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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 18, 2007

‘"Shen" no longer a dirty word for Dutch

By Tim Matteson

GUILDERLAND — For many years, the word "Shen" has been a four-letter dirty word to the Guilderland football team.

But for the 2007 edition of the Dutchmen, when they hear "Shen" it will bring back fond memories.

The Dutchmen jumped out to a big early lead on Friday and held off the Plainsmen to win, 34-21. The win over the previously unbeaten Shenenendehowa team gave the Dutchmen a share of the Class AA Empire Division title — with Shen and Ballston Spa — their first title of any kind since 1971. The Dutch also earned the top seed from the division for the upcoming sectionals.

Guilderland earned the top seed based on Section II’s quarter-point system. The Dutch finished Friday’s game with more quarter points than Ballstson Spa and Shenendehowa.

The Duthmen will host Schenectady — the fourth seed from the Liberty Division — on Friday night.

Last Friday, the Dutchmen got four touchdowns from Paul Booker and one from Andrew Smith to roll to the victory and earn one of the biggest wins in Guilderland football history.

"They are great football players," said Guilderland Coach Dan Penna. "They are also great citizens. Going into the playoffs, we have one of the great backfields. Tonight, they let their talents shine."

"It’s unbelievable," Smith said after the game. "I’ve never lost to Shen. But they were undefeated and one of the winningest teams in Section II. We have a great group of guys. My line, I love them, and my backs, I love them. This win is unbelievable."

Stout defense

The win wasn’t too unbelievable based on the way Guilderland played on Friday night.

After playing a field position battle in the first quarter, and to start the second quarter, the Dutchmen had a drive stall at the Shenendehowa 38-yard line.

Smith punted the ball and it was downed by the Dutchmen inside the one-yard line.

Shen did not get any yards on its ensuing possession and punted out of its end zone.

Smith caught the ball at the 25-yard line and returned it to the seven to give his team excellent field position.

On the next play, Booker took a handoff from Smith, busted through the line, and ran into the end zone for a touchdown. E.J. Genzano’s extra-point kick gave the Dutchmen a 7-0 lead with 9:46 left in the second quarter.

Guilderland’s stout defense forced another Shen punt and got the ball back at its own 40-yard line.

The Dutch moved the ball, but were facing a fourth down and two yards to go; they decided to send the punting unit out on the field.

The snap went to back Tony Denn instead of punter Jesse Terzian. Denn picked up three yards to keep Guilderland’s drive alive.

With the ball at the 50-yard line, Smith connected on a pass to Parker Wolff who made a nice catch with defenders near him and picked up 20 yards.

Smith picked up 10 yards on a run, and then Booker capped the drive with a 21-yard run to pay dirt. Genzano’s kick made the score 14-0 with 2:40 left in the second stanza.

Again, Shen was forced to punt and the kick was downed at its own 48-yard line.

Guilderland scored on the next play.

Smith found Booker in the middle of the field and threw a pass to his running back. Booker made a great catch as a Shen defender just missed the ball. Then the 6-foot, 4 inch, 205-pound Booker ran 35 yards, breaking tackles to make it into the end zone for his third touchdown of the quarter.

The Dutchmen led 21-0 at halftime and held that lead as Jesse Lutz intercepted a halfback option pass at his own four-yard line. That play ended Shen’s best drive of the first half.

Blood thirsty

"We came out and wanted blood," Booker said. "We were upset at losing to Ballston Spa [two weeks ago]. We showed what Guilderland really is."

Shen did score after taking the second-half kickoff and moving the ball down the field.

A 14-play drive was capped as Shen quarterback Charles Miller hit Rodney Campbell with a nine-yard pass into the end zone on fourth down.

A Guilderland turnover led to Shen’s second score of the game. The Plainsmen recovered a fumble at their own 41-yard line.

Shen moved the ball down the field and got another touchdown on a fourth down play. Darrell Evans capped this drive with a two-yard run.

The touchdown with 1:54 left in the third quarter made the score 21-14.

