Patrick McCane was among this year's Plainsmen that Shenendehowa football coach Brian Clawson turned into a one-way player early in the season.
"He's the consummate team player," Clawson said. "He started the season at tight end and defensive end, and we told him, 'Moving from one side would benefit you and the team,' and he was 100% all in."
The team flourished with its cast of mostly one-way players, and claimed the school's first Section II Class AA championship since 2014 on its way to appearing in the state semifinals. McCane flourished, too, as the play-making, never-relenting leader of Shenendehowa's stingy defense.
"Football intelligence. Football ability. Preparation," Clawson said. "He put it all together and had a super senior year."
McCane, the 2019 Daily Gazette All-Area Defensive Player of the Year, collected 61 tackles — 20 of them for a loss — despite seeing double-team blocking and opposing teams often gearing their attack to the side of the field away from him. New Rochelle did that in the state semifinals when it pulled out a 24-17 victory that ended Shenendehowa's season at 10-2.
"You could hear [New Rochelle assistant coach] Ray Rice from across the field, 'You've got to run away from 81,'" Clawson said.
Teams did that more often as the season progressed.
"It got to the point where we started to move Patrick around," Clawson said. "Sometimes, we lined him up at the opposite end. Sometimes, we used him as a linebacker and blitzed him. He relished that opportunity."
McCane was among the Section II leaders with 10 quarterback sacks, and he forced two fumbles and recovered one. Two of those sacks came against Guilderland in a 35-7 Super Bowl win.
"He's a physical specimen. He's 6-3 and 235 pounds. He runs a 4.7 40. He benches 300, squats 450 and cleans 275. Sometimes those attributes don't translate to football, but with him, it does," Clawson said. "Combine that with his mental toughness. He's a guy teams had to prepare for every week."
The Section II Class AA co-Defensive Player of the Year was well-prepared every week.
"The unheralded quality he has is his preparation," Clawson said. "Playing one side, he was able to give 100% to that every day in practice. He watched a lot of film. He studied the tight ends and offensive tackles he would go up against. He studied formations and was able to anticipate plays."
A standout student, McCane is considering several colleges including Ithaca, Union, Brockport and Brown.
McCane shared the Class AA co-Defensive Player of the Year award with Shaker senior linebacker Nate Ratigan, whose team-high 84 tackles included 14 for a loss. The All-Area first-team pick also had four sacks and three interceptions for the Class AA regular-season champions.
Ratigan is joined in the All-Area first-team linebacker group by seniors Brian McNeil of Section II Class C champion Stillwater, David Leon of Schalmont, Hunter Edwards of Cobleskill-Richmondville and Nick Guzi of CBA.
A four-year all-league selection, three-year team captain and two-time Section II Class C North Division Defensive Player of the Year, McNeil totaled 75 tackles, five sacks, two forced fumbles and a recovery after shifting from the line to middle linebacker for his senior campaign. His play at offensive tackle was also key for the first-time Section II champions.
"Brian will go down as one of the most dominant defensive players in Class C history," Stillwater coach Ian Godfrey said.
Leon earned the Class B Reinfurt Division Defensive Player of the Year award after piling up 104 tackles and returning two of his three interceptions for touchdowns. The senior also anchored Schalmont's offensive line from his center position.
The Reinfurt Division Most Valuable Player, Edwards finished his fourth varsity season with several team records including 828 defensive points, 37 touchdowns and 3,202 rushing yards. His senior season defensive totals included 72 solo tackles, 122 assists, 10 sacks, 28 quarterback hurries and 11 caused fumbles. Edwards was named the Reinfurt Offensive Player of the Year as a junior when he ran for 1,273 yards, and he ran for 1,358 this year in one fewer game.
CBA's two-time defensive player of the year, and a two-time Class AA first-team choice, Guzi recorded 81 tackles while providing punishing blocks from his fullback spot.
The Gazette All-Area first-team defensive line features seniors Cameron Durant of Guilderland, Prince Wadjas of Troy, Collin Cook of Shenendehowa and Bethlehem's Chris Ramundo.
The Class AA All-Purpose Player of the Year, Ramundo — who will play next year for Harvard — had nine sacks for a Bethlehem defense that recorded four shutouts.
Durant played mostly nose guard, but also saw action at tackle and end in his third varsity season, and collected 34 solo tackles and 60 overall. Voted Guilderland's top defensive player by its coaching staff, Durant had 5.5 sacks in the regular season.
Wadjas effectively stuffed the middle as a nose guard in Troy's 3-4 look, and of his 40 tackles, 11 went for a loss. The Capital Division first-team all-star was named his teams' top defensive lineman after the Section II Senior All-Star game.
