The small-school field will include the first-year varsity team from Schoburg (2-5), which has replaced postseason qualifier Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons/Saratoga Central Catholic (1-6) as the South Division’s No. 4 seed. The Sainted Knights earned their spot by beating the Indian Eagles in Week 6, 8-7, but opted not to compete.
Schoburg will play at Greenwich (6-1), the Class D North Division No. 1 seed, in a rematch from Week 2. The Witches took that game, 41-7, as part of their current six-game win streak.
SECTION II TOURNAMENT
No. 4 Liberty Columbia (2-3, 2-5) at No. 1 CBA (5-1, 6-1), 7 p.m.
No. 4. Empire Shenendehowa (4-2, 5-2) at No. 1 Liberty Shaker (5-0, 6-1), 7 p.m.
No. 3 Liberty LaSalle (3-2, 4-3) at No. 2 Empire Saratoga Springs (5-1, 6-1), 7 p.m.
No. 3 Empire Guilderland (4-2, 5-2) at No. 2 Liberty Colonie (3-2, 4-3), 7 p.m.
No. 4 Northwest Gloversville (1-3, 4-3) at No. 1 Southeast Troy (3-0, 5-2), 7 p.m.
No. 3 Southeast Mohonasen (1-2, 2-5) at No. 2 Northwest Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (3-1, 6-1), 7 p.m.
No. 3 Northwest Amsterdam (2-2, 4-3) at No. 2 Southeast Averill Park (2-1, 4-3), 7 p.m.
No. 4 Southeast Bishop Maginn (0-3, 1-6) at No. 1 Northwest Queensbury (4-0, 7-0), 1:30 p.m.
No. 4 Reinfurt Green Tech (3-3, 4-3) at No. 1 West Schalmont (7-0, 7-0), 7 p.m.
No. 3 West Scotia-Glenville (5-2, 5-2) at No. 2 Reinfurt Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk (5-1, 5-2), 7 p.m.
No. 3 Reinfurt Lansingburgh (4-2, 4-3) at No. 2 West Broadalbin-Perth (6-1, 6-1), 7 p.m.
No. 4 West Glens Falls (4-3, 4-3) at No. 1 Reinfurt Cohoes (5-1, 5-2), 1:30 p.m.
No. 4 South Watervliet (3-3, 4-3) at No. 1 North Hoosick Falls (6-0, 7-0), 7 p.m.
No. 4 North Mechanicville (3-3, 4-3) at No. 1 South Chatham (6-0, 7-0), 7 p.m.
No. 3 South Voorheesville (4-2, 4-3) at No. 2 North Corinth (4-2, 5-2), 7 p.m.
No. 3 North Stillwater (3-3, 3-4) at No. 2 South Fonda-Fultonville (5-1, 6-1), 1 p.m.
No. 4 South Schoburg (1-4, 2-5) at No. 1 North Greenwich (5-0, 6-1), 7 p.m.
No. 3 North Warrensburg (3-2, 3-4) at No. 2 South Rensselaer (4-1, 6-1), 7 p.m.
No. 4 North Whitehall (2-3, 3-4) at No. 1 South Cambridge (5-0, 7-0), 1 p.m.
No. 3 South Canajoharie (3-2, 5-2) at No. 2 North Salem (3-2, 4-3), 1 p.m.
CLASS AA, A B
At highest remaining seeds.
Class AA at UAlbany, 7 p.m.; Class C at Stillwater, 7 p.m.
Class D at Schuylerville, 1 p.m.; Class B at Shenendehowa, 3 p.m.; Class A at Shenendehowa, 7 p.m.
Thursday: Albany Academy at Cobleskill-Richamondville, 6 p.m.; Friday: Schenectady at Ballston Spa, 7 p.m.; Niskayuna at Bethlehem, 7 p.m.; Johnstown at Hudson, 7 p.m.; South Glens Falls at Schuylerville, 7 p.m. Saturday: Ichabod Crane at Hudson Falls, 1:30 p.m.; Tamarac at Coxsackie-Athens, 1 p.m.; Hoosic Valley at Lake George, 7 p.m. TBA: Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons/Saratoga Central Catholic at Fort Edward; Granville at Ticonderoga; Albany at Central Valley.