Guilderland took control of the game again early in the fourth quarter.

Booker picked up his fourth touchdown of the game. This one came on a 38-yard run and the extra point gave the Dutchmen a two-touchdown lead, 28-14, with 10:30 left in the game.

Shen answered, scoring on its next possession. Jason Bedard scored from two yards out to cut the lead to one touchdown, 28-21, with 4:33 left in the contest.

But the Dutch put the game away on its next possession.

On the first play from scrimmage after the kick-off and an offsides penalty on Shen, Smith scored for the Dutchmen.

Smith took the snap, read the field, and then took off. Once he got through the line, he was not going to be stopped as he out-sprinted the Shen defenders and ran into the end zone for a 59-yard touchdown.

"The biggest win"

"Drew is a hell of an athlete," Booker said. "The kid is like my bigger brothers. He helps me in school and everything."

"I love him just as much," Smith said of Booker. "We’re childhood friends."

That capped the scoring and, as Smith took a knee on the last two snaps of the game, the Dutch players’ cheers got louder.

"This is the biggest thing that has ever happened to us," Booker said after the game. "All the guys, I love them to death. We worked so hard and we’ve come a long way and played together for years."

"This is the biggest win we’ve had by far," said Penna. "Programs like Shen have been great for years and years and we’ve been good for the past couple of years, but we want to be like them, a great football team, year in and year out.

"This was the first game we came in as an underdog," Penna added. "We weren’t using that as motivation, but we prepared hard. The kids took off and we continued to ride that confidence. I think this shows that, if we tighten up our mistakes, that we can play with any team in the AA’s."

"We have high hopes," Booker said. "Everybody has to come after us. There is no other way to do it."

"We’re number-one going into the playoffs," Smith said. "That is huge for Dutchmen football. But anything short of a Super Bowl appearance would be disappointing to me."

Dutchmen want to run with Suburban big guys

By Tim Matteson

GUILDERLAND — Coming into this season, Guilderland boys’ soccer Coach Mike Kinnally thought his team was one year away from really making some noise in the Suburban Council.

But his Dutchmen players have exceeded his expectations even in a 2-0 loss to league powerhouse Shenendehowa on Saturday. The game was a make-up due to a postponement last month.

"We are getting to the point that we are getting respect," Kinnally said. "We are one of the top programs. And one of our goals was to get there."

The Dutchmen are 11-3-1 overall and 7-3-1 in the Suburban Council.

On Saturday, the Dutchmen played well with the unbeaten Plainsmen. The Dutch kept the contest scoreless in the first half and didn’t give up any great scoring chances.

Also the Dutchmen did not get any great scoring opportunities of their own in the first half though they had a couple of direct kicks that they didn’t put on goal.

Shen finally got on the board midway through the second half.

The Plainsmen were awarded a corner kick though the ball seemed to go over the goal line off a Shen defender. So, instead of a Guilderland goal kick, Shen got another scoring chance.

Luke Popolizio struck the ball well and it was headed into the upper part of the goal by teammate Jim Santamarina.

The call and the subsequent goal drew the ire of Kinnally and Assistant Coach Arn Armstrong.

Shen scored again with 15:58 left in the game. This time, the blunder was by the Guilderland defense.

Plainsman T.J. Popolizio served the ball from right wing into the penalty area and teammate E.J. Reutemann got to the ball and kicked it into the goal to give Shen a 2-0 lead.

Reutemann was unmarked and wide open in front of the goal.

"Up and down"

Though the Dutch lost by two goals, Kinnally was pleased with the way his team played. He also saw things that his team needs to work on.

"It should have been 1-0," Kinnally said. "The first goal was a total gift. For the most part, we executed. The second goal was a breakdown. And we had six free kicks. They are a good team and you have to finish those."

The two best scoring chances for Guilderland did not come on free kicks, but on great one-versus-goalie opportunities.

Senior captain Frank Campagnano had two great chances against Shen goalie Ryan Jones after getting the ball on good serves. Campagnano fired the ball on goal each time, but Jones made point-blank saves to keep the Dutchmen off the scoreboard.

