CCHS, 'Vliet football teams will play for food
TROY -- It has not been one of Section II’s most competitive rivalries in recent years - Watervliet High School’s football team has won the last four games it played against Catholic Central by a combined score of 120-15 - but whenever the Cannoneers and the Crusaders meet on the gridiron, it’s a big deal.
Just ask Catholic Central’s junior two-way lineman Tim Quillinan, a Watervliet resident, about his appetite.
"I have a bet with Ryan Manning, the running back from Watervliet, that if we beat them tomorrow, I get a steak dinner," Quillinan said before Thursday’s practice.
Watervliet (1-0, 1-0) travels to Lansingburgh to take on Catholic Central (0-1, 0-1) tonight at 7 p.m. in a Class C South Division showdown.
Catholic Central’s first-year head coach Ray Gaston played his high school football at Watervliet and still heads to work at the Arsenal every day before football practice. Although the football rivalry between the teams is fairly recent - the teams did not play on a regular basis since Section II switched to a classification-based scheduling system in 2004 - the ties between the two communities run deep.
"You hate to play your old school colors, especially when you’re going to be cheering against them," Gaston laughed. "But the fact is I’m here at Catholic High, so I’m going to be cheering for Catholic High."
The Cannoneers romped over Taconic Hills, 45-6, in Week One thanks to three touchdowns from Manning and four forced fumbles by the defense.
Catholic Central, on the other hand, dropped a 42-20 decision to Chatham. Still, the Crusaders were pleased with the effort they put forth against the defending Section II Class C finalist Panthers.
"They had a lot of heart. This team had a lot of heart last week," said Gaston. "The score didn’t reflect it, but there was a lot of heart.
"Only having 18 kids on the field with a couple of injuries right now, they’re playing both ways and spe¬cial teams and when the fourth quarter comes, they’re sucking air," Gaston continued. "And rightfully so. But their hearts are still pumping hard."
This week in practice, Gaston and his assistants have put an additional focus on conditioning knowing that it’s nearly impossible to give any players an extended break during the action following the opening kickoff.
Playing gutsy football in the fourth quarter is something the Crusaders will have to do if they are to clinch their first Section II playoff berth since 1989.
"I know Watervliet is good," Gaston said. "They’re a good team. They have a lot of good players on that team, but we have good players also. It’s a matter of, I think, controlling your controllables, like any coach will tell you, and having the adrenaline to go beyond what your expectations are."
Chatham’s senior standout running back, Josh Keyes, slashed through the CCHS defense for five touchdowns last week, but the Crusaders still took some positive signs from the loss.
"We played pretty good," Quillinan said. "Toward the end we played our hearts out trying to beat those guys."
The task will be doubly tough for the Crusaders this week as they’ll need to stop a rushing attack spearheaded by Manning and a passing game that is led by Watervliet quarterback Brandon Legault, who threw for 115 yards and one touchdown against Taconic Hills.
"We play our game," Gaston said. "We have to make tackles when the opportunity occurs. If we make those tackles, it doesn’t matter who the running back is. If something does happen to come up negative, we have to forget about it. The past hurts. Go on forward. That’s the whole philosophy this year."
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