With his team’s stranglehold on its rivalry matchup with Shenendehowa weakening and Plainsmen defensive back Vinny Gramuglia draped all over him, Saratoga Springs’ Nick Kondo showed off his hands to firm up the Blue Streaks’ grip on the game.
His key touchdown reception late in the third quarter helped Saratoga Springs keep the Plainsmen at bay, allowing the Blue Streaks to bolt to a 40-14 victory in a Section II Class AA Empire Division matchup of archrivals.
“It’s crazy,” Kondo said. “Everyone knows the rivalry here, what’s at stake. We have a lot of respect for that team, and this is an awesome win.
“We definitely came out slow in the second half, but we knew we needed to get going,” Kondo continued. “We wanted to bury them.”
Saratoga Springs took a 27-7 lead into halftime, but Shenendehowa needed only 67 seconds of the second half to cut the Blue Streaks’ lead to 13 after a 4-yard touchdown run from Carl Fiore. On the ensuing possession, Saratoga Springs (2-0, 4-0) put together a promising drive, but it appeared to be stalling out deep in Shenendehowa (1-1, 1-3) territory.
That’s when Kondo made his big play. Quarterback Brian Williams lofted a pass on third-and-goal from the Shenendehowa 12 toward Kondo, who juggled it, tipped it up into the air, and then fought off Gramuglia for the catch in the end zone. The score regained Saratoga Springs its three-possession lead, and left Kondo thankful for the tip drills his team works on in practice.
“Those paid off right there,” said Kondo, who also hauled in a touchdown in the first half.
For Saratoga Springs, Williams connected on 10 of 13 passes for 131 yards and two touchdowns, while also rushing for a pair of scores. Running back Dakota Harvey gave the Shenendehowa defense fits, too, bulldozing his way to 119 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.
“We have so many options. . . . That’s why we’re a good football team,” said Williams, whose team also received an electrifying punt-return touchdown of 73 yards from Ryan Manlapaz in the first quarter.
Shenendehowa, which won in Week 3 after an 0-2 start to the season, could do little right in the game’s first half. After falling behind 27-0, the Plainsmen scored their first-half touchdown on a 67-yard drive that quarterback Eric Morris capped with a 33-yard touchdown score to wide receiver Dakota Rainville — but that drive accounted for 88 percent of the Plainsmen’s offensive yardage in the half.
After watching his team offer an encouraging performance in a 48-28 win against CBA a week prior, Shenendehowa head coach Brian Clawson said his team was now headed into a busy week of preparation before a key Week 5 battle at home with Ballston Spa.
“We’ve just got to watch the film, correct the mistakes, go out and practice hard during the week to get better,” he said. “Then, we’ll play next week. That’s it.”
Running back Griffin Wallner was the bright spot for Shenendehowa, as the sophomore turned 13 rushes into 139 yards.
Before topping Shenendehowa, Saratoga Springs’ smallest winning margin was a 33-point defeat of Guilderland. On the season, the Blue Streaks have outscored teams 165-28.
Saratoga Springs 14 13 6 7 — 40
Shenendehowa 0 7 7 0 — 14
Sara — Williams 11 run (Cholnoky kick)
Sara — Manlapaz 73 punt return (Cholnoky kick)
Sara — Harvey 2 run (Cholnoky kick)
Sara — Kondo 5 pass from Williams (kick failed)
Shen — Rainville 33 pass from Morris (Fankhanel kick)
Shen — Fiore 4 run (Fankhanel kick)
Sara — Kondo 12 pass from Williams (kick failed)
Sara — Williams 10 run (Cholnoky kick)