Football: Sabres clear a major hurdle
BROADALBIN It wasn’t pretty.
But if Schalmont gets back to the state Class B football tournament, the Sabres owe a debt of thanks to a tough Broadalbin-Perth team that went toe-to-toe with them Friday night until the final stages of a
21-3 Schalmont victory that left the unbeaten visitors alone atop the Western Division in Class B.
The Patriots didn’t back down from the Sabres, who have reached the state semifinals three of the past four years. In fact, the hosts were very much in the game until a short punt and interception left the Patriots defense with too little turf to defend and too little time to do it,
“We needed a wake-up call. We needed to scrap and earn it, and we did,” said Schalmont coach Joe Whipple. “That was good, but we need to figure out how to come and play harder in the first half.
“We’re going to run into a team — if we don’t fix things pretty soon — that’s going to put it to us in the first half. But they stepped up.”
Schalmont was handed an early lead when Broadalbin-Perth fumbled a punt, with Trevon Perez-Tucker, a Mohonasen transfer playing in his first game for the Sabres, falling on the loose ball at the one. A procedure penalty and a bad exchange between quarterback Dallton Cooke and Perez-Tucker cost Schalmont seven yards, but Hunter Gac scored on second-and-goal.
“Hunter Gac scores a touchdown for us every game. He’s explosive,” said Whipple, who probably didn’t think that would be his team’s only TD until the fourth quarter.
The teams’ defenses dominated the first half, with the Patriots getting on the board with a Zach Morreale field goal to trail, 10-3, at the half.
Two-way standout Nick Gallo of Schalmont and Broadalbin-Perth’s Pierre LaPort and Zach Newfrock led their respective defenses that gave ground grudgingly.
“He’s the heart and soul of our defense. He has been for a long time,” said Broadalbin-Perth coach Jim Pelneau of LaPort. “He’s as good as it gets, I feel, in our league. He showed it tonight.”
Broadalbin-Perth denied Devon Willis an outside lane, and kept Gallo in check as well through three quarters, and pressured Schalmont quarterback Dalton Cooke when the Sabres tried to pass.
“They were big, they were physical, and they had a good game plan,” said Whipple. “This is the best B-P team I’ve seen since I got here. We got lucky and were able to pull out a win.”
Pelneau’s team wasn’t able to do much on offense, either,
“Their defense is super fast, super athletic and they run to the ball so well and tackle,” he said. “You don’t get much after the catch with them, or a big run. They present a lot of challenges.”
“Our defense is the best I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been around Schalmont football for 15, 16 years,” Gallo said.
Schalmont’s best weapon for most of the game was Marcus
Ramundo, whose punts consistently denied the Patriots’ good field position. One of his efforts came from deep in his end zone.
“Marcus is a senior, one of our captains, one of our leaders. He’s been doing it for three years,” said Gallo of the two-way lineman. “I have all the trust in Marcus, whether we have our backs on the one inch-line or we’re trying to put it inside the 10. Marcus will do it.”
The game turned in Schalmont’s favor when Schalmont went back to straight ahead football, with Gallo getting a lot of tough yards between the tackles.
“We had to lean on the guys we need to lean on,” said Whipple. “Nick is a guy we have to lean on. Devon tried to run as hard as he could with that bad ankle.”
“That’s our goal. We’re still a running team, and we will run the ball,” he said. “Our offensive line played great the second half. The running backs can’t get anywhere without the line.”
Cooke and Willis combined on a nine-yard touchdown pass with 8:14 to go that gave the Sabres a two score lead. Perez-Tucker picked off a Zach Morreale pass that led to the final touchdown, and he did the honors from four yards away.
“It says a lot about our kids,” said Whipple of the win. “It’s the experience. We brought back 14 sophomores who are now juniors, a couple of solid seniors. They’ve played in big games.”
Willis was credited with 83 yards rushing, leaving him some 20 yards shy of Vince Gallo’s school record. He should break that record next week against Cobleskill-Richmondville, as the Sabres close the regular season with three home games.
But Whipple has bigger concerns.
“The defense has been playing great. Our offense has been up and down. We’ll score 50, we’ll score 30, then we’ll come down,” he said. “We’ve got a lot to fix if we’re going to make a run.”
Schalmont 7 0 0 14 — 21
Broad.-Perth 0 3 0 0 — 3
S — Gac 8 run (Mattick kick).
BP — Morreale 27 FG.
S — Willis 9 pass from Cooke (Mattick kick).
S — Perez-Tucker 4 run (Mattick kick).