AHS ready for Burnt Hills

By ADAM SHINDER

Recorder Sports Staff

There's more than enough swirling around the cauldron of excitement for today's matchup between the Amsterdam High School football team and the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Spartans to cause the recipe to boil over by the time kickoff finally comes around at 4 p.m.

Take a game with the Section II Class A Northwest Division championship on the line. Add a rivalry fueled by two emotionally-charged games from a year ago, a dash of Amsterdam's need to make up for a disappointing Week 5 loss to Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk, a pinch of Burnt Hills' surge of four straight blowout wins since a season-opening loss to Troy and combine with the raucous atmosphere of Amsterdam's Homecoming festivities at Lynch Literacy Academy.

Shake well and serve.

"It's a championship game, and neither of us really like each other," said Amsterdam senior captain Isaiah Martin. "We just want to get out there and play."

Rugged Rams (3-2, 2-0 Northwest Division) head coach Doug Edick is hopeful that his team can do just that. The Rams were beset by a number of problems in last Friday's loss -- Edick cited poor tackling, an inability by the defense to get off the field and a sluggish start on offense among them.

But, Edick said that his team has rebounded this week in practice with a simple goal in mind: Win this week, then next week against South Glens Falls and -- regardless of non-league results -- bring home a second straight Northwest Division title.

"I think they've refocused. They know what's at stake," Edick said. "Burnt Hills is a good team, and the league title's on the line. We win this game, then we've just got to take care of business with South High, so the championship is on the line."

Senior tailback and team captain Brett Stanavich, who had just nine carries for 56 yards and was held without a touchdown for the first time all season in the loss to Ravena, said that the Rams have spent the intervening week of practice correcting the issues that plagued them in the loss to the Indians.

"Coming off this past week, losing two games that we shouldn't have lost, we've got Homecoming this week and I feel like we've worked out the bugs," he said. "Hopefully, we'll come to play this week."

In Burnt Hills, the Rams face a team that has utterly steamrolled its competition in each of the last four weeks. After opening the season with a 17-7 road loss to Troy, the Spartans (4-1, 3-0) have reeled off wins against Schalmont, South Glens Falls, Queensbury and Gloversville by the combined score of 202-21.

"They improve each week," Edick said in his evaluation of the Spartans. "They have an experienced line, they have 30 seniors and they improve each week."

Burnt Hills head coach Matt Shell has seen the progression firsthand.

"I think we've improved every week," Shell said. "The kids have worked hard every week, and coming into this game we realize what a challenge it is to go play at Amsterdam, especially when its their Homecoming."

The four-time defending Section II Class A champion Spartans come into today averaging 301 rushing yards per game, led by halfback Dan Porter. Though the 6-foot-1, 200-pound senior has just 39 rushing attempts this season, he's already picked up 567 yards -- an average of 14.5 yards per carry --and run for nine touchdowns.

While Edick said he has plenty of respect for a Burnt Hills passing game led by quarterback Ryan McDonnell and wide receiver Eric Dillon, he expects the Spartans to try and attack an Amsterdam defense that allowed more than 300 rushing yards to Ravena last week by focusing on the ground game.

"I think they're going to try to run it on us a little more," Edick said. "I've seen a few games where they've passed it a little more, but they're gonna try to run on us. That's their game."

Shell, meanwhile, is wary of what all opposing coaches have been concerned with against Amsterdam this year -- containing the Rams' wealth of explosive playmakers including Stanavich, quarterback Geo Rodriguez and fullback Hector Diaz.

"They have great skill kids, like they always have," Shell said. "I think their up-front kids come off the ball well, they're physical like all Amsterdam teams are. It's the the traditional things from an Amsterdam team that you expect. You expect well-coached, fundamentally sound football players, you expect playmakers, and this team is no different from the past teams, that I can see."

With the crowd at Lynch Literacy Academy lathered up by the Homecoming atmosphere, Edick is hoping his players will be able to feed on what should be a charged environment.

"They've got the parade, they've got everything else going on with Homecoming. It should be very festive, and I think the kids are looking forward to it," he said.

One Amsterdam player who won't be able to enjoy the festivities as much is senior linebacker and offensive tackle Gabe Orengo. The senior captain is on the sidelines with a knee injury suffered in the loss to Ravena, but as he stood on crutches Thursday afternoon next to his fellow captains, Orengo expressed confidence that the Rams can rise to the occasion.

"I feel these boys are gonna come out here and prove to Amsterdam that we are a team that can make it," he said.