Saturday, November 21, 2009

Close, but no Dome; Hoosick Falls edged by one point in NYS Class C semis

Hoosick Falls High School football players console each other after Saturday's 28-27 loss to Bronxville in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class C semifinals at Dietz Stadium in Kingston. From left to right: Ryan Hand and Steve Colvin (21), Mike Brewster (12) and Matt Brewster (83). (All Hoosick Falls photos by Tom Killips - The Record).

It was a game they could have had and perhaps a game they should have had, but the Hoosick Falls Panthers nevertheless put on quite a show Saturday afternoon.

Unable to develop a consistent running game against a gargantuan Bronxville front line (the Panthers gained 21 rushing yards on 13 attempts) quarterback Mike Brewster took to the skies with great success, passing for a season-high 307 yards on a 17-of-29 performance.

The Hoosick Falls goal line defense made a stand with 7:45 to play, but Bronxville struck back five minutes later, scoring the game-tying touchdown and kicking the go-ahead extra point. Hoosick Falls advanced to the Bronxville 30 on the ensuing drive, but Brewster threw four consecutive incomplete passes from that spot, turning the ball over on downs and ending the Panthers' season.

Hoosick Falls senior wide receiver Greg Stifter looks for running room during Saturday's game. Stifter caught three passes for 44 yards in the game.

Hoosick Falls finished 11-1. It was the first time the Panthers had advanced to the NYS semifinals since the 2003 season, when they played in the NYS Class C championship game at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.

"I’m proud of my guys," Hoosick Falls head coach Ron Jones said. "What are you going to do? You go 11-1, you get to the state semis and you lose by a point. It hurts, but I’m proud of my guys. They gave me everything they had."

A gang of Hoosick Falls tacklers (left to right: Pat Mulvihill, Tanner Williams and Garrett Foster) bring down Bronxville's Dillon Mitchell. Mitchell, who replaced starter Brian Murray in the first half after Murray sustained an injury, earned Bronxville offensive MVP honors with 116 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns.

All things considered, the Hoosick Falls defense did a pretty good job, as the Broncos rushed for 275 yards on 54 attempts, a 5.1 yards per carry average. Bronxville QB Jack Near was 5-of-13 for 80 yards and one touchdown pass.

What the Panthers couldn't do, however, was stop Bronxville on fourth down gambles. The Broncos converted on fourth down five times on seven attempts, extending drives and deflating the Hoosick Falls sideline at every turn.

"I’m not taking anything away from Bronxville," Jones said. "They made fourth down after fourth down and they won the game on that stuff."

Logan O'Brien makes a cut after a reception. O'Brien finished with a game-high eight catches and 138 receiving yards. O'Brien was especially slippery on the slip screen play, where he ran toward quarterback Mike Brewster, made a catch and followed his blockers across the middle of the field.

O'Brien really played well Saturday, and he and Tanner Williams were great at making tacklers miss, leading to big gains. O'Brien's second quarter touchdown was especially impressive because he got the ball very quickly on a slip screen, but waited patiently for his blockers to get out in front before he turned on the jets.

Quarterback Mike Brewster will return in 2010, but his top receivers - Greg Stifter, Kevin McMahon and O'Brien all graduate. Other than Tanner Williams, who steps up to fill their shoes next year?

Tanner Williams also had a great day catching the football, finishing with five receptions for 111 yards and a touchdown. He scored Hoosick Falls' first quarter touchdown when a Bronxville defender fell down, leaving him wide open over the middle.

Williams, just a sophomore, was a tremendous asset to the Panthers this year as a receiver and a defensive back.

Freshman Brad Burns played well in limited duties as the Panthers' No. 2 running back, but I wonder if Williams could morph into a running back next year to fill in for Alex Hansen.

Burns also played well at linebacker in Saturday's game, recovering a fumble.

Logan O'Brien gets his face mask inspected by Bronxville quarterback/defensive back Jack Near (12). Near didn't have to throw very much for the Broncos, but he was a very similar two-way player to Hoosick Falls' Mike Brewster.

