Football: Patriots' ground game steamrolls Warriors
SCHENECTADY Felix Rodriguez and Hassan Rainey ran up and down Larry Mulvaney Field Friday night. The Schenectady standouts had plenty of support, though, in a bounce-back victory over Niskayuna.
“We know who we have in the backfield, and we know they’re going to get their yards,” said Patriots coach Mark Cerrone. “We also know for us to be a really good football team, we need other guys.”
Schenectady had a swarm of them in a 28-21 homecoming win in which the hosts never trailed.
Brandon Gwinner threw touchdown passes to Lynn West and Jayquan Beckford in the first half, Rainey ran for a pair of scores in the second half and Shawn Anderson had the last of three Schenectady takeaways in the Class AA Liberty Division matchup.
“It was teamwork,” said Gwinner. “Guys stayed on their blocks. Guys were smart, guys made plays.”
“Tonight was a total team effort,” said Cerrone. “A lot of guys came of age tonight. A lot of guys were selfless, and that was awesome to see.”
Fullback Alex Velez was among them, providing several key blocks in a contest that saw Rodriguez and Rainey amass over 400 rushing yards. Rodriguez ran for 223 yards on 17 carries, and Rainey picked up 183 yards on 17 attempts.
“Kids like Alex, that’s the kind of kids we’re talking about,” Cerrone said. “He put the team before himself, and he played great. He was excited to do it.”
Rainey produced his second touchdown on a 31-yard bolt early in the fourth quarter, and Gwinner’s two-point conversion run gave Schenectady a 28-14 lead. Deshawn Kunath forced a fumble and Beckford recovered it to end Niskayuna’s ensuing drive, and the Silver Warriors’ next offensive series ended with Anderson’s interception as he toed the sideline.
“We know these guys. We see them at McDonald’s and at Union Pizza,” said Rainey, after helping Schenectady knock off Niskayuna for third year in a row. “It was about who was going to get to say ‘We played a better game.’ ”
Schenectady (1-1, 2-2) lost to LaSalle last week in its division opener, 33-13, before evening its mark at the Silver Warriors’ expense. The Patriots started with a 55-20 non-league loss to Fayetteville-Manlius and a 38-28 triumph over Bethlehem.
“This was a key game,” said Beckford. “We knew we needed a bounce-back win after LaSalle, and we got it. This gives us a lot of confidence and momentum for our next game.”
“Tonight was huge,” said Cerrone. “Tonight had our season written all over it, and we responded. Everything is right there in front of us now. It’s for the taking.”
West and Beckford scored on slant patterns in the second quarter, each catching a Gwinner pass just before crossing the end zone line.
Rodriguez ran for 30 yards and Beckford hauled in a 23-yard pass before West’s touchdown on a third-and-two from the eight.
Rodriguez ran for 50 yards to set up Beckford’s scoring grab on a fourth-and-goal from the 10.
“Guys made plays,” said Cerrone. “Guys made plays in the running game and the passing game.”
Rodriguez broke off runs covering 16, 10 and 14 yards as a prelude to Rainey’s five-yard scoring effort in the third quarter.
“They have some outstanding football players,” said Niskayuna coach John Furey. “They have a lot of speed, but they also have the ability to plow through a pile.”
Niskayuna running back Aidan O’Brien gained a season-high 158 yards on 32 carries. The junior ran for 25 yards just before Mike Sise scored the Silver Warriors’ first touchdown on a quarterback sneak from a yard away in the second quarter.
O’Brien answered Rainey’s third-quarter touchdown with one of his own on a five-yard burst.
“He’s incredible,” Cerrone said of O’Brien. “He’s the real deal.”
“Schenectady not only has a lot of speed and size on offense, they have speed and size on defense, said Furey. “The way he [O’Brien] ran against those guys, that was impressive.”
Geni Rivers scored Niskayuna’s final touchdown on a two-yard run with 23 seconds left, capping a fast-paced drive in which Sice completed nine of 10 passes.
Sise was 17-for-30 passing for 176 yards with two interceptions, the first by West. Gwinner was 9-for-22 passing for 87 yards with his TD strikes and an interception by Luc Shephard
Niskayuna (0-4, 0-4) has lost three of its games by seven points or less.
Niskayuna 0 7 7 7 — 21
Schenectady 0 12 8 8 — 28
S — West 8 pass from Gwinner (kick failed).
S — Beckford 10 pass from Gwinner (pass failed).
N — Sise 1 run (Dare kick).
S — Rainey 5 run (West pass from Gwinner).
N — O’Brien 5 run (Dare kick).
S — Rainey 31 run (Gwinner run).
N — Rivers 2 run (Dare kick).