The Amsterdam High School football team huddles at the end of practice Thursday at Lynch Literacy Academy. (Adam Shinder/Recorder staff)
By ADAM SHINDER
The Queensbury Spartans present a challenge the likes of which the Amsterdam Rugged Rams won’t see from any other team in the Section II Class A football scene.
The quandary of defending Queensbury’s physical, ground-hugging double wing offense is one that has plagued the Spartans’ opponents for the last two decades. Finding a way to slow it down has been a particular problem in recent years for Amsterdam, which hasn’t beaten Queensbury since 2012.
“Their offense is just so unique,” Amsterdam senior captain Louis Fedullo said. “We’ve really got to prepare for them, and I think we’ve done just that.”
“We’ve battled them for years, and their offense makes it more difficult,” Amsterdam coach Doug Edick said. “They want to run the ball and then hit you with a big play.”
The two teams meet tonight at 7 p.m. at Lynch Literacy Academy in a game that will be televised on Spectrum News, and while it might only be Week 3 of the regular season, it’s a game that has major playoff implications for both 2-0 Amsterdam and 1-1 Queensbury.
“Every one’s a big one, because you’re vying for four (playoff) spots,” Edick said. “Next on the schedule is Queensbury, so it’s a big one.”
“We’ve been calling it ‘Billy Fuccillo.’ This one’s huge,” Queensbury coach Matt Crossman said.
Even though longtime head coach John Irion left for Granville in the offseason, Queensbury hasn’t diverted from its double wing roots under rookie head coach Crossman. The packed-in offense still features a plethora of running backs working behind a wall of blockers and has the capability to both wear a team down with constant short gains or suck defenses up close enough to the line of scrimmage that it leaves them susceptible to big plays on the back end.
It’s a challenge Edick has spent plenty of time getting his defense ready for.
“I think they’re ready for the challenge,” Edick said. “They’re pulling, 11 guys are coming at you and you can’t get discouraged. You’ve got to come back and play the next play.”
Queensbury opened its season with two quick touchdowns against Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, but couldn’t keep up with the defending Section II Class A champions for the full 48 minutes in a 31-20 loss. The Spartans rebounded Saturday with a 36-6 win over Green Tech, but Crossman has seen plenty of problems with his team that still need to be corrected.
“With it only being the first and second week, you expect mistakes, but I think we’re making too many,” Crossman said. “I’m not sure if we’ve blocked a play exactly right, formationally we’re still lining up a little bit off on defense and we’ve had way too many penalties. We’ve got to clean up the things that we can control.”
Nico Mattia ran for 117 yards and two touchdowns to lead Queensbury against Green Tech, and he’s joined in the backfield by a group that also includes Sean Collins, Brendan Scott, Mike Guido, Liam O’Mara, Patrick Conway and Dom Nassivera. Nate Angell has taken the reins at quarterback and threw a pair of touchdown passes against Green Tech.
If the Rams want a top-two seed in the Section II Class A playoffs and a home game in the semifinals, a win tonight is an absolute must — which is why this game has been circled on the calendar for quite some time.
“This is one of, if not the biggest game on our schedule,” Fedullo said. “We’ve been preparing for them since the preseason. We’ve been throwing their plays in going for the last two weeks, and we’re ready.”
Amsterdam has outscored its opponents 70-21 through two games, and the starting defensive unit has allowed just one touchdown. Running backs Jacob Greco and Mikey Gomez have made for an explosive one-two punch in the backfield, and Fedullo had a big night in Amsterdam’s Week 2 win over Mohonasen with a pair of touchdown catches.
Against a traditionally aggressive Queensbury defense, the Rams are going to need to hit on some explosive plays. Especially because against the double wing, time of possession can become extremely limited.
“Big plays are where we’re gonna succeed,” Fedullo said.