October 20, 2011
I haven't seen every Section II football team play this year, but that won't prevent me from making some predictions for this weekend's quarterfinal round in Class AA, A and B.
Guilderland (4-3) at Columbia (6-1) I said it in an earlier column, and I'll say it again: Guilderland is the most dangerous No. 4 seed in the Class AA playoffs. The Dutchmen have a varied offensive attack, and their defense has been solid all year (they limited Shenendehowa's offense to 27 points -- its lowest output of the season). Columbia has a dangerous running back in Chris Smith and a good defense, but I think Guilderland wins this game 27-21.
Schenectady (3-4) at Christian Brothers Academy (6-1) Until last Saturday's 39-13 loss to LaSalle, Schenectady looked like a fairly solid team. The Patriots posted a nice 21-19 victory over Shaker a couple of weeks earlier, and they pulled off a victory over a stubborn Niskayuna team. But if Schenectady couldn't contain LaSalle's high-powered attack, I suspect that the Patriots will have a difficult time with Cody Zappone, Trey Williams, Pete Luizzi, Cameron Wynn and the rest of CBA's offense. The Brothers ease past Schenectady 35-14.
Shaker (3-4) at Shenendehowa (7-0) Shaker could have avoided a trip to Clifton Park had it beaten Niskayuna last week and won the Liberty Division title. Instead the Blue Bison had their rally cut short in a 30-27 loss to Nisky, and now they must play a Shen team that has allowed a paltry 33 points this season and possesses a top-notch quartererback (Teddy Van Galen) to go along with a top-notch tailback (Tony Fusco). This does not bode well for the Blue Bison. Shen takes this one 42-7.
Ballston Spa (5-2) at LaSalle (4-3) First team to 100 points wins! You think that's far fetched? LaSalle's offense has averaged nearly 46 points per game, but its defense has allowed an average of nearly 34 points per game and has given up 48 or more points in a game three times. Ballston Spa's offense certainly has the capability of putting up some big numbers with tailback Jordan Davis and quarterback John DeGuardi running all over the place. The question is can Ballston Spa's defense rise to the challenge of stopping LaSalle? Given the fact that the Scotties have had difficulty in stopping Shen, Saratoga and CBA in recent weeks, I'm going to go with LaSalle in a shootout 49-42.
Mohonasen (4-3) at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (6-1) I might as well start with this one, since it involves two teams I know well. Mohonasen has been on a late-season tear with three wins in the last four weeks including road victories against Lansingburgh and Averill Park. In years past that wouldn't matter because BH-BL would have been rolling through its opponents, but the Spartans have looked vulnerable this season. They needed a strong defensive effort to beat Queensbury 14-6 last Saturday, and they had to work hard to beat Glens Falls 29-7. I'm not saying that the defending Class A champions are going to lose to Mohonasen, but I believe the Mighty Warriors will make BH-BL work hard for this one. I'll take the Spartans in a 20-14 game.
Glens Falls (3-4) at Troy (7-0) At the beginning of the year, I wondered what kind of team Troy would have following the graduation of virtually every skill player that led the Flying Horses to last year's state Class AA final. I now have that answer. Troy is as dominant as it's ever been at the Class A level. Daquan Holmes and Raheem Felder have been the leaders on a Troy offense averaging 36 points per game, and the Flying Horses have allowed only 31 points all season. Something tells me both trends hold up against Glens Falls. Troy takes it 36-0.
Queensbury (4-3) at Bishop Maginn (5-2) Queensbury has size and speed all wrapped up in the 6-foot, 4-inch body of tailback Nic Ketter. It took a supreme effort by BH-BL's defense to limit Ketter to 74 rushing yards last week, and BH-BL has some decent-sized defenders. Maginn may have a harder time stopping Ketter this week, and even if the Golden Griffins manage to do that they still have to deal with tailback Evan Earle, who has the capability of breaking a big play. I'm going to take Queensbury in an upset 26-14.
Lansingburgh (4-3) at Amsterdam (7-0) Amsterdam made its statement in Week 2 when it forced seven BH-BL turnovers in a 23-7 victory over the Spartans, and the Rugged Rams have done nothing since then to suggest that it was a fluke. Amsterdam has breezed through its last four regular season games with a balanced offensive attack and a defense that is loathe to allow any points. Lansingburgh might be a tougher challenger for Amsterdam than the last four teams it played (South Glens Falls, Gloversville, Colonie and Scotia-Glenville), but I think the Rugged Rams prevail 35-14.
Hudson (2-5) at Schalmont (7-0) Four years ago, Hudson traveled to the west side of Rotterdam to play the newly-crowned West Division champion Schalmont Sabres and pulled off an upset victory. Schalmont hasn't forgotten that fact, and the two-time defending Class B champions are preparing for this clash with Hudson like it's the Super Bowl. Don't expect the Blue Hawks to pull off another upset here. Schalmont wins 42-7.
Schuylerville (5-2) at Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk (5-2) Schuylerville had arguably its worst game of the season last week in its 26-14 loss at Schalmont. The Black Horses turned the ball over five times, and their only offensive touchdown came after Dan Waldron returned an interception to Schalmont's 2-yard line (Schuylerville's other touchdown was on a kickoff return). The loss not only cost Schuylerville the West Division title, but it also dropped the Black Horses to the No. 3 seed and gave them a road game at Ravena. RCS doesn't lose playoff games at home, and I suspect that the Indians will get enough out of tailback Cameron Greco and quarterback Conner Zeoli to prevail. RCS wins a tight affair 27-21.
Cohoes (3-4) at Cobleskill (4-3) Cobleskill got the No. 2 seed out of the West Division by beating Schuylerville 10-7 earlier in the season. Cohoes got the No. 3 seed out of the Reinfurt Division because someone had to. It won't be pretty, but Cobleskill gets the job done 20-12.
Hudson Falls (3-4) at Albany Academy (5-2) Hudson Falls performed well in a highly competitive West Division, but I don't think the Tigers have seen an individual as singularly talented as Albany Academy quarterback Conner Hartigan. The senior has rushed for 1,362 yards and scored 25 touchdowns either on the ground or through the air (he also has two touchdown passes and two touchdown catches). Hartigan will find the end zone multiple times once again as he leads Academy to victory 28-13.
Those are my predictions for the quarterfinal round. Check back after this weekend's action to see how well I did.