Jaden Fallen, left, blocks for ballcarrier Mikey Gomez during football practice Wednesday at Amsterdam High School (Adam Shinder/Recorder staff)
By ADAM SHINDER
TOWN OF AMSTERDAM — When live television cameras last pointed in the direction of the Amsterdam Rugged Rams, things went poorly from start to finish in a humbling 34-0 loss two weeks ago against Queensbury.
With the cameras set to be rolling again tonight, Amsterdam senior center and defensive end Nico Orengo made sure to remind his teammates that their focus needs be squarely on their road game against a dangerous Averill Park Warriors team rather than the live television audience watching on Spectrum News.
“I’ve tried to tell the guys not to worry about (TV), but to worry about their assignments,” Orengo said. “Being on TV doesn’t matter. Worrying about the win does matter.”
Tonight’s 7:15 matchup is crucial for Amsterdam and Averill Park, both of whom enter the game at 3-1 overall with one loss in Section II Class A play. The winner will go a long way toward locking up one of the four Class A playoff spots and keep hope of hosting a semifinal game alive. The loser will have plenty more work left to do over the final three weeks of the regular season.
And beyond the playoff implications, tonight’s game has plenty of personal motivation for players like Orengo who were on the field in last year’s Section II Class A semifinals, when the Warriors denied Amsterdam a second straight Class A Super Bowl appearance by snatching a 21-14 win on Dennon Fisher’s last-minute touchdown run.
“This is more of a revenge game in my eyes,” Orengo said. “That was one of the toughest losses of my life.”
Last year’s playoff meeting continued a string of epic clashes between the Rams and Warriors since Doug Edick took over the Amsterdam program in 2012. That was a far more defensive-oriented clash than the other games in the rivalry, which has featured some scorelines that would make arcade games explode, but the recent history is why Edick knows the Rams can’t afford to look past Averill Park toward next week’s game against defending Class A champion Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake.
“I’m not thinking about the second game. I’m just thinking about Averill Park,” Edick said. “They’re a very good team, they went toe-to-toe with Burnt Hills. It’s always a great game between our two programs for the last five years I’ve been head coach, and I expect nothing less.”
Averill Park pushed Burnt Hills to the wire a week ago, coming back from a 28-14 deficit to pull within 28-27 on Dom Law’s 18-yard touchdown run with less than three minutes to play in the fourth quarter, only to be stonewalled on the ensuing 2-point conversion attempt as the Spartans held on for the win.
With eight rushing touchdowns, Law is the focal point of Averill Park’s flexbone option offense which averages more than 250 rushing yards per game. Quarterback Nick Ferlito and fullback Carl Nitz will also pose problems for the Rams, but against an option team, the key to successful defense is more about sticking to assignments and being disciplined than focusing on a single player.
“It’s responsibility football,” Edick said. “You’ve got to take the fullback and the quarterback away, make them pitch the ball. That fullback (Law) is very good. He’s got a lot of yards and a lot of touchdowns.”
Offensively, Amsterdam will seek to maintain the momentum it got rolling in the second half of Saturday’s 34-17 win over Gloversville. Mikey Gomez and Jaden Fallen both exceeded 100 rushing yards and Trey Holloway threw a pair of touchdown passes in a game that saw the Rams rack up 472 yards of total offense, including 363 on the ground.
“Hopefully, we can keep that mojo going,” Edick said.
Complicating things a little more this week has been the sweltering heat, which forced the Rams to change a few things about the way they practice — including switching to an evening session Tuesday to get their work in once the sun went down — although forecasts indicate heat won’t be any factor tonight.
“We’ve got to fight through that (heat), and keep fighting,” Orengo said. “These teams, they’re not taking breaks, and we shouldn’t be able to either.”
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A look at the rest of tonight’s area football slate:
Schuylerville at Broadalbin-Perth, 7 p.m. — B-P (2-2, 0-1 Class B North) had a two-game winning streak snapped with its 48-20 Week 4 loss to Glens Falls, but the Patriots’ two losses this season have come to two of the three remaining undefeated teams in Section II Class B — Glens Falls and Cobleskill-Richmondville. They face the other unbeaten Class B squad tonight when Schuylerville visits Patriot Field. Schuylerville’s flexbone option offense is racking up an average of 300 rushing yards per game with quarterback Stratton Sherman spreading the ball around to playmakers including Derek Willson, Paul Harshbarger and Justin Carte. Two-time state champion wrestler Orion Anderson isn’t very big (5-foot-3, 140 pounds), but he’s been a playmaker on defense for the Black Horses. B-P quarterback Brodryk Benton has put up some big numbers of late, with Alex Gardner and Nick Geren emerging as reliable receiving weapons while Lucas Coon and Joey Vitalis combine in the running game.
Hoosick Falls at Fonda-Fultonville, 7 p.m. — If the Braves (1-3, 1-3 Class C North) want any shot at reaching the Class C playoffs, they must win tonight and hope the tiebreakers manage to fall their way for the rest of the season. This game could feature some high-octane passing, as Hoosick Falls quarterback Sam Richard ranks second in Section II with 811 passing yards and six touchdowns with receiver Nicholas Giordano and running back Drew Hoag as his primary weapons. Fonda-Fultonville quarterback John Mancini is coming off a 239-yard passing performance in the Braves’ Week 4 loss to Stillwater that included five passes for 146 yards — highlighted by an 86-yard touchdown — to Luke Neff.
Whitehall at Canajoharie-Fort Plain — It’s been smooth sailing thus far for a C-FP (4-0, 1-0 Class D Division II) teams that’s outscored its opponents 159-25 thus far. Things should get tougher tonight against a Whitehall team that’s been a nemesis for the Cougars over the past several years, ending their season in the Class D semifinals two of the last three years. Whitehall cruised through its first three games before running into the Cambridge juggernaut last week and falling 50-0. The 3-1 Railroaders have gotten big production out of Brendan Covey in the running game, while Jake Moore has emerged as a dual threat at quarterback. C-FP got a 100-yard rushing game out of Nick Suits in last week’s 32-6 win over Fort Edward/Argyle and quarterback Nick Kocjan continued his stellar season with two more touchdown passes.