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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 1, 2009

Voorheesville locked in as Class C threat after thrilling win over Watervliet

By Jordan J. Michael

VOORHEESVILLE –– Blackbird football is alive and well after a dramatic win over Watervliet on Saturday.

Voorheesville (3-1) moved closer to the top of the Class C standings with a 28-to-21 win over the Cannoneers at home. The team has won three straight games and Head Coach Joe Sapienza is thrilled.

“I’m very pleased right now because this is our most gratifying win,” Sapienza said after the game. “We played as hard as we could. It wasn’t a pretty game; it was hard fought.”

Voorheesville’s Elliot Stryker made the game changing interception with 5:51 to go in the fourth quarter on a third down throw by Brandon Legault. That led to a Blackbird drive that broke the 21-to-21 tie.

“This was the type of game where you need a turnover,” said Stryker. “The defense made the quarterback rush the throw and I was watching the ball all the way.”

Max Schuster had a 13-yard rush for a touchdown with 1:51 left in the game, securing the win for the Birds.

“No one can think of us as a pushover anymore,” Blackbird quarterback Ryan Duncan said after the game. “Our confidence is at an extreme level after this win and we made a bunch of great plays. We were on top after the interception and nothing could bring us down.”

“Voorheesville is a decent team and we always get together for great games,” said Watervliet Head Coach Erick Bernard. “They made some plays and we didn’t make enough plays.”

Schuster got the first touchdown of the game halfway through the first quarter when he ran it up the gut for one yard. The extra point failed and Voorheesville was up, 6-0. Schuster ran for 196 yards on the day and is now 11th in Section II with 479 total yards.

Before the first quarter came to an end, Watervliet strung together a drive that featured running by both Ahshad Thompson and Ryan Manning. The first quarter ended with a first down by the Cannoneers at the Blackbird 27-yard line after a measurement.

Watervliet got on the board soon after the second quarter started when Manning broke a run to the right for a score. The kick failed, tying the game at 6 to 6.

“We knew that winning this game would be a huge boost, so we definitely planned to win,” Blackbird senior Chad Hoffart said. “Watervliet hadn’t played any great teams yet, so we were ready.”

All locked up

Voorheesville started its next drive on the five-yard line after a miscue on the kickoff. Thompson broke up a third-down pass by Duncan and the Blackbirds were forced to punt. The Cannoneers received the ball in good position on its own 45-yard line.

A personal foul on Voorheesville moved Watervliet to the 26-yard line with 6:30 left in the half. Seconds later, Thompson broke several tackles down the left side for a 24-yard touchdown run. Dave Donnelly caught a pass from Legault for the two-point conversion and the Cannoneers had a 14-to-6 advantage.

The two teams on Saturday always had an answer for the other team’s score and Voorheesville would not let the first half end without evening the game.

The Blackbirds started the process on its own 24-yard line and Duncan completed a pass to Stryker for 12 yards. Schuster followed that with a huge run of 35 yards into Watervliet territory with four minutes left.

Schuster kept the drive alive with a fourth-down run to the 15-yard line and Voorheesville was faced with another fourth down on the five-yard line with 31 seconds left. Duncan kept the ball and the offensive line led him into the end zone for the score. Stryker nabbed a pass for two more points.

The crowd cheered loudly as the Birds headed into halftime with a 14-to-14 tie.

The Blackbirds have had a nice balanced attack of running and passing this season and it continued on Saturday. Duncan complemented Schuster’s running with 79 pass yards.

“We’re trying to keep the offense as balanced as possible, so we can hit all our threats,” said Sapienza. “Watervliet had a really tight front on defense, so we were under a lot of pressure. Credit the offense for making some unbelievable plays.”

“We felt really good coming into this game,” C.J. Bouvier said. “Now, we have made a name for ourselves and gotten back to where we want to be.”

The Cannoneers were first up on offense in the third quarter and the Blackbirds’ defense got lucky. Hoffart blocked a pass at the line and Donnelly dropped a wide-open pass from Legault that looked to be touchdown worthy.

Tense football

Voorheesville put together another positive drive down the field that featured catches by Stryker, Mike Noland, and James Currier. Some running by Schuster pushed the Birds all the way to the six-yard line, and Duncan found Noland with 3:24 left in the third to put the team up, 21-14.

“We’ve had the edge over Watervliet in recent years,” Sapienza said. “They hadn’t beat us in four years until last season.”

Jordan Gleason got the Cannoneers great field position at the 50-yard line with a nice kick return and it wasn’t long before the team was in the red zone.

With 1:45 left in the third quarter, Watervliet decided to go for it on fourth and four from the 19-yard line. Legault threw a pass to the back left corner of the end zone and Manning made a tiptoe catch on the line over Currier, who had his back to the play.

It was an unbelievable catch and the fourth quarter would start with another tied game.

Stryker had a chance for an interception on Watervliet’s next drive, but it slipped through his hands. However, Thompson fumbled the ball and Jerry Clark recovered the ball, giving Voorheesville a first and 10 in Cannoneer territory. Watervliet argued the call, saying that the play was blown dead.

“The defense really stepped up big today,” said Duncan. “If we clean up a few mistakes, then this team will be very dangerous.”

The Blackbirds couldn’t capitalize on the turnover and had to punt the ball away. “The defense gave us a couple chances to win,” said Sapienza. “I’m glad we took advantage of at least one.”

After the pivotal interception by Stryker, the game was Voorheesville’s to decide. Currier, Duncan, and Schuster made big plays to create the game-winning score.

“This was a huge test for us today and we leave feeling pretty good,” Stryker said. “We should receive some respect from the league now.”

The Cannoneers had one final chance to tie the game and started a drive with 1:50 left on the clock. Kyle Touzin dropped a pass that would have resulted in a big gain, but then he caught a first-down pass moments later.

Manning fumbled the hand off from Legault and Hoffart recovered to officially give the Blackbirds the win.

“Bouvier came in and messed up their play and I fell right on the ball,” said Hoffart. “After that, everyone was shocked that it was actually over.”

Voorheesville will bring its three-game winning streak to Coxsackie-Athens on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

“This was the final piece to put things together and I’m really proud,” Sapienza said on Saturday. “This should send a message to everyone that we are a true contender for the Class C championship.”

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