By MICHAEL KELLY
BROADALBIN -- Going against the standard in Section II Class B football, the Broadalbin-Perth Patriots showed two things Friday night.
First off, the Patriots -- who only won two combined regular-season games in the 2010 and 2011 seasons -- are now capable of going blow for blow with a high-quality team like the Schalmont Sabres.
And, secondly, that head coach Jim Pelneau's squad still has some growing up to do.
"We showed we could hang with them," said Pelneau. "Now, we have to rally back up."
After controlling the tempo for most of the night at Patriot Field, B-P surrendered a pair of late touchdowns in a 21-3 loss in a West Division showdown. With the win, the Sabres (4-0, 4-0) gained sole possession of first place in the division, as B-P (3-1, 3-1) fell into second.
"Nothing but lessons to learn," B-P senior lineman Zach Newfrock said of Friday night's experience. "They're a good football team. That's it. ... We can only learn from this, and this is a good lesson for us."
Schalmont struck first in the contest, as Hunter Gac scored on a one-yard touchdown run just more than three minutes into the game after a B-P miscue gave the Sabres possession on the Patriots' 1-yard line.
But, from there until Schalmont broke through in the fourth quarter, the Patriots controlled the action; in the first three quarters, Schalmont only gained 74 yards of total offense, as the B-P defense stunted the Sabres' no-huddle attack.
"It was really frustrating not being able to move the ball as fast as we wanted to," said Schalmont halfback Devon Willis, one of Section II's best offensive players.
Even though his team was up 7-3 after three quarters, Schalmont head coach Joe Whipple said the way the Patriots looked in those first 36 minutes of action left him uneasy.
"They wanted it," said Whipple. "When you have a coach like Jim Pelneau, who kids wants to play hard for ... it's scary when you have a good group and they have a little more want than normal. That's what they did; they wanted it a little more than us."
But B-P could not turn its desire into points. Besides a 27-yard field goal from Zach Morreale in the second quarter, the Patriots' offense stayed in neutral for most of the evening.
"They run to the ball so well and they tackle," Pelneau said of the Sabres' defense. "You don't get much after [contact]."
Eventually, the Sabres were able to solve the B-P defense well enough to create some breathing room. A 16-play drive that started late in the third quarter culminated in a nine-yard touchdown pass on a 4th-and-goal from Schalmont's Dalton Cooke to Willis with 8:14 to play.
"We had to lean one each other," said Willis. "Once we started doing that, it just started clicking."
Needing to score twice, B-P had to lean on Morreale, the team's quarterback, to pass more than usual. The junior was picked off twice in the final eight minutes, and Schalmont cashed in on one of the turnovers with a seven-play drive that ended in a four-yard touchdown run from Trevon Perez-Tucker with 3:07 to go.
Little could be done from there for the Patriots, except begin to try to grow from the defeat.
"We can use this loss to keep pushing us," Newfrock said.
"I'm not going to let the (negative) feeling linger," said senior lineman Pierre LaPort. "But I'm going to let the burning, the passion in my stomach, propel us into next week."
Darius Reyes led the B-P offense with 36 yards on 10 carries. For Schalmont, Willis used 17 carries to gain 72 yards and Nick Gallo had 14 carries to secure 58 yards.
In the end, the scoreboard was not kind to the Patriots. But for a squad not looking to skip any steps in its maturation process, Friday night was a sign of growth for a club that lost 51-7 to Schalmont a year ago.
"We knew we stood toe to toe with them, and this isn't going to set us back," said Pelneau. "Now, our goal is to see them again and that can happen in sectionals."
"We didn't come out on top tonight," said Morreale. "But we'll see them again."
NOTE: B-P's Luigi Magliocca suffered an injury on the second-to-last play of the contest and had to be helped off the field. Pelneau said the injury was thought to be a right ankle sprain.