Final season statistics for Hoosick Falls:

Alex Hansen - 215-1,575-26
(Hansen was one of four backs to rush for more than 1,500 yards in 2009.)
Mike Brewster - 84-450-13

Mike Brewster - 113-184-1,651-19-2
(This gave Brewster two more yards than Guilderland's Ryan Smith, making Brewster the most prolific passer in Section II this season. We'll see how his official numbers pan out, but it would rank as the 29th best season in Section II history by these figures.)

Logan O'Brien - 37-500-3
Tanner Williams - 25-361-3
Kevin McMahon - 17-323-4
Alex Hansen - 16-318-5
Greg Stifter - 11-127-2

Hoosick Falls head coach Ron Jones pleads with case with an official during Saturday's game. There were a handful of controversial plays, including what looked like 12 Bronxville players in the huddle late in the game.

Jones had no comment on the too-many-men in the huddle non-call near the end of the game. It certainly would have changed the situation had the referees called it, but you also can't really blame them for keeping mum on a ticky-tacky rule at the end of a close and well-contested game. As hockey and basketball officials tend to swallow their whistles late in games, one has to wonder if that happened in this case as well.

In the first half, each team lost a fumble when it appeared as if the runner was already down by contact. The calls wound up balancing out, but that was just my view from the sideline.

Tanner Williams reflects on the game as Bronxville players celebrate in the background at Dietz Stadium.

Hoosick Falls was limited to (-2) rushing yards in the first quarter and they never forced the running game.

Credit Hoosick Falls head coach Ron Jones, who presciently preached this exact mantra during the opening week of practice when I spoke with him for our 48-page preseason preview tabloid.

"When we went to the state finals in 2003, we saw three teams we just couldn't run on," Jones explained. "There is going to come a time when you can't run the ball and I'm not going to concede that game. We try to throw the ball about 15 times a game, but there is going to come a game where we need to throw it 30 times. And when we get to that game, it doesn't freak anybody out. We just do it."

"We understood that they had a lot more beef and it would be tough to run," Jones said. "It was kind of what we planned to do. We were going to throw the ball and try to set up the run the best we could."

It was an interesting way to see the 2009 season come full circle.

Hoosick Falls junior lineman/linebacker Garrett Foster made an impassioned speech to his teammates following the game. He is just one of many talented players that figure to have Hoosick Falls in contention for another Section II Super Bowl title in 2010.

I had the pleasure of seeing Hoosick Falls play six times this year and it was an enjoyable ride as an disinterested observer on the sideline. The Hoosick Falls crowd was always great, although the best I saw anywhere this year was at the Cambridge game, which on my all-2009 list, wound up No. 2 to Saturday's great back-and-forth game against Bronxville. Fellow students were enthusiastic, signs were plentiful and their Hoosick Falls band always made a lot of noise for a small bunch.

This team meant a great deal to the Hoosick Falls community and I think that was all part of Ron Jones' plan the last few years. Between the chatter in the hallways, Hoosick Falls football alumni are bragging to their current teammates about how their old high school team is doing. Steve Colvin, Garrett Foster and Alex Hansen beamed with pride at the very thought when I dropped by their practice earlier this week. Jones said he wanted to build a team that provided an event for the town every single game and I wonder if there were 12 days that held as much anticipation in Hoosick Falls this year as football game days.

The players were also respectful and sportsmanlike during the games and candid during interviews - thank you.

Doing everything the right way and doing it for the right reasons was the true calling card of the Hoosick Falls football team, a laudable and commendable effort.

Check back in the next few days for a season wrap-up and some Burnt Hills (and possibly Saratoga Springs) NYS championship preview notes.

The Record's 2009 All-Area football team will be published, as always, on Christmas Day. Boys and girls soccer teams will run in the Dec. 24 and 26 issues, respectively.

