Bison shock Plainsmen, 35-8 (with photo gallery)
LATHAM Shenendehowa’s starting defense hadn’t given up a point in four games leading up to Friday night’s Class AA matchup against fellow unbeaten Shaker.
That streak ended quickly, and by the time Shaker was done hammering away, two other significant streaks had come come to an end, as well.
The Blue Bison scored on a long drive to start their assault and then on four long runs, and played shutout defense up until the final seconds in a 35-8 triumph before a large crowd at Arthur E. Walker Athletic Field.
“Shenendehowa has been the class of the double A’s for some time,” Shaker coach Greg Sheeler said after his team ended the Plainsmen’s Section II winning streak at 14 games. “This is huge for us. It gives us confidence. It gives us a belief in ourselves, and keeps us moving forward as a program.”
Shaker (5-0) moved the ball all night in the game pitting division-leading, state-ranked teams, while Shenendehowa (4-1) mounted only three scoring threats. The first two ended with goal-line stands by the hosts, while the third ended on a shutout-avoiding touchdown run by Oliver Robinson as the last seconds ticked away.
“We studied them all week,” said Shaker senior fullback and linebacker Ryan Griffin. “We knew what they were going to come with, and we executed our assignments.”
Shaker fed off its opening drive which covered 65 yards on 14 plays, the last a one-yard quarterback sneak by Chris Landers. Griffin provided the back-breaker in the third quarter, racing 86 yards to the end zone before his extra point made it 28-0.
“Scoring on the first drive gave us momentum. It set the tone for the whole game,” said Griffin. “We just had to keep pounding and not let up.”
Shaker runners pounded in the trenches and sprinted in the open field, with Tyler Oppelt going 47 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the second quarter, Landers scoring on a 17-yard burst later in that period, and Deven Koehler zipping 63 yards as the lead expanded to 35-0 in the fourth period.
Shaker amassed 400 yards on 40 carries and didn’t pass once as part of its first win against Shenendehowa after seven straight defeats. The last Blue Bison victory came in the 2001 season, 21-14.
“It was nothing fancy. We ran the ball the whole way down the field on our first drive, and we kept at it,” said Sheeler. “I thought our offensive line came off the ball real well.”
Landers had crucial third-down runs of five and eight yards on Shaker’s opening drive, and went 22 yards two plays before Oppelt scored. Kenny Jackson ran for 31 yards and Landers ran for 29 to set up Shaker’s third TD, that coming on a Landers dive to the corner of the end zone.
“We have a very powerful offense,” said Griffin, who rambled for 149 yards on 16 carries; Landers netted 85 on 10 attempts. “The key was to execute our plays.”
Shenendehowa had a difficult time doing that. Shaker sacked Plainsmen quarterback Chris Fama three times, intercepted two of his passes, and successfully defended two passes in the final seconds of the first half after Shenendehowa reached the seven-yard line.
Shenendehowa drove from its 25 to the Shaker three to begin the second half, using runs of 11 and 10 yards by Kyle Buss and a 16-yard pass from Fama to Corey Acker. On fourth down, Buss went wide left, Jackson steered him inside, and Alex Bazanos made a tackle for no gain.
“I thought that was the biggest series of the game for us,” said Sheeler.
Griffin went 86 yards four plays after that stop by Bazanos, and Shenendehowa’s next play from scrimmage ended with an interception by Sean Egan.
“We played Schenectady last week, and they have athletes. We’ve seen just about every offense there is,” Griffin said. “We were ready for these guys.”
Shenendehowa, which came in averaging 49.5 points per game, managed 165 rushing yards and Fama passed for 78 on five completions. Fama started for the second week in place of injured Ryan Buss.
“These guys have surprised me all year,” said Sheeler. “They’ve answered every challange.”
Shaker dealt Shenendehowa it’s first area loss since the 2010 season, when the Plainsmen bowed to Troy in the Section II Class AA final.
Shenendehowa 0 0 0 8 — 8
Shaker 7 14 7 7 — 35
Shak — Landers 1 run (Griffin kick).
Shak — Oppelt 47 run (Griffin kick).
Shak — Landers 17 run (Griffin kick).
Shak — Griffin 86 run (Griffin kick).
Shak — Koehler 63 run (Griffin kick).
Shen — Robinson 4 run (Robinson run).