SCHENECTADY — Considering the recent past, playing a meaningful game in Week 8 seemed like an awfully ambitious goal the Schenectady football team set for itself while prepping for the season back in August.
When Schenectady rallied past Saratoga Springs in Week 7, that goal was achieved, and with another win and some help, the Patriots will be playoff bound.
"We've already won more games than the last couple of teams," Schenectady coach Carm DePoalo said Tuesday as his group worked out in preparation for Friday's 6 p.m. Class AA matchup with Bethlehem at Larry Mulvaney Field. "We want them to feel good, but we don't want them to rest on it."
Schenectady won only once last season when DePoalo began his second stint with the program, and won only one time the year before in the last of then-coach Mark Cerrone's five campaigns.
"Last year at this time, we were just trying to finish it off," Schenectady junior receiver and defensive back Jeremiah Davis said. "Now we're talking about finishing the season off strong and going to the playoffs."
That can happen if Schenectady (3-3, 4-3) beats Bethlehem (4-3, 5-2), and if Guilderland (5-2, 5-2) defeats CBA (3-3, 4-3), also Friday night. That scenario would leave Schenectady as the No. 4 seed and Guilderland as the No. 3 seed for the Class AA semifinals that take place a week from Friday.
Shaker (6-0, 7-0) and Shenendehowa (5-1, 6-1) have already locked up the No. 1 and 2 Class AA playoff seeds.
"We have a shot to get in," DePoalo said. "It's new for them. I asked them, 'When was the last time you played your last game and it meant something?'"
"We're excited," Schenectady senior quarterback and linebacker Seven Terry said. "It's so different from last year."
And the several years before that.
Schenectady's last game that really mattered in Week 8 came back in 2012, when then-coach Jim Kramer's cast led by Kwame Jarvis edged CBA in a Class AA quarterfinal game 28-27. Schenectady lost a controversial 28-21 semifinal at Shaker the following week and finished 6-3.
Schenectady's four wins this year are the most the team has recorded since that 2012 season.
"The pride is back," Davis said. "It's like it was in 2012."
"In school, they're starting to gather around them," DePoalo said. "If you walked around school last year, no one had a Schenectady shirt on."
The Patriots kept their playoff hopes alive when they beat Saratoga 48-27 last Friday after trailing 14-0 and 20-6 in the first half.
"We had a slow start," Terry said. "Coach got into us, and we started to play better. This week, we don't want coach to have to do that."
By the time the comeback against Saratoga was complete, Terry had thrown for four touchdowns and ran for three in one of the greatest games for a Schenectady quarterback. The game included a 20-0 fourth-quarter scoring run, and a key strip-sack by Jaheim Hernandez that DePoalo said helped sway the momentum.
"We knew it was a win or go home game," Davis said. "We got it going. We played hard and things turned around very fast."
Schenectady beat Green Tech, Colonie and Niskayuna before registering its signature win of the season against Sartaoga. Friday, Schenectady will look to trump that.
"It's about not being satisfied," Terry said. "Four wins is great, but we want five and six. We want to keep it going."
Bethlehem's defense posted its fourth shutout of the season and third in a row last Friday in a 40-0 win at Niskayuna. Nick Gicewicz excelled on the flip side with 358 rushing yard and five touchdowns in what was the Eagles fourth consecutive victory.
"We are willing to accept the challenge," Terry said. "We know the strength of their team. We know the strength of our team. We like our chances."