"We were up and down," Kinnally said, "but we battled well."

It was the first time this season the Dutchmen have been shut out in a game.

Jones made four saves to keep the ball out of his net for Shen. Devin Bailey made seven saves to keep the game close for the Dutchmen.

The Plainsmen held a 7-4 advantage in corner kicks in the game.

"They have not lost a game in three years at their place," Kinnally said of Shen during the regular season. "They are a great team, but we had some great opportunities. Sometimes you come up here and think that you are going to get the same opportunities that you do against other teams. I think they are better than last year."

Last year’s Shen soccer team was knocked out of the Section II playoffs in the quarterfinal round. Guilderland beat the top-seeded Plainsmen on penalty kicks to advance to the Class AA semifinals.

"We have not been playing well in the back," Kinnally said of his defense on Saturday. "Today we did pretty well. It’s unfortunate that we gave up two goals. I would love to play them again."

"We’re back"

Kinnally sees this game as another stepping-stone for the Dutchmen in returning to its tradition of being a top contender in the Suburban Council year in and year out.

With just five seniors and a good junior varsity team, Kinnally thought his team would be a top contender next year. But this year, he thinks his team can finish in the top four in the league.

The seniors on the Dutch roster are captains Campagnano; Justin Sedefian, a defender; and defender Karl Mohr. Midfielder Zakary Duguay and goalie Scott Vincent are the other seniors on the squad.

"Our goal is not to play for one year," Kinnally said. "And it’s not to be just good because we have 15 seniors. We want to be in the top four in the Suburban Council year in and year out. And, in a bad year, maybe be the fifth seed."

After the Dutchmen hosted Colonie Wednesday night, they have just two more games before the Section II playoffs start. The Dutchmen are hoping to get a home game for the first round of the sectionals and will work toward that goal with games against Ballston Spa on Friday night at Union College. It will be Senior Night for the Dutchmen.

The Dutchmen wrap up the regular season with a date with Saratoga.

"I think we’re back," Kinnally said. "And I want to stay there. We’ve won too many games now, and I’m starting to like it."

Banged up Blackbirds fall in Coxsackie, 20-14

By Tim Matteson

VOORHEESVILLE — With a depleted roster, the Voorheesville football team put forth one of its toughest performances of the year.

But it wasn’t quite enough as the Blackbirds lost to a good Coxsackie-Athens team, 20-14, on Saturday night in the Greene County village.

Voorheesville was without Adam Duncan, who has been out since week four with a broken foot, and without starting running back Pat Jones, who injured his shoulder last Saturday.

Both play on offense and defense and they formed one of the best backfields among small schools in Section II. Also lost against Coxsackie were receiver and defender Chris Massaroni and offensive lineman Chad Hoffart.

"I think everybody understood that a share of first place was at stake," said Voorheesville Coach Joseph Sapienza, "and we had to do it without key people. But the thing that was upsetting was that we took control of the game."

The Blackbirds did take control of the game after forcing the Indians to turn the ball over on downs.

Voorheesville got the ball and moved it down the field. Starting on their own 46-yard line, the Blackbirds needed eight plays to get the first points of the game.

The Blackbirds got big runs to move the ball from fullback Dan Whiteley — replacing Duncan — and Jimmy Carroll — who replaced Jones.

Senior quarterback Jay Conde hit classmates Evan Christner and Massaroni — before he went out — with passes. Conde, then, ended the drive with an 11-yard run into the end zone.

Lee Fenner kicked the extra point and the Blackbirds led, 7-0, with 6:44 left in the first quarter.

Voorheesville forced Coxsackie to punt on its next possession and the Birds flew down the field again.

The Blackbirds started at their own 40-yard line and used an efficient offense to move the ball.

Whiteley capped the 12-play drive early in the second quarter with a three-yard run into the end zone. Fenner kicked the extra-point and the Blackbirds led 14-0 with 11:09 left in the second stanza.

