Football: No. 5 Sabres can't afford to make any mistakes
Flying to the football and causing chaos has been a big part of Broadalbin-Perth’s early-season success. Don’t think Schalmont coach Joe Whipple hasn’t noticed.
“If we make mistakes, they’ll take advantage. They’ve done it for three weeks now,” said Whipple. “We need to protect the ball.”
The Patriots stole the ball often in their first three games. They won them all to keep pace with the Sabres, setting up a showdown tonight for first place in the Class B West Division on the Broadalbin-Perth turf.
“It’s something we’ve hung our hat on. We take pride in playing defense,” said Broadalbin-Perth coach Jim Pelneau. “The kids love getting after it.”
The Patriots will be trying to fluster a cast of Schalmont skill players led by Dalton Cooke, Nick Gallo and Devon Willis, who is just over 100 yards away from of the school’s career rushing record.
Mohonasen transfer Trevon Perez-Tucker will also make his debut tonight in the Sabres’ backfield.
“We’ll see how good we are,” said Pelneau. “This is the biggest test we’ve had. We’ve got to be on top of our game.”
Broadalbin-Perth has played better and better football in recent years, logging one win, three and then five victories before its current streak that started with a 19-12 triumph over Scotia-Glenville. The Patriots beat Johnstown ,
23-0, after that, and thumped Hudson Falls a week ago, 40-8, when Jake Coveney returned an interecption for a touchdown and Andre Taylor scored on a run and a pass from wing-T quarterback Zach Morrealle.
Coveney had a pair of interceptions in the Johnstown game, one of them coming in the end zone to preserve the shutout, and the Patriots forced four turnovers all together.
“Any time you play good defense, you have a chance to win,” said Pelneau, a former two-way line standout at Broadalbin-Perth. “We’ve pushed that, and the guys have bought into it.
“They’re pretty tenacious, and they love to rally to the ball.”
A fourth-quarter interception by Tyler Schmidt helped the Patriots seal their win against Scotia-Glenville. Earlier in that game, Luigi Magliocca returned a fumble for a touchdown.
“They’re aggressive off the ball. They play physical. They have good defensive schemes,” said Whipple. “They’re playing good football. When kids want to play for a coach, you get much more out of them.”
Broadalbin-Perth’s defensive group is led by Pierre LaPort, Phil Hemstreet, Taylor and Zach Newfrock up front, linebackers Biagio Bucciferro and Darius Reyes, and Magliocca and Coveney in the secondary.
“They’ve got playmakers all over the field,” Pelneau said of the Sabres, who have a No. 5 state ranking; the Patriots are on the state poll’s honorable mention list. “We’ve got to slow them down and not let them get rolling on offense.”
Willis missed last week’s 34-6 win at Schuylerville while resting a high ankle sprian that the all-state runner sustained early in a 39-7, Week 2 triumph against Scotia-Glenville. Willis needs 110 yards to break Vince Gallo’s Schalmont rushing record of 4,104.
“He’s been with us for four years, and he’s never had a better week of practice,” Whipple said of Willis, who bolted for 1,632 yards as a junior and 1,588 as a sophomore. “It’s been 100 miles an hour all week with him. He’s pumped up to play.”
Nick Gallo stepped up in Willis’ absense in the Scotia-Glenville game with two touchdown receptions and two scoring runs. The junior added three more touchdowns against Schuylerville, two on passes from Cooke.
“Three of his touchdown catches have come on fourth down. He’s made huge runs,” Whipple said of Gallo. “He’s been a key piece of our offense. On top of that, he’s one of the best linebackers out there.”
Behind Gallo, Marcus Ramundo, Kevin Paskevich and the rest of its defense, Schalmont kept Schuylerville off the board for the final three quarters last week. That effort and additional touchdowns from Hunter Gac and Alec Matuszak helped the Sabres extend their West Division win streak to 27 games.
“This is a game that’s been circled for a while,” said Pelneau. “Schalmont has had a great run. They have a fantastic program, and they’re at a place where we want to be. Any time you play a five-time league champion, kids are excited.”
Class AA clashes
Schenectady (0-1, 1-2) will look to bounce back for a second time this season against a Niskayuna (0-3, 0-3) team that has yet to do so in a televised Class AA Liberty Division game tonight at Larry Mulvaney Field.
Schenectady’s homecoming contest will have two of the area’s premier running backs, Felix Rodriguez of the host school and Niskayuna’s Aidan O’Brien, in action.
“This is an important game. It has playoff implications written all over it,” said Schenectady coach Mark Cerrone. “Our kids know it, and they know it.”
The Patriots’ roller coaster season started with a 55-20 loss to Fayetteville-Manlius at the Carrier Dome and a comeback 38-28 win over Bethlehem. LaSalle topped the Pats last week, 33-13, in their division opener.
“LaSalle exploited some things, and hats off to them. We came back with a great week of practice, and we’re pretty positive about the game. We’ve been focused on the job at hand,” said Cerrone. “We think we’ll have a pretty good product on the field.”
Niskayuna has lost to Colonie (22-21), defending Section II Class AA champ Shaker (31-0) and Columbia (21-14).
Both Schenectady and Niskayuna have put up big numbers in recent games between the neighboring rivals, with the Pats winning last year (49-20) and in 2011 (35-34 OT), 2008 (64-42) and 2007 (34-21). The Silver Warriors prevailed in 2010 (32-28).
Shaker (2-0, 3-0), with two straight shutouts, will play at Guilderland (3-0, 3-0) in a Class AA crossover tonight. Guilderland quarterback Frank Gallo leads Section II in touchdown passes with nine, as well as passing yards (828) and completions (40).
Saratoga Springs (2-0, 3-0), which has matched its win totals from each of the last two seasons, plays at Christian Brothers Academy (2-1, 2-1) tonight in a key Class AA Empire Division game.
Saturday’s headliner has the state’s No. 1-ranked Class A team, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (1-0, 3-0), going to Queensbury (1-0, 3-0) for a Northwest Division game.
Saturday’s card also includes Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk (2-1, 2-1) at Albany Academy (2-1, 2-1) in a Class B Reinfurt Division matchup, and Class C South Division games sending Watervliet (1-1, 2-1) to Fonda-Fultonville (3-0, 3-0) and Voorheesville (2-1, 2-1) to Chatham (2-0, 3-0).
Voorheesville joined the mix of contenders when it edged Watervliet last week, 39-36, on Mickey Knight’s 20-yard field goal in the final seconds.