Thursday, October 7, 2010

New job for Noah? Flying Horses reshuffling defense after Lewis' injury

Troy High's Shatiek Lewis, right, with ball, has been limping through practice this week after turning his right ankle on his first carry in last Friday's game at Saratoga Springs. He will be a game-time decision this Friday at Niskayuna, so says head coach Jack Burger. (Photo by J.S. Carras - The Record).

TROY -- Noah Thomas’ name might not appear very often on the stat sheet for the Troy High School football team, but he’s been a major part of the Flying Horses’ offense this season.

A senior tight end, Thomas has emerged as a terrific run-blocker, paving the way for fellow seniors Jordan Canzeri and Shatiek Lewis, who have combined to rush for 1,147 yards and 18 touchdowns on 112 attempts.

Lewis, however, suffered an ankle injury in last week’s 33-12 victory at Saratoga Springs and gained just three rushing yards on one carry in that game.

Consequently, Thomas may see his workload doubled in tonight’s Section II Class AA Liberty Division game at Niskayuna, as he and Michael Pastore have served as Lewis’ understudies at linebacker.

Troy head coach Jack Burger said Lewis had been "making progress" this week but stressed that the coaching staff is likely to be ultra-cautious with their 5-foot-8, 180-pound, two-way bruiser.

"If Shatiek isn’t able to go, Noah Thomas and Pastore will fill in over there and take some of those reps," Burger said. "Stephaun (Grinage) will step in offensively and along with Raheem Felder, they’ll split some of those carries. At this point we’re being hopeful, but we’re also trying to be smart about it."

Lewis and Canzeri, The Record’s co-Offensive Players of the Year in 2009, have both taken on larger defen¬sive responsibilities as seniors. Canzeri plays defensive back.

Thomas, a part-time player last year as a junior, has one reception this year, a 44-yard touchdown strike that came in a Week Four victory at Columbia.

Troy (4-0, 5-0) had posted four straight shutouts through its first four games, but had to claw back from a 12-7 halftime deficit at Saratoga Springs. A season ago, the Flying Horses had put together a string of five straight shutouts before Niskayuna scored a second-quarter touchdown in a 35-7 Week Seven victory for Troy.

Having outscoring its opponents 221-12 this season, Troy will rely on defensive newcomers like Thomas and Pastore, along with the emerging Evan Vadney in the defensive backfield, in trying to slow down the high-powered Niskayuna offense.

"Two guys that have worked really hard to become starters are Noah Thomas and Evan Vadney," Burger said. "Noah has done a great job as a blocking tight end and Evan has played well at corner."

Niskayuna is led offensively by running back Rob Hilweh (107 atts., 562 yds., 12 TDs) and quarterback Kyle Bayly (57-of-112 for 654 yds., 3 TDs, 4 INT).

The Silver Warriors have had an up-and-down campaign in 2010. Niskayuna posted narrow victories over Schenectady and Columbia in the first two weeks of the season before losing two in a row to La Salle and Shaker. Last week, Hilweh ran for 108 yards and also threw for a touchdown in a 38-0 victory over Colonie.

Niskayuna (3-2, 3-2) is playing its final Liberty Division game of the regular season and will likely be the No. 3 seed out of the division behind Troy and Shaker (4-0, 5-0). The Silver Warriors will play a challenging non-division game at Ballston Spa (4-1, 4-1) in Week Seven.

The Flying Horses host Shaker in the regular season finale a week from Saturday, a game that could well determine the Liberty Division champion.

Elsewhere in Liberty Division action this weekend, La Salle plays at Schenectady as both teams look to keep their playoff hopes alive. Undefeated Shaker plays at winless Columbia. Colonie will play a non-division contest against Albany High at Bleecker Stadium tomorrow afternoon.

Troy (4-0, 5-0) 
at Niskayuna (3-2, 3-2)
Friday, 7 p.m.
Class AA, Liberty Division

For Off The Record's Look Ahead post for Week Six, which includes, standings, statistics and game capsules, click here.

For a glimpse at the latest New York State Sportswriters Association rankings, click here.

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