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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 10, 2009

Voorheesville football skips a beat, loses to Chatham in opener

By Jordan J. Michael

VOORHEESVILLE –– Blackbird Head Coach Joe Sapienza was let down by the final score of Saturday’s season opening football game, a 35-to-14 loss to Chatham at home.

“I’m thoroughly disappointed with this outcome,” Sapienza said after the game. “I really doubt that Chatham is that much better than us because we’re a viable contender in this league.”

Sapienza told The Enterprise that the mistakes in Saturday’s game might have come from a lack of confidence.

“We haven’t beat Chatham in a long time, but we can’t be afraid of failure,” said Sapienza. “We got into a rut of making mistakes and my players start to say, ‘Here we go again,’ and start to get down on themselves.”

Josh Keyes gave the Panthers a 6-to-0 lead on the first drive with a 55-yard touchdown run. Keyes ran for 183 yards in the game and had four total scores, including one through the air.

“We knew Keyes was going to come out and make great plays,” said junior running back Max Schuster, who had 128 rushing yards for the Blackbirds. “We came out as a team and played with heart and toughness, but we didn’t fully execute.”

With 4:02 left in the first half, Keyes broke another big run down the sideline for a touchdown of 45 yards. Tanner Niles completed a two-point conversion to David Coon to give Chatham a 14-to-0 lead.

“This was in no way our best game,” said Voorheesville quarterback Ryan Duncan. “I think we were a little nervous. We worked all week on defense but they still broke big plays.”

Matters got worse for the Blackbirds when James Currier mishandled the ensuing kickoff and Chatham recovered on the 25-yard line. Keyes ran the Panthers to the 10 and Coon ran the rest for another score.

It was a 21-to-0 advantage for Chatham in a matter of 30 seconds. Voorheesville and its fans were dumbfounded.

“My guys kept fighting, but our penalties and turnovers gave them points,” Sapienza said. “Those two quick scores had us fighting for our lives.”

Bad luck?

Voorheesville got the ball back and went three and out for another punt. But, on the kick, Keyes slid and touched the ball, leading to a Blackbird recovery. The purple and white had another chance to turn the game around.

Elliot Stryker made a 10-yard completion and so did Currier. Schuster broke a 25-yard run and the Blackbirds were in scoring position on the 10-yard line.

Another tough break for Voorheesville would follow.

Duncan threw a low pass to Currier near the one-yard line and somehow Chatham’s Ian McGrath came up with the interception. The ball looked to have hit the ground, but the officials awarded the ball to the Panthers.

“There were multiple key plays in this game, but that interception was a real killer,” Duncan said. “We had a real shot to turn things around. I was scratching my head after that.”

“Duncan is an intelligent quarterback and knows not to turn the ball over,” said Sapienza. “He threw it where only Currier could grab it down low. That was one of the many times I thought we would seize the moment, but we shot ourselves in the foot.”

Chatham retained its 21-to-0 lead at halftime.

The Blackbirds had a drive going in the beginning of the third quarter, but Jordan Brahm picked off Duncan’s pass. The Panthers turned the interception into a touchdown at the other end. Voorheesville was down, 28-0.

Sapienza and his team have some things to work on before playing Catholic Central at home on Sept. 12. “We need to clean up our pass coverage, tackle better, and drop less passes,” he said. “That pretty much sums up today’s game.”

The Blackbirds added a couple late touchdowns and five different receivers caught passes from Duncan, who threw for 134 yards.

“We got some good yards on the ground from Schuster and some yards through the air,” said Sapienza. “I’m pleased with the offensive balance.”

Coach Sapienza would like to see more execution in future contests.

“The jobs of today were left unfinished,” he said. “Given the character of these guys, I don’t think they’ll be able to live with unfinished business.”

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