Battle of the Unbeatens in Albany Area High School Football – Week 5 Preview
It's a battle of the unbeatens - Shenendehowa at Ballston Spa in a Class AA Empire Division showdown at 7 Friday night. Both teams are tied for first along with CBA of Albany with 3-0 records. They all sport 4-0 overall records.
Shenendehowa enters the game beating Bethlehem (50-0), Guilderland (27-0), Shaker (34-0) and Albany (48-0). The Plainsmen have scored 159 points and held the opponent scoreless.
On the other side, Ballston Spa has knocked off Guilderland (22-18), Schenectady (41-34), Albany (35-0) and Bethlehem (35-21).
Ballston Spa has put together 133 points and yielded 73.
These teams know each other very well and the coaches have shared the same sideline in the past.
Ballston Spa head coach John Bowen was the head junior varsity coach under Brent Steuerwald at Shenendehowa from 1996-2002.
"We try not to make it more than it is. It's an important divisional game. We're right where we want to be. These games are never out of reach," said Bowen. "We're going to try and get outside the tackle box. He (Steuerwald) knows that. We need to be prepared. He'll try some formatic gains."
Last year, these teams met twice. The first time around Shenendehowa prevailed, 7-0, and then was victorious, 24-14, in the Section II Class AA semifinals.
"These are high school kids that understand what's at stake. We have to be very smart inside and outside the game. They (Shenendehowa) are very fast on defense. We need to be ready for the wave of humanity. They have a tremendous amount of character. These games have been so unpredictable," said Bowen.
Shenendehowa is ranked ninth in the latest New York State Sportswriters Association Class AA poll. Rush-Henrietta (Section V) is first and CBA of Albany occupies 21st.
"At this stage, there are only three undefeated teams in (Section II) AA. This is a critical game to position yourself for playoffs. This has been the most at stake all year long," said veteran Shenendehowa head coach Brent Steuerwald.
And what about the Plainsmen's tough defense of not allowing a single point.
"It's not meaningful. It's great we're playing defense that well. You have to play each game as it comes. I'm not responsible for how good my opponent is," said Steuerwald. "They (Ballston Spa) play extra hard. It's not an easy game. They've come back so many times this year. We're both very different clubs. I think stopping their offense is key, it's very prolific. You just play your best and improve on every snap of the ball," said Steuerwald.
Tony Fusco spearheads the Shenendehowa offense with 10 touchdowns while Marcelino Christie has contributed five scores.
"Every contest is much more of a challenge. We need to focus all the time. We can't make mistakes. You have to balance everything you do. We have to have consistency on offense. We have Ballston Spa, CBA and Saratoga Springs left. There is no breathing room. Our defensive preparation is the full key to playing effectively," said Steuerwald.
Bowen knows his club will be ready for its biggest challenge of the season.
Ballston Spa boasts quarterback John DeGuardi with seven touchdowns, R.J. Borgolini has four touchdowns, 9 PAT's and one two-point conversion while Jordan Davis totals five touchdowns and a two-point conversion.
"We can't turn the ball over. One thing this season is that we've had a different kid rise up every week. We don't have kids with tremendous egos. We can certainly put points on the board. There's still a familiarity there. It's been good here," said Bowen.
CBA (4-0) hosts Saratoga Springs in an Empire Division test Friday at 7.
And speaking of big games, unbeaten Troy entertains Bishop Maginn in a Class A Southeast Division contest Friday at 7.
Troy, ranked fourth in the state Class A poll, leads the divisional pack with a 3-0 record (4-0 overall) while Bishop Maginn (2-1, 3-1) suffered its first loss last week again Averill Park, 26-12.
"Yes, it's nice to be off to a 4-0 start, but we still have a lot of room for improvement. However, we did play very good defense against Glens Falls but turned the ball over too many times, (3) for my liking on offense. Being the first home night game in Troy High history, is an exciting opportunity for our team, school, and the community," said Troy head coach Jack Burger.
Maginn, has two very good running backs and a quarterback (John Sica) who is completing 50 percent of his passes.
"They are 3-1, and only one game behind us in the division. We must approach this game just as it is, a huge game as far as playoff positioning goes. The keys are to continue to play good solid defense and cut down on some of our mistakes on offense," said Burger.
Maginn head coach Joe Grasso knows it's going to be a tough game and hopes to get back on the winning side.
"Huge game vs.Troy on Friday at their new facility. First home game at night for Troy on turf. We have to bounce back after loss to Averill Park. We must improve our blocking and tackling dramatically. We were very inconsistent from a physical standpoint and now play perhaps the most physical team on our schedule. Troy has great speed and strength and are very well coached. We must meet the challenge in practice everyday to make positive strides if we have a chance to beat Troy," he said.
The Bishop Maginn-Troy game will be televised on Time Warner Sports at 7 p.m.
Unbeaten Amsterdam (4-0) travels to neighboring Gloversville (1-3) in another Class A Northwest Division game Friday at 7. The Rugged Rams are 12th in the state Class A rankings.
Schalmont (2-0 in Class B West Division and 4-0 overall) is coming off a 28-6 victory over Johnstown played on a very sloppy field.
Cobleskill-Richmondville (1-1 in Class B West Division and 2-2 overall) fell on hard times a week ago losing to Hudson Falls, 20-19.
"I would anticipate a quick game with their (Schalmont) no huddle and very speedy backs, barring rain which could slow things considerably. It will be a game of field position and the one that capitalizes on the others mistakes will be successful. They are a phenomenal team again this year and playing at their place with their crowd is always a problem. We have to focus on us all week and taking care of the little details - our prep will determine the outcome of that game," said Ed Hantho, Cobleskill-Richmondville head coach.
It's been and up-and-down season for the Bulldogs and Hantho hopes that a victory over Schalmont will turn things around.
"They are very well balanced. Obviously, you must stop (Devon) Willis, but they have so many other weapons. It is difficult to key on one. For us, we are starting to get healthy again. I think we must have a great team effort to stop them defensively, and on offense we need to have consistent play all over as well," said Hantho.
Willis and Alex Hildebrand are the offensive stars for Schalmont, scoring 12 and five touchdowns, respectively. Both also play defense.
Schalmont head coach Joe Whipple feels that Cobleskill-Richmondville is a very formidable opponent.
"I think our game against Cobleskill is going to come down to the team who makes the least amount of mistakes and plays good special teams. They are a good team who has some very athletic players who play sound football. They always are well prepared and play us tough. We both have a lot on the line in our division on this game. So I am expecting a great game Friday night," said Whipple.
Schalmont is sixth in the state Class B rankings.
Article by Mike Collar