By MICHAEL KELLY
CANAJOHARIE -- It's all about the run.
That's how the Canajoharie Cougars are looking at Week 4 of the regular season, in which head coach Ken Sullivan's squad will take the trip today to Schenectady for a 1 p.m. meeting with the Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons/Saratoga Central Catholic Sainted Knights.
Canajoharie (2-1, 0-1 Section II Class D South Division) enters today's game after a 26-10 Week 3 loss at Cambridge. In that contest, the Cougars' inability to move the ball with the ground game had a bright spotlight shone upon it when, with the chance to take an early lead, the Cougars had to settle for a field goal after having a first-and-goal at the 2-yard line.
"We had three opportunities to score in the first quarter and we squandered them," Sullivan says.
After the graduation of halfback Kevin Shannon, The Recorder's 2012 Offensive Player of the Year, the Cougars knew their rushing attack was likely to take a step back in 2013 -- but Canajoharie is struggling to a point that they did not expect. Of the 63 teams competing in Section II football this season, the Cougars are 56th in total rushing yards with 180; in comparison, three clubs have already rushed for more than 1,000 yards.
That's why this week's practices focused on fixing the Cougars' rushing attack.
"There's no one place to point the finger," says Sullivan. "It's just a group effort offensively that we need to get going."
Sullivan says the Cougars may shift away from the Pistol formation it has used in the first few weeks in favor of a more traditional, under-center approach to help jump-start the offense. He says the move could held the Canajoharie backs to more quickly hit the holes created by the team's offensive line.
Senior fullback Zach Ruszkowski says that the Cougars' schemes have not been the problem, though. The senior says fixing the running game will come down to the players executing, not changes with Xs and Os.
"We need to just go out and play football," Ruszkowski says.
That should be a little easier this week for the Cougars, who are going against a Sainted Knights (0-3, 0-1) squad that has been outscored this season, 103-8.
"This is the week where we can break down the schemes," says Cougars senior tight end Zach Folts. "We need to be smarter, raise our football IQs more than we have already."
Sullivan says the Sainted Knights should provide a challenge for the Cougars' offense -- "They really swarm to the ball," Sullivan says -- but that's a positive in the coach's eyes. He plans to use the game to get several runners looks in the backfield and wants to see a rusher seize control of the running back position.
"I'm really looking for someone to step up and take ownership of it," Sullivan says.