Plainsmen defense rises to occasion
Shenendehowa’s Kyle Buss deflected an end zone pass late in the second quarter intended for Christian Brothers Academy receiver Connor Crotty.
That’s the only time one of the Brothers got that far down the field in Friday night’s Class AA clash for the Empire Division championship, won by the Plainsmen, 14-0.
“It’s very hard to single anyone out. Collectively, as a unit, from our front four to our linebackers to our secondary, they played hard and tackled well,” said Shenendehowa coach Brian Clawson. “We knew defense would be key, and we answered the call.”
Corey Acker caught a scoring pass, Anthony Lee recovered a fumbled kickoff to set up Shenendehowa’s second touchdown, and Buss sealed the division-clinching victory on an interception with 3:40 left.
Buss’ pickoff capped Shenendehowa’s fourth shutout of the season and second in as many weeks.
“Lights out,” said Shenendehowa senior linebacker Chris Miller. “We were really on. We filled every gap, and our secondary was great. We felt good about our defense coming in. We felt the difference in the game would be who was going to stop who.”
The Plainsmen (6-0, 6-1) stopped the Brothers (5-1, 6-1) in their tracks, limiting them to 89 rushing yards. CBA quarterback Troy Anthony completed only one pass in 11 tries covering six yards. CBA came in
averaging just over 270 rushing yards per contest.
“They did a nice job mixing up their defensive fronts and coverages. We had opportunities to get first downs and didn’t get it done,” said CBA coach Joe Burke, after the Brothers were denied their first outright league title since taking the Big 10 in 1995. “We’ve got to get better on offense.”
Shenendehowa did just enough, scoring on the first play of the second quarter and again four plays into the third after Lee pounced on a loose ball at the 13-yard line. That led to Marcelino Christie’s three-yard scoring run and a 14-0 advantage.
Christie scored one play after CBA was called for pass interference on a third-and-three from the six.
“That was huge,” said Clawson. “We talk about the importance of special teams every week. To make that play and punch it in, that was big.”
Buss made Shenendehowa’s biggest play when be got a finger on Anthony’s pass that was intended for Crotty on a third-and-eight from the 25.
“I had a perfect angle on it, and I was thinking interception,” said Buss. “I was going to take a shot at it, and I slipped. I slapped at the ball and got just enough of it.”
Miller sacked Anthony on the next play to finish off a superb half of defense. The second half was just as good, and helped Shenendehowa defeat CBA for the eighth consecutive time.
Shenendehowa also blanked CBA last season, 42-0, en route to the division and Section II championships, and a spot in the state semifinals.
“We knew it was going to be a smash-mouth game. We did a good job. They did a good job, too,” said Buss, a senior cornerback who alternates on offense at running back and receiver. “They deserve a lot of credit.”
“Our defense got it done all night long,” said Clawson. “On offense we did what we had to do to win.”
Acker scored on an eight-yard pass from Ryan Buss to finish a five-play 54-yard drive, which Acker highlighted with a 29-yard run.
“I thought our defense played a very, very good football game against a very good team,” said Burke. “We missed a coverage on their first touchdown, but I’m very proud of our defense.”
Acker (42), Oliver Robinson (37), Kyle Buss (35) and Christie (25) handled most of Shenendehowa’s running chores and combined for 139 yards, while Ryan Buss was 7-for-15 for 61 yards with an interception. Klye Buss had 49 of those yards on five grabs.
Crotty had CBA’s pickoff, which set up its best scoring opportunity in the final minutes of the second quarter, giving the hosts the ball at the 27.
“They say you’ve got to win two of the three phases to win a game. I think we won all three,” said Clawson. “We got the turnover on special teams, we scored in the red zone before that, and our defense played well.”
Shenendehowa lost its only game at Liberty Division champion Shaker, 35-8, before bouncing back last week with 49-0 win against Saratoga Springs, and with Friday’s win in a game matching state-ranked opponents.
“Shaker ran for 400 yards on us, and it stung,” said Clawson.
“After that we corrected some things and addressed some things, and our defense went back to work.”
As the Empire Division’s top two seeds for the sectionals, Shenendehowa and CBA will host Liberty Division representatives Colonie (No. 4, 2-3, 3-4) and Schenectady (No. 3, 3-2, 5-2), respectively, next Friday.
“Winning the division championship was our first goal, but we have more,” said Kyle Buss.
Shenendehowa 0 7 7 0 — 14
CBA 0 0 0 0 — 0
S — Acker 8 pass from R. Buss (Vilardi kick).
S — Christie 3 run (Vilardi kick).