Hoosick Falls (11-1) 7 13 7 0 - 27
Bronxville (11-0) 7 7 7 7 - 28
First Quarter
B – Will Karol 8 pass from Jack Near (Ryan Grunseich kick) 8:04
HF – Tanner Williams 28 pass from Mike Brewster (Quinn Rasmus kick) 6:32
Second Quarter
HF – Logan O’Brien 29 pass from Brewster (kick failed) 7:29
HF – Alex Hansen 3 run (Q. Rasmus kick) 4:20
B – Dillon Mitchell 2 run (Grunseich kick) 0:18
Third Quarter
B – Mitchell 23 run (Grunseich kick) 6:06
HF – Hansen 16 run (Q. Rasmus kick) 5:26
Fourth Quarter
B – John Shkreli 2 run (Grunseich kick) 2:45
Individual Statistics
Rushing: Hoosick Falls (13-21): Hansen 9-21, Brewster 4-0. Bronxville (54-275): Murray 16-95, Mitchell 21-116, Near 5-32, Mechlin 5-24, Shkreli 1-2, Berney 4-9, W. Karol 1-(-4), Nichols 1-1.
Passing: Hoosick Falls: Brewster 17-29-307-2-0. Bronxville: Near 5-13-80-1-0.
Receiving: Hoosick Falls (17-307): O’Brien 8-138, Williams 5-111, Stifter 3-44, Hansen 1-14. Bronxville (5-80): W. Karol 1-8, Mechlin 1-24, J. Karol 3-48.


Weekend roundup

It was a crazy weekend for high school sports, as the Burnt Hills football team is the only Section II squad headed to the Carrier Dome, but plenty of other local teams chased glory as well. Here is quick recap.

Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake head coach Matt Shell shakes hands with his players after Friday's 41-16 victory over Cornwall in which Evan Nusbaum rushed for 320 yards on 14 attempts.

Boys Soccer

The Waterford-Halfmoon and Shenendehowa boys soccer teams both fell in NYSPHSAA semifinal action in Oneonta Saturday. Look for full coverage of those games in Sunday's editions of The Record and The Saratogian.

Our Chris Fitz Gerald was on the scene. Here are some quotables:

Newburgh Free Academy topped Shen 2-0 in Class AA action despite playing without their top two scorers.

The Plainsmen performance, was "disappointing to say the least," said coach Mike Campisi, whose Shenendehowa team, ranked No. 3 in the state, finishes at 17-2-2. " ... Other than the fact that we couldn't pass to our own team --- we looked like a recreational team," Campisi said.

In Class C, Waterford was outlasted by Marathon, 1-0. Marathon heads to the state championship game for the third time in five years.

"It was a great season," Waterford senior goalkeeper Ryan Hardy said. "It was the farthest we've gone in almost 15 years. ... We had a great team and a great year and hopefully they keep it up next year."

Girls Soccer

The Mechanicville girls soccer team went to overtime again, but suffered a heartbreaking 4-3 defeat against Briarcliff in the NYSPHSAA Class B title game Saturday afternoon in Cortland.

Our Ed Weaver was on the scene and provided some quotables:

"It's a very tough loss," said Mechanicville coach Liz Villamil. "The girls fought so hard. They (Briarcliff) have two humongous girls (Cornacchio and Weiner) up front and the really use that to their advantage. We couldn't match that."

Cross Country
Federation Meet: The only Rensselaer County runner and the only seventh grader in the New York State girls Federation cross country meet at Bowdoin Park in Wappingers Falls, Columbia’s Kaylee Scott did not disappoint.
Scott finished 66th overall in 20:08.5, just one of many strong showings from Section II runners and a 1-2-3 sweep in the girls competition.
Saratoga Springs won the team title, followed by Shenendehowa and Queensbury. Shen sophomore Lizzie Predmore was third overall in a time of 18:21.2. Brittany Winslow and Danielle Winslow, twin sisters from Queensbury, finished fifth and sixth, respectively.
The Burnt Hills boys finished second overall, led by second place finisher Otis Ubriaco (16:03.7). The Shaker boys finished fourth, followed by sixth-place Shenendehowa.
The top 27 teams across all classifications are invited. 251 girls ran Saturday.

Girls volleyball
The NYSPHSAA girls volleyball championships are happening this weekend at the Glens Falls Civic Center and here are your final pairings for Sunday.

Class AA: Baldwinsville vs. Canandaigua, 2 p.m., Sunday

Class A: Victor vs. Cornwall, 2 p.m., Sunday

Class B: Eden vs. Hendrick Hudson, 10 a.m., Sunday

Class C: Loudonville Christian vs. City Honors, Noon, Sunday

Class D: T.A. Edison vs. Cattaraugus, Noon, Sunday

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