"He was the mainstay in the middle of our defense," Troy coach Bobby Burns said. "His presence demanded double-teams all year long, and allowed our linebackers to run free."
Cook was among Shenendehowa's Super Bowl stars when the defensive tackle clogged inside running lanes and made four of his 37 tackles, with two of them for a loss in that championship win.
Guilderland senior Brad Igweike will get a chance to make many more plays for the University at Albany in future years than he did this past fall as a premier cover cornerback.
"He is one of the top three athletes I have coached," Guilderland coach Dan Penna said of the All-Area first-team defender. "Brad didn't have big defensive stats because teams rarely, if ever, threw at him. Our game plan often included putting him on the opponent's best receiver to force them to throw elsewhere."
A runner, receiver and return man for the Dutchmen, Igweike scored 10 touchdowns to go with his lockdown defense.
Nacier Hundley of Holy Trinity, Logan Stubblebine of Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake and Aidan Thomas of Ballston Spa complete the All-Area first-team secondary.
Hundley earned his third straight All-Area first-team nod after putting up huge numbers on both sides of the ball. The linebacker-turned-safety was in on 93 tackles which upped his career mark to 311, and intercepted three passes and scored on one. When the Pride beat Glens Falls 37-35 in the Class B sectional semifinals, the senior scored on a kickoff return and saved a certain touchdown with a defensive strip.
"He intercepted the ball. He made tackles. He took away the pass," Holy Trinity coach John Barber said. "He was tremendous."
Hundley's monster season also included 41 receptions, 921 yards receiving yards and 16 receiving touchdowns.
Stubblebine covered well and hit hard from his cornerback spot, totaling 68 tackles with two picks, and also made an impact as a receiver with 30 receptions, 520 yards and four touchdowns, and on special teams where he blocked two punts.
"He stepped up and made big plays on both sides of the ball," Spartans coach Matt Shell said of the Class A all-star.
Thomas' third year as a starting safety included 50 solo tackles and the Class A league's Defensive Player of the Year award. The senor captain returned an interception for one of his five touchdowns.
Shaker senior Justin Osborn is the All-Area punter. He placed six punts inside the 10-yard line and missed on only one extra-point attempt.
Player of the Year
DL — Patrick McCane, 12, 6-3, 235, Shenendehowa
DL — Prince Wadjas, 12, 6-1, 320, Troy
DL — Chris Ramundo, 12, 6-2, 240, Bethlehem
DL — Collin Cook, 12, 6-1, 235, Shenendehowa
DL — Cameron Durant, 12, 6-2, 205, Guilderland
LB — David Leon, 12, 6-0, 190, Schalmont
LB — Hunter Edwards, 12, 6-0, 200, Cobleskill-Richmondville
LB — Brian McNeil, 12, 6-3, 250, Stillwater
LB — Nate Ratigan, 12, 6-1, 205, Shaker
LB — Nick Guzi, 12, 5-10, 215, CBA
DB — Brad Igweike, 12, 5-10, 160, Guilderland
DB — Logan Stubblebine, 12, 5-10, 160, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake
DB — Nacier Hundley, 12, 5-9, 185, Holy Trinity
DB — Aidan Thomas, 12, 6-1, 190, Ballston Spa
P — Justin Osborn, 12, 5-11, 160, Shaker
DL — Victor Little, 10, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake
DL — Justyn Kovalsky, 12, Stillwater
DL — Jack Koval, 11, Schuylerville
DL — Nick Danahy, 12, Glens Falls
LB — David Barclay, 12, Glens Falls
LB — Brandon Fahr, 10, Shenendehowa
LB — Jake Notarino, 12, Shaker
LB — James Prastio, 12, Ballston Spa
LB — Sean Collins, 12, Guilderland
DB — Dyvante Terrelonge, 11, Shenendehowa
DB — Joe Milanese, 11, Averill Park
DB — Kyle Burnham, 12, Schuylerville
DB — Dylan Jones, 11, CBA
DL — Dante Calderone, 12, Broadalbin-Perth
DL — Ganesh Govindan, 12, Schenectady
DL — Sean King, 12, Chatham
DL — Haydon Broockmann, 12, Ichabod Crane
LB — Shawn Farrell, 12, Mechanicville
LB — Nick McNulty, 12, Watervliet
LB — Tyler Reinke, 11, Mohonasen
LB — Hunter Day, 12, Cambridge/Salem
LB — Nick Zigrosser, 12, Bethlehem
DB — Gavin Esposito, 12, Voorheesville
DB — Alex Wolfe, 11, Troy
DB — Jah-Sean Haggray, 11, Schenectady
DB — Jesse Griffin, 12, Warrensburg