By MICHAEL KELLY/Recorder Sports Staff
VOORHEESVILLE — After watching his team roll its way to a 40-13 victory, Fonda-Fultonville Braves head coach Tom Carpenter was content.
“That’s the way, as a coaching staff, we thought we were capable of playing,” Carpenter said.
Following a second-half collapse a week ago in a non-league loss to Cobleskill-Richmondville, the Braves showed no let-up in their Saturday victory against the Voorheesville Blackbirds. Instead, F-F — led by quarterback Russ Williams and tailback Pat Hart — played the role of rude guests, as the Braves led 40-6 just minutes into the fourth quarter of their Section II Class C South Division finale.
“This was huge for us,” said Williams. “We needed this going into the playoffs.”
Leading the Braves’ offense were Williams — 15 of 22 passing the ball for 281 yards and three touchdowns — and Hart, who needed just 21 carries to amass 231 yards and score twice. Hart, a sophomore, also broke the 1,000-yard mark for the season in the contest. Hart is the first sophomore and the fifth member of the F-F program to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season.
“It’s a big achievement for me,” said Hart. “It’s unbelievable. To be able to do that as a sophomore — or even think about doing it — it’s awesome.”
F-F (4-2, 4-1) jumped on Voorheesville (2-4, 2-3) early, as the Braves scored on their first three possessions. The first two touchdowns came on runs from Hart, while Williams connected with an 18-yard pass to Brandon Baker for F-F’s third score.
Meanwhile, the Braves’ defense was up to the test of limiting Voorheesville quarterback Mike Young from doing too much damage. The senior rushed for one touchdown and 85 yards before leaving the game at the end of the third quarter with a shoulder injury after a hit from F-F’s Mitch Hayes.
The Blackbirds scored one touchdown in each half of play, with the home team’s score in the second half coming against the Braves’ reserves. F-F’s strong defensive effort came a week after the team’s defense often struggled to prevent long, time-consuming drives.
“We definitely meshed better this time,” said Hayes. “We just focused. We realize it’s the end of the season and we need to buckle down — and we did.”
Baker — who had five receptions for 149 yards — added another touchdown catch in the second half. Ryan Derby also had a touchdown reception in the second half, while Jake Sammons rushed for a short score.
Williams said the Braves’ offense, which has struggled at points this season, needed an outing like Saturday’s heading into the postseason.
“It just shows us that, whenever we get down on ourselves for our past mistakes, games like this show us that when we click, we’re still pretty good,” Williams said.
On defense, Hayes was a constant force for the Braves, making several tackles and recovering a fumble, one of the Blackbirds’ three turnovers. Dom Neri also recovered a fumble for the Braves, while safety Kevin Twardzik — four receptions for 39 yards on offense — came up with an interception.
The Braves now head into the playoffs as the South Division’s second seed and will play host next weekend to Tamarac. Hart said the Braves’ big win buoyed the team’s spirits as it heads into sectionals.
“It’s definitely a momentum rush for us,” he said. “We’re really looking forward to next week.”