Tide turns

The Birds looked to be so in control of the game, it’s hard to imagine that they would not score again for the rest of the game.

Coxsackie did score on its ensuing possession after Voorheesville got its 14-0 lead.

Indians’ senior quarterback Ryan Kane scored on a seven-yard run to cap an eight-play drive. The extra point failed and the Indians trailed, 14-6, with 7:24 left until halftime.

Voorheesville was forced to punt on its next possession, and Coxsackie took advantage of getting the ball back.

Kane received the punt at his own 35-yard line. He avoided some tacklers and used his quickness to return the punt to the Voorheesville 25-yard line.

A couple of runs by Matt Carlson moved the ball to the Blackbirds’ 13-yard line.

Then Kane capped the drive with a pass to Dave Dingman for a 13-yard score. Kane and Dingman connected on the two-point conversion attempt and the Indians tied the game, 14-14, with 4:07 left in the second frame.

The score would remain the same until the intermission.

The Blackbirds took the second half kick-off and got the ball on their own 18-yard line.

On the first play from scrimmage, Conde went back to pass and had the ball knocked out of his hand. Coxsackie recovered the ball on the seven-yard line.

Two plays later, Kane ran in from two yards out to give the Indians the lead. The extra-point kick was blocked by Christner and the score was 20-14 just 45 seconds into the 12-minute third quarter.

The score stayed that way for the rest of the game.

The Voorheesville defense did a good job of containing Coxsackie and Kane for the rest of the game to keep the Birds within striking distance.

However, without its key players, it was tough for Voorheesville to get on the scoreboard again.

The Blackbirds had two more decent shots at getting the winning score.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Voorheesville moved the ball down the field and got to the Coxsackie 33-yard line but turned the ball over on downs

Later in the quarter, Voorheesville moved the ball down as far as the Coxsackie 37 but did not gain any more yards. Conde threw a pass to Christner on fourth down, but the ball fell incomplete and Coxsackie took a knee for two plays to end the contest.

"Playing hard"

"We moved the ball well and played great defense," Sapienza said. "We gave up one kick-off return and one play changed the game. But we kept playing hard. We were limited in what we could do."

Conde did a good job of trying to pick up for the missing players. He ran the ball 20 times for 120 yards. He also completed seven passes for 86 yards.

Whiteley had a good game, rushing for 47 yards on 13 carries.

"The kids in the backfield did well," Sapienza said. "Jimmy has never played tailback before. We had a tryout at the beginning of the week and he won. He’s a good athlete and a tough kid."

Sapienza was also proud of Conde and the way he played.

"I told Jay before the game that this game was his to do things to generate the offense," the coach said. "He competed and played hard."

The loss drops Voorheesville to fourth in the Class C South Division. The Blackbirds will now get ready for the first round of the playoffs. They will have to travel to take on the number-one team from the North Division — undefeated Cambridge.

"We will prepare," Sapienza said. "It’s one more opportunity to do something.

"It’s not impossible," Sapienza added about winning the game. "Cambridge is the only undefeated team, but I believe they gave up 19 points last [Friday] night. All the playoff teams are good. There is no one dominating team. All the teams could do something."

Sapienza does not have to go far for an inspiring story. Last year, his Blackbirds were seeded eighth in the Class C Section II tournament and beat top-seeded Stillwater.

Plus Sapienza might have all his weapons back for Saturday’s 1:30 game, which will be held in the Washington County town.

"It’s a possibility we’ll have both of them back," Sapienza said of Duncan and Jones. "If both of those guys show up next week and are cleared to go, it will be an emotional boost. They’ll make something significant happen. If not, we’ll prepare for the number-one seed like last year."

Blackbirds queens of the court for fourth year

By Tim Matteson

VOORHEESVILLE — Another year, another championship for the Voorheesville girls’ tennis team.

For the fourth year in a row, the Lady Blackbirds have won a Section II championship. The Blackbirds won a title in either Class C or Class B for the past four falls. A drop-off in student enrollment bounced Voorheesville back down to Class C this season, after the Blackbirds won the Class B title last year.

