Braves’ defense buckles down
WATERVLIET Fonda-Fultonville didn’t score much in its Class C South Division football game at rival Watervliet Saturday.
It didn’t need to.
Pat Hart ran for a first-quarter touchdown, Kevin Twardzik had a pair of interceptions and the Braves made three defensive stands in the red zone in a 6-0 triumph over the host Cannoneers.
“I was hoping we’d get in the end zone a couple times,” said Fonda-Fultonville coach Tom Carpenter. “Credit them. We knew it was going to be a battle.”
Hart scored on a 36-yard dash, Twardzik picked off two passes before the touchdown and the Braves stiffened on defense after the score to hold off a Watervliet team that had opened its season with convincing wins over Tamarac (34-14) and Voorheesville (39-7).
“We didn’t move the ball like we normally do,” said Watervliet coach Erick Bernard. “You’ve got to score points to win.”
Hart’s scoring gallop up the middle and then down the left sideline was part of the sophomore’s 40-carry, 223-yard performance that kept the ball out of the Cannoneers’ hands.
“Passing the ball wasn’t working for us. Pat ran his butt off, and the defense stepped up,” said Twardzik. a senior tight end and safety. “We did what we needed to do.”
Sharing top billing with Hart was his offensive line of Tyler Cranker, Zak Shaw, Dom Neri, Mitch Hayes and Eric Moyer, as well as a defense that surrendered a handful of long gains but did not crack.
“Those were two big stops,” Carpenter said of fourth-quarter defensive stands that ended Watervliet drives at the Braves’ 15-and 10-yard lines. “They [Watervliet] made some big plays here and there, but when it got down there, we stepped up. The way it ended up, I’m very happy.”
The front four of Will Turner, Cranker, Neri and Moyer were active and physical, and Shaw at middle linebacker and the secondary group of Twardzik, Jake Sammons, Ryan Derby and Matt Westfall anchored the Braves’ defense.
“We know our defense is capable of stopping people,” said Twardzik. “Our defensive line is one of the best in Section II Class C football.”
Watervliet’s final drive ended when, on fourth-and-four from the 10, Logan Miller caught a pass from Taylor Dockstader just beyond the back end zone line with 4:02 left. Jordan Gleason made a similar reception on Watervliet’s drive before that on a third-and-11 from the 15, and on the following play, the 6-foot-7 Turner batted down a Dockstader screen pass to end the threat.
“Down that deep in the red zone, we had to man up,” said Twardzik said. “Those stops were huge to us winning the game.”
“Our defense played great,” said Hart. “They had some great stops.”
Watervliet had a fourth-and-goal, six-yard touchdown catch by Tyler Smith erased in the second quarter when the Cannoneers were called for an illegal formation. Dockstader misfired with passes on plays before and after the penalty.
“Sometimes, it’s not your day. We had opportunities,” said Bernard. “It kind of reminded me of last year’s slop bowl [Fonda-Fultonville’s 15-14 win over Watervliet] when we had four turnovers inside the 10.”
Twardzik’s second interception led to a five-play 55-yard drive that Hart capped with his touchdown run.
“I think he did a great job,” Carpenter said of Hart. “Sophomore, junior, senior, if we feel they’re best for the position, they’re going to go in. He ran hard and got extra yardage today.”
Hart ran for seven and three yards, and Russ Williams threw incomplete and then hit Westfall for nine yards before Hart’s touchdown sprint. Hart collected 118 yards in the first half and 105 in the second half, including first-down runs of eight and 26 yards as the Braves chewed off the final minutes.
“I’ve got a veteran line in front of me. Those guys are beasts,” said Hart. “They helped me keep pounding it.”
Watervliet (1-1, 2-1) managed only three first-half rushing yards and 64 total, and Gleason, the Cannoneers’ star receiver, was limited to three catches covering 25 yards.
Anthony Mosca’s 38-yard catch in the second quarter and Jake Lindsay’s 31-yard reception in the fourth helped set up Watervliet’s first two thrusts into the red zone. Mosca also had a 14-yard catch to get Watervliet close on its last drive.
Fonda-Fultonville (2-0, 2-0), the defending South Division champion and 2011 Section II Class C runner-up, came in with a No. 17 state ranking.
Fonda-Fultonville 6 0 0 0 — 6
Watervliet 0 0 0 0 — 0
FF — Hart 36 run (kick blocked).