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Sabres' defense faces biggest test of season

Sabres' defense faces biggest test of season

Schalmont sets a program record for points generated in a playoff game, and all coach Joe Whipple wa

Schalmont sets a program record for points generated in a playoff game, and all coach Joe Whipple wants to talk about his defense.

No surprise there. In a season full of exceptional defensive efforts, the Sabres added one more to their list a week ago in a 60-6 regional thumping of Beekmantown, and earned their fourth state semifinal berth in five years.

“This defense has taken a lot of pride in what they do,” Whipple said. “It means a lot to them to be the No. 1 team in the state, in terms of points allowed.

The Sabres (11-0) have surrendered 21 points in four playoff games and 37 in all, the fewest in New York by a Class B team. The ledger includes a string of four straight shutouts during one stretch and five overall.

“Playing aggressive, taking chances, prep­aration,” said Whipple. “Our coaches [Mike DiCocco, Ray Kearney] work hard to make sure our defensive kids are extremely prepared, and because of that, they’re playing with a lot of confidence.”

Schalmont will face a stern test today at 3 at Dietz Stadium in Kingston when it meets up with a Marlboro team that’s amassed over 6,000 rushing and passing yards. The Iron Dukes (Section IX, 11-0) lost in the state Class B semifinals to Glens Falls last year, 28-17.

“They’re here for a reason, and no doubt they’re a hungry team,” said Whipple. “This is the ultimate test to see how good we are.”

Schalmont was awfully good last Saturday when it piled up 47 points in the second quarter. The Sabres forced seven turnovers in the 12-minute stretch, with Marcus Ramundo returning a fumble for a touchdown and Devon Willis returning an interception for another.

“You score 47 points in a quarter, and it looks like it’s all offense,” said Whipple. “Our defense gave us those opportunities.”

Schalmont forced 10 turnovers in all, and had its reserves on the field when Beekmantown scored a fourth-quarter touchdown.

“You probably won’t see that again, but you might see three or four turnovers,” said Whipple. “That would be a big boost for us because when we get the ball after a turnover, the way our offense is clicking now, we like our chances to score.”

Safety Paul Mattick, who forms the Schalmont secondary with Hunter Gac and Kyle Strube, picked off two passes against Beekmantown. Willis, Nick Gallo, Trevon Perez-Tucker and Jack Batchler start at linebacker, Kevin Paskevich and Evan Della Villa start at end, and Ramundo, Dom Friello, Matt Capovani and Nick Langenbach rotate at tackle.

“They’re pretty dangerous in space,” Whipple said of Marlboro’s chief offensive threats, quarterback Ryan Cary and running back Marsallis Faircloth. “Our guys have to be extremely disciplined, as far as following our schemes and making tackles. They’ll take advantage of mistakes.”

Cary has rushed for 1,976 yards and 25 touchdowns, and passed for 2,102 yards and 10 touchdowns. He ran for 99 yards and two TDs and passed for 170 yards with a scoring strike to Faircloth in a 23-14 regional win over Pleasantville.

“The numbers he’s put up are impressive. He’s a good athlete,” said Whipple. “Their coaches do a good job of using his abilities.”

Faircloth had rushed for 1,641 yards and 23 touchdowns. Faircloth and Cary both ran for three touchdowns when Marlboro beat Rondout Valley, 41-7, for its third straight Section IX championship.

“We’ve got to stop him before he gets going,” Whipple said of Faircloth. “He’s that fast, and he can break tackles.”

Marlboro has scored over 40 points six times, with 61 against both Dover and Ellenville, and 57 against Spackenkill.

“They do a lot of stuff we do. Option. [isolation], jet sweep. They’ll spread you out and throw the ball,” said Whipple, whose Sabres are ranked No. 3 in the state, one spot behind the Iron Dukes. “We have to really do a job of containing this team.”

Schalmont has scored over 50 points in five of its last six games. Gallo ran for two touchdowns and hit Gac with a scoring pass last week, while Willis had a touchdown run to go with his return.

Schalmont lost to Nanuet in its first semifinal appearance in 2009, beat Croton-Harmon the following year and lost to Croton-Harmon in 2011.

Two-time defending state Class B champion Maine-Endwell (Section IV, 11-0) takes on Depew (Section VI, 9-2) in the other semifinal today in Rochester. The state title game is Sunday, Dec. 1, at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.

Hoosick Falls (11-0) will go against Rye Neck (Section I, 10-0) in a state Class C semifinal today at 11 a.m. Hoosick Falls is the reigning state champ, and earned a return trip with a 27-6 triumph over Ogdensburg Free Academy. Rye Neck beat Burke Catholic, 47-6, in its regional game.

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