There is a phrase the Schalmont coaches teach their players.
Head coach Joe Whipple shared it Saturday after his Sabres demonstrated both their strong long-term memory and selective short-term memory in a 54-7 win over Broadalbin-Perth at Shenendehowa to earn their fourth Section II Class B championship in five years.
“Play the next play,” Whipple said.
It helped the Sabres forget the Patriots’ lone scoring drive on their first possession of the third quarter, a drive which was helped by three Schalmont penalties resulting in 32 free yards. A drive that lasted all of 47 seconds and resulted in only the fourth touchdown Schalmont has surrendered all season.
The Sabres responded with a five-play drive for 49 yards and another score, negating any momentum the Patriots could have hoped to have gained.
Then the defense came out more composed and allowed two first downs the rest of the night.
“We’ve got to let things go, but learn from our mistakes pretty quick, and they did,” Whipple said. “We made mistakes that first drive, but we let things go.”
The Sabres’ long-term memory has been that of a 21-14 loss in this game last season to Glens Falls.
The seniors on this team have tasted nothing but sweet success on this stage for two of the past three seasons, and they didn’t want to walk out of this game coming up short again.
All season, the defense has been turning heads. It has now allowed 31 points in 10 games. In the first half, that defense made eight tackles for loss and another five for no gain. All game, it allowed four first downs while the Sabres’ offense racked up 24.
Senior lineman Marcus Ramundo said the team’s long-term memory also retained its 21-3 Week 4 win over Broadalbin, one which saw a number of Sabres mistakes, and which could have gone the Patriots’ way with a few favorable bounces.
“We realized that the last time we played these guys, we made mistakes,” Ramundo said. “Tonight, we came out, and we knew we had something that we had last year, but this year, it’s greater. Our D-line was very good last year, but I think this D-line we have now just wants it more. We have four seniors on the D-line, it’s me, Dom [Friello], Evan [Della Villa] and Kevin [Paskevich]. Every week, it’s constant, ‘Do you guys want this to be your last game?’ This is the last opportunity for us, and we realize that we control the game. We control the line of scrimmage, and that’s just the way it goes.”
“They’re just so fast, fly to the ball,” Broadalbin-Perth coach Jim Pelneau said. “Tonight, they took care of us up front, and they deserved it. They physically wore us out.”
The Sabres outgained the Patriots, 300-22, on the ground and 142-48 through the air.
Devon Willis scored four touchdowns, three of them in the second half, and finished with 124 yards on 20 carries. He and a few other
Sabres, though, had a few uh-oh moments when the Patriots were able to strip the ball, but the Sabres were able to recover most of their own fumbles. Broadalbin-Perth came away with a pair of them, but was unable to turn them into points.
“We’ve got to be able to come up with those,” Pelneau said. “It bounced back into their laps, and they got the recoveries. Maybe if we got a few of those early, it might have changed something.”
“It has a little to do with the cold,” Whipple said. “That’s part of the game now. We’re outside, at least for a couple weeks, hopefully, if we do advance. That’s part of the game; we’ve got to do a better part of protecting the ball.”
Once Willis got rolling, though, he was hard to stop. Hampered by injury part of the season, he has recovered to come into the playoffs with a head of steam and now has 16 touchdowns on the season.
“It’s his senior year, he’s had an injury-riddled year, and I’m just proud of him, how he’s ending it,” Whipple said. “He finished his runs strong in the second half, protecting the ball. I got kind of into him at halftime, and like usual, Devon responds.”
It’s harder for defenses to key on Willis now that Nick Gallo is quarterbacking the Sabres. That and the improved play on defense are what Whipple said made the difference in this game from the Week 4 meeting.
Gallo ran for 60 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries, and he was a perfect 9-for-9 through the air for 142 yards. Five of those completions went to Hunter Gac for 87 yards.
Gac made the most spectacular catch of the night on the first play from scrimmage after Broadalbin-Perth’s touchdown. Starting from the Patriots’ 49-yard line after a failed onside kick, Gallo threw to Gac down the right sideline, and in the midst of three Patriots, Gac went up and made the catch, coming down at the 20-yard line for a 29-yard gain.
That’s what “play the next play” does for these kids.
Four plays later, the Sabres had earned back that seven points and squashed any hope for a second-half comeback.
If that was deflating, Pelneau wasn’t showing it after the game. His team had stared down a 35-point deficit and come back out ready to fight for yardage and points.
“I’m just proud of our guys; they did a great job, they didn’t quit,” Pelneau said. “We challenged them at the half to come out and just continue to play as hard as they could, and they did that.”
Andre Taylor finished off that scoring drive with a two-yard plunge to paydirt. Mike Visco led the Patriots (8-2) with 11 yards on four carries, and Zach Morreale was 3-for-10 through the air, usually under intense pressure from the pass rush.
Gallo and Gac also both came away with interceptions on defense.
The Sabres (10-0) head into regional play next week against Section VII’s Beekmantown.
“It feels good. It never feels old,” Whipple said. “The things that happened last year, you appreciate it even more, getting back here and winning it with a group of kids that really works hard. You appreciate their efforts.”
Being there, as good as it feels, isn’t good enough, though. Ramundo wants to relive some of those old memories. The good ones he refuses to forget, even if he still is willing to move on, to do better.
“I’ve played in the Carrier Dome,” he said, “and I want to get back.”
Broadalbin-Perth 0 0 7 0 — 7
Schalmont 7 21 14 12 — 54
S — Gallo 4 run (Mattick kick)
S — Gallo 2 run (Mattick kick)
S — Gac 13 run (Mattick kick)
S — Willis 4 run (Mattick kick)
S — Willis 1 run (Mattick kick)
BP — A.Taylor 2 run (Morreale kick)
S — Willis 16 run (Mattick kick)
S — Willis 2 run (kick failed)
S — Brooks 10 run (kick failed)
Reach Gazette Sportswriter Bill Cain at 395-3154 or firstname.lastname@example.org.