By MICHAEL KELLY
Recorder Sports Staff
BROADALBIN -- All season long, the guidance of the Broadalbin-Perth Patriots' five lone seniors has been credited with leading the reemergence of the school's football program, which clinched its first berth since 2009 into the Section II Class B playoffs a week ago.
It's that positive influence of the seniors that B-P's players and coaches like to talk about when discussing their success this season.
But the secret behind B-P's success?
That's easy. It's that the Patriots' juniors and sophomores have done much of the heavy lifting this campaign.
If one does not believe that, just ask one of those five seniors, the team's de facto co-captains.
"Really ... it's the underclassmen that are the ones getting it done for us," says senior linebacker Tim Gordon. "They're the ones flying around and making plays."
Illustrating Gordon's point: Of the 190 points the Patriots have scored this season, 131 of them have come from players that are not members of the graduating class of 2013. Gordon's team-high eight touchdowns and wide receiver Anthony Visco's one score -- plus five extra points -- are the only direct contributions made this season to the scoreboard by the team's five seniors.
"I mean, me, Ant and the linemen (seniors Zack Bulger, Sam Comini and Josh Deuel), we all do our thing," says Gordon. "But without [the underclassmen], we wouldn't have the offense or the team we have right now."
While contributions from juniors like quarterback Gabe Mendez (five passing touchdowns, three rushing scores) and wingback Luigi Magliocca (six rushing touchdowns, one receiving score) were expected this season, it's been the play of juniors like linemen Phil Hemstreet and Pierre LaPort, and the contributions from the team's sophomore members, that have put B-P over the top.
Head coach Jim Pelneau says he knew his underclassmen could step up this season, but even he seems a bit surprised at how well his youngsters have played.
"It seems like every week, we have a different sophomore or junior stepping in and doing a great job," Pelneau says.
Lately, one sophomore in particular has impressed his coaches and peers. Starting the season playing mainly defense, Darius Reyes has now also become one of the team's featured cogs in its running attack.
"Darius, he's been crazy, man," says B-P junior tight end Andre Taylor, who has a pair of touchdown receptions this season.
While other sophomores like Biagio Bucciferro, Jake Coveney, Noah Martin and Tyler Schmidt have impressed with their contributions, Reyes' physical skills have made him stand out.
"He can run the ball so hard. He's so fast," Taylor adds about Reyes.
"I don't know if I've been surprised by it, but Darius Reyes just plays his butt off every single play," says Gordon. "He flies around the field and all the kid does is make plays."
A force on defense throughout the season, Reyes has had eight carries for 120 yards and three touchdowns in the past two games; prior to that, Reyes had just six carries for 46 yards and no scores.
Another key underclassman for the Patriots has been Mike Visco. The junior has done a bit of everything this season for B-P, but Visco's impact in the kicking game has been his most important contribution.
"Mike's been fantastic," says Pelneau. "He's kicking touchbacks and punting the ball 40-some yards with regularity, really pinning people."
Coming into the season, Gordon says the Patriots' five seniors knew the team's greener members had a lot to offer. With a win tonight in Cobleskill during the team's regular season finale set to clinch B-P its first winning season since 2007, the Patriots' underclassmen have made good on the promise of their potential.
"We had a storm brewing to have a great season this year," says Gordon. "And, so far, it's been awesome."