Football: Defense is the key for Shaker

Blue Bison meet New Rochelle in Saturday's state semifinal

— Shaker football coach Greg Sheeler will be the first to tell you his team wouldn’t be playing in Saturday’s Class AA state semifinal game against New Rochelle in Kingston if it wasn’t for the defensive unit.

“In order to have success this late in the season, you have to be able to play defense,” said Sheeler. “Our guys have done a good job of bailing us out.”

The defense came up big in the Blue Bison’s 14-0 victory over Shenendehowa in the Section II Class AA title game two weeks ago. Shen had the ball in Shaker territory several times, but the Blue Bison limited the Plainsmen to less than 110 yards of total offense thanks to several big plays by the defensive line.

“Shen has a tremendous offensive line, and what it came down to was strength and speed on our part,” said Shaker senior defensive tackle Schuyler Huntington. “We were shooting the gaps at the right time, and that allowed us to make plays.”

The Sectional final was the latest in a string of strong defensive performances by Shaker. The Blue Bison have allowed a total of 129 points on their way to a 10-0 record and their first Class AA title in school history. They have shut down several talented running backs including Columbia’s Chris Smith and Kenny Mathieu, Shen’s Marcelino Christie and Colonie’s Devon Edwards.

To do that on a regular basis, Shaker needed a solid defensive line throughout the season, and Huntington has been at the center of the action. Huntington has several sacks and been involved in many more tackles for losses.

“He’s strong, and he’s got very strong hands,” said Sheeler. “But I also think Schuyler is a very hard worker, and he wants to be successful.”

Shaker will need another strong defensive effort to get past Section I champion New Rochelle (10-1) in Saturday’s state semifinal at Dietz Stadium because the Huguenots are a strong defensive team, too. New Rochelle has six shutouts to its credit and has only allowed more than one touchdown once this season – a 21-20 non-league loss to North Bergen, N.J., Oct. 20.

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