Voorheesville beat a tough Maple Hill team, 4-3, last Wednesday.

"This one was a tough one," said Voorheesville Coach Tom Kurkjian. "We had six three-set matches and we were down in both our number two and three singles matches."

But both singles matches went to Voorheesville as players swept the top-four singles matches to win the championship.

Lexi Burtman won her match at the number-one spot. She won in three sets, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2.

Jackie Daly won her match in the number-two singles. She came from behind to beat her Maple Hill opponent, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Nazely Kurkjian, the coach’s daughter, won the number-three singles match also in come-from-behind fashion. Kurkjian won 5-7, 6-3, 6-1.

Siana Janesari won her match in the number-four singles to clinch the championship for the Lady Blackbirds. Janesari won 5-7, 6-0, 6-4.

Nell Pritchard dropped her match in the number-five singles in two sets.

The Voorheesville double teams also lost their matches both in three sets.

The team of Brittany Albright and Fannie Liu lost, 3-6, 7-6, 4-6. The number-two doubles team of Kathleen McArdle and Lara Norman lost their match, 6-7, 6-2, 1-6.

The Blackbirds beat Greenwich in the semifinals, 7-0, early last week.

"What is interesting with this win," Coach Kurkjian said of the championship, "is that we lost four seniors and three of them were singles players. The other was a doubles player. With that loss, other kids had to bring a decent level of play.

"Moving down to C’s I thought would make it a little easier," Kurkjian added. "But teams like Maple Hill are strong and well coached."

Kurkjian said his team had been playing well, but Maple Hill came out and put up a challenge and almost took the match from the Blackbirds.

"Certainly, if we kept playing the way we did, the match would have been lopsided," the coach said.

Looking ahead

Kurkjian will have to do some re-organizing of his line-up as he will lose some key players to graduation.

"We lost our number-one in Lexi Burtman," Kurkjian said. "She’s been our number-one for three years in a row. Number-one is a tough position to play. Teams like Holy Names and Albany Academy for Girls have year-round players. Lexi is a good player."

Pritchard will also graduate this year.

The two through four players this year will have to step up a spot for next year. Kurkjian feels confident that the players he has coming back will do that.

The year after that will be an even bigger question.

"Nine of the girls are in the same class," Kurkjian said. "I could be left with no people. I’ll have to push the gym teachers to get them involved in tennis. It’s a sport that can be played year-round and it is a life-long sport."

Kurkjian said he has never had anything like that happen to him before.

"We have had high-highs but never any low-lows," he said. "Before, it’s been win a title then be OK. But this year, I had one underclassmen and all the rest were juniors. But anything can happen."

Returning next year for Kurkjian will be Leah Simpson, Moira O’Donnell, Kortney Meyers, Jordan McCollum, and Armine Kurkjian.

"An interesting season"

The Lady Blackbirds lost just three matches as a team this fall. Voorheesville lost to Class B champion Albany Academy for Girls and to Holy Names, a finalist in Class A.

Voorheesville also lost to Ravena in a match where the Blackbirds were missing two starters.

"The losses we had were quality teams," Kurkjian said. "It was an interesting season. Greenwich came down and thought they had a shot in the final. They beat Maple Hill [during the season]. And Maple Hill was a surprising match. They are a good team and cause us anxiety."

Burtman and Daly are competing in the Section II individual singles tournament this week. Janasari and Nazely Kurkjian are competing as a doubles team at the tournament.

Tom Kurkjian has players on his team who have never lost a sectional match and Burtman is the first player Kurkjian has coached to win four sectional titles.

What is more amazing about the feat is that, at a small school like Voorheesville, kids come and kids go.

"At a small school, there is a lot of turnover," Kurkjian said." As good as my boys’ teams used to be, I never had a run of more than two or three. You get a group of friends that all come out and then they all graduate. I’m happy for the girls. It’s an accomplishment."

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