By ADAM SHINDER
A week after they'd left them somewhere on the bus ride to Averill Park, the Amsterdam Rugged Rams certainly brought their hitting shoes to Lynch Literacy Academy for Friday night's home opener against Mohonasen.
Frustrated after allowing 44 points and 558 yards of offense to Averill Park in a wild Week 1 win -- and in playing their home opener at 4:30 p.m., rather than under the lights at 7 -- the Rams delivered one crunching hit after another on both sides of the ball Friday night.
"We wish we could've played at night, but we couldn't. It's tough sometimes," said Amsterdam senior captain Gabe Mendez. "We felt like we got one taken away from us, but we played better on defense. We wanted to stick it to them on defense. We were flying to the ball, making some nice hits. That's the way it's supposed to be done in Amsterdam."
On offense, the Rams kept up the torrid pace they'd set in Week 1, and by the time the starters sat down at the end of the first half, Amsterdam had already racked up 42 points and had a five-touchdown lead before cruising to a 49-19 decision.
It was the performance of the Amsterdam (2-0) defense, which dominated play when the Rams' starters were in the game, which earned the most praise from head coach Doug Edick.
"We told them all week, 'You've got to be more physical,'" Edick said. "Because we weren't against Averill Park. Tonight, we were more physical and we hit. That's what you've got to do. That's the fun part of football."
The Rams were having fun from the outset, scoring on a Julian Gallup 16-yard touchdown pass to J.V. Valentin just two minutes, 53 seconds into the game and converting seven first-half offensive series into six touchdowns. Gallup threw a pair of touchdown passes, ran for a score and caught a 34-yard touchdown from Mendez on a halfback option pass as the Amsterdam offense piled up 457 yards of offensive -- 370 of those coming on the ground -- a figure made even more impressive considering that the second half was played with a running clock with Edick exclusively playing his reserves.
"We execute, we win games. We block good, we win games," Valentin said. "We've just got to keep on working on our defense, and then we'll be unstoppable."
Kolbie Glionna, Bryan Stanavich and Alonzo Martin all ran for touchdowns for the Rams, who scored 28 points in a span of less than seven minutes in the second quarter to make the second half a formality.
Defensively, after allowing 372 rushing yards to Averill Park in Week 1, the Rams held Mohonasen to 92 yards on the ground Friday night -- with 59 of them coming on a Nick DeNicola 59-yard touchdown against the AHS second string in the fourth quarter.
While Mohonasen quarterback Nate Stillson did turn in a 12-of-17, 230-yard, two-touchdown performance, the Amsterdam defense came up with several key stops throughout the first half to decisively pull away. One of those came late in the first quarter when, with Mohonasen driving near midfield, Mendez came up from his safety position to deliver a jarring hit on Jahlil Harris that forced an incomplete pass on a third-and-4.
That hit came just after Stillson connected on a 29-yard pass to Harris to kick off the Mighty Warriors' drive. The next time, however, Glionna pressured Stillson into an early throw and Mendez timed his hit perfectly to drive Harris into the turf and knock the ball free.
"I said, 'If it goes to my side again, I'm gonna jump it,'" Mendez said. "It came, I recognized it, Kolbie forced him to throw the ball and I had the opportunity to come up and make a big play."
The second half turned into a breezy affair for the Rams, who rotated backups into the game in unfamiliar positions. With a tough game looming in Week 3 against Troy, Edick was happy to let the Rams' scout team players take the spotlight late.
"These guys worked hard in practice, they're the scout team and they've worked their butt off," he said. "It's nice to get them a whole half in. They deserve it, and they played well."
And no matter who got into the game for Amsterdam Friday evening, from the moment their cleats touched the Lynch turf, they were ready and raring to hit.
"You know what, some people don't want to hit, but when you do hit, it's like, 'Wow, we can do this on every play,'" Mendez said. "Today, everything just clicked."