By ADAM SHINDER
The stares were vacant. Not forlorn and irreconcilable -- just hollow.
That's the way the Amsterdam Rugged Rams trudged off the Lynch Literacy Academy turf after Friday night's 26-14 loss to Troy. Not depressed, but deeply disappointed in an effort that saw the team struggle to find a rhythm against an aggressive Flying Horses team that came to Amsterdam with tough-luck losses in its first two games of the season.
When the Rams (2-1) needed a play to get things going, it never materialized. When Troy (1-2) needed to kick things into a higher gear, running backs Maurice Jones and Rayshawn Johnson -- who combined for 335 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries -- burst through the Amsterdam defense to keep things rolling along.
"Offensively, I think we came out slow. Same thing defensively," said Amsterdam tight end Marcus Pritchard, who hauled in a touchdown pass from Julian Gallup in the fourth quarter. "We did, in the third quarter, kind of get the tempo going, but we never really got the whole thing together. We never established leadership and fought all as one. That's fortunately something we can work on."
Twice, the Amsterdam defense had opportunities to swing the pendulum in the Rams' favor. Both times, Troy's tiny, but explosive backs -- neither stands taller than 5-foot-8 nor weighs more than 150 pounds -- put Amsterdam back on its heels.
In the waning minutes of the second quarter, Amsterdam had Troy backed up on its own 1-yard line, but Jones found a seam through the Rams defense for a 68-yard gain -- with a personal foul tacking 15 more yards onto the end of the play -- that set up Joe Germinerio's 1-yard quarterback sneak for a score that made it 13-0 Troy at the half.
Then, on the first play of the fourth quarter, after the Rams had turned it over on downs, Johnson found a similar hole and ripped off a 73-yard touchdown to make it a 20-0 game.
"That kills you. It kills you," Amsterdam head coach Doug Edick said. "Those are the mistakes you can't have, and you can't give up the big plays."
Jones and Johnson accounted for 84 percent of the Flying Horses' 398 yards of total offense, with Jones picking up 217 yards on the ground and Johnson adding 118 yards.
"Our guys are tiny, our running backs Maurice Jones and Rayshawn Johnson, but they've got huge hearts," Troy head coach Jack Burger said.
Offensively, the Rams were bogged down for most of the night against Troy's pressure-heavy defense. Starting tailback Gabe Mendez netted minus-seven yards on five carries before leaving the game with a leg injury late in the first quarter, while Gallup was limited to 91 yards on 10-of-22 passing while being forced into wild scrambles nearly every time he dropped back.
"He was running for his life. We've got to block better up front," Edick said. "We wanted to get our athletes in some space, and we did at the end, but in the beginning we've got to put a body on a body and block someone."
The Rams finally got on board in the fourth quarter when Gallup hit Pritchard for an 11-yard score with 8:59 to play, but Troy responded to make it 26-7 with a seven-play, 80-yard drive fueled by a 50-yard Jones burst and finished off by Johnson's 1-yard plunge with 5:28 to play.
Amsterdam came back with a 13-play drive that Bryan Stanavich capped off with a 1-yard touchdown run with 1:05 left, and while the Rams did manage to recover the ensuing onsides kick, they never came close to pulling off an essentially impossible comeback against a Troy team that came in to Friday night fuming after a four-overtime loss to Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake a week ago.
"We ran into a very hungry team," Edick said. "They were 0-2, and we knew they were coming off a tough loss with Burnt Hills. We knew Jack (Burger) was gonna have 'em ready, and they were ready."
Now, the Rams must regroup as play opens up in the Section II Class A Northwest Division next week with a Friday night trip to Gloversville that Pritchard said will go a long way toward determining how far this Amsterdam team can go this season.
"This week, it's gonna make or break us," he said. "If we come together this week, establish our leadership like we should, we're gonna be a good team. Once we all come together as one, we're a really good team."