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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 29, 2009

Dutchmen stun top ranked LaSalle in Class AA quarterfinals

By Jordan J. Michael

TROY –– Regular season records don’t mean anything in the post-season. No football team in Section II knows that better than the Flying Dutchmen.

Guilderland entered Friday night’s rain-soaked Class AA quarterfinal game at LaSalle one week after being blanked, 39-0, by Ballston Spa. The team was up against the top- ranked undefeated Cadets.

To LaSalle’s dismay, the Dutch forced overtime and Michael Lavelle put an extra point through the uprights to seal the 34-to-33 upset. The Cadets have won three of the past four Class AA Super Bowls, including the 2007 title contest, beating Guilderland, 28-17.

Dutchmen senior Matt Ward and sophomore Tony Stanish, who both had big plays in Friday’s game, had older brothers who played in the 2007 Super Bowl loss against LaSalle.

The Cadets came back from 17 points down to win that game. Ward and Stanish told The Enterprise that Guilderland finally got its payback.

“This couldn’t feel any better right now because Stanish and I were at that 2007 game and it hurt so bad,” said Ward after the game on Friday. “Have you ever seen that movie Miracle? About the United States hockey team? Well, its like we were the Americans and LaSalle was the Russians. It was that crazy.”

“We just went out on that field and made plays when we had to,” said Stanish, who made the game-tying score in the final seconds to force overtime. “We’re all pretty spent right now.”

“We had the right kind of vibe going for us tonight,” said Peter Quinn, who caught the game-winning touchdown from quarterback Ryan Smith in overtime. “We kept coming back at them every time they scored and we got the last point.”

Smith said that he has never seen more resilience from a team in his entire life. “We came in here with a bunch of confidence and we knew we could do this,” he said after the game. “It feels great.”

“My players really stepped up and it makes me proud,” said Dutch Head Coach Dan Penna. “We took advantage of all the opportunities given to us.”

Wet pigskin

The rain poured down for the entire game, but that didn’t slow down the offense of either team. The Cadets and the Dutch went punch for punch.

Guilderland jumped out to an early 6-to-0 lead on a touchdown pass to Quinn and the first half ended with the same score. Smith got sacked twice on the first drive of the second quarter and LaSalle went to work.

Cory Rifenberick moved the chains quickly for the Cadets and the offense was well into Dutch territory. Quarterback Michael Murray completed a pass to Michael Koberger on fourth down and then completed another throw to Nick Edgington for the 16-yard score. The point after was blocked, tying the score at six.

Guilderland’s Luke Stark and Matthew Callahan were both injured in the game and Coach Penna had to make some changes. “We had to switch things up when they went down,” he said.

The Dutchmen got the ball at its own 22-yard line with about four minutes remaining in the first half and Smith threw an interception to John Spychalski on the first play. But, the red and white played solid defense and got the ball back.

Guilderland decided to go for it all in the final minute and Smith hurled a pass 50 yards to Stanish for a touchdown with 14 seconds remaining. Smith showed why he’s leading Section II in passing yards and the team took a 13-to-6 lead into halftime.

“Records don’t mean anything. What matters is the size of fight in you,” Ward said. “We’ve never lost faith in our team. We truly believe that any game can be won.”

Upset city

LaSalle started the third quarter with the ball, but Rifenberick fumbled it and Guilderland took over. Spychalski was the nemesis yet again, picking off another pass by Smith.

The Cadets started the drive at its own one-yard line and Edgington eventually got his team to the Guilderland 18-yard line with a catch. The 99-yard drive was capped by a two-yard touchdown run by Tyler Washington and the score was now tied at 13 with 3:08 remaining in the third quarter.

LaSalle started a drive as the third quarter was ending and Vinny Planz put his team on top with a 75-yard touchdown run right at the beginning of the fourth quarter. The Cadets led, 20-13.

The Dutchmen received the ball at its own 44-yard line and put together an impressive drive to answer LaSalle. Quinn kept it alive by catching a fourth down pass and Matt Zanotta also got a first down on a fourth and short.

Smith threw passes to Matthew Wyland and Quinn in the end zone, but they couldn’t connect. This brought up another fourth down play from the 20-yard line. The pass fell incomplete, but pass interference was called on Spychalski to give Guilderland a first down at the 10-yard line with 4:35 left in regulation.

Ward caught a five-yard pass from Smith and barreled his way into the end zone for the score. However, the Dutch decided to go for two and missed, leaving the Cadets with a 20-to-19 lead and only minutes to go.

“There is nothing left in our bodies that isn’t out on that field,” Quinn said after the game. “We just pulled one of the biggest upsets ever. How awesome is that?”

LaSalle started the next drive in Guilderland territory after a short kickoff. The Dutch held the Cadets to a fourth and nine with 2:34 left at the 30-yard line. It looked like Guilderland would get the stop, but Rifenberick found a hole for the touchdown and the score was now 27-to-19.

The Dutchmen had one final push for all the marbles and the team would not disappoint the many fans that showed up in Troy on this memorable night.

The 70-yard march started with a Quinn completion to the 48-yard line, but the Dutch were faced with a fourth and eight. Ward caught the pass and was marked short, but Edgington was called for a late hit, giving Guilderland another shot.

The Dutchmen decided to use a little trickery with 0:32 left from the 25-yard line. Wyland caught a pass from Smith and he pitched it to a sprinting Stanish who carried it in for the score.

“Wyland ran a hitch-and-go and I ran a hook-and-ladder,” said Stanish. “I turned the corner on Edgington and I was home free. I love that play and, thankfully, it worked out.”

Guilderland had to make a two-point conversion to send the game into overtime and the situation looked bad when Smith dropped back, slipped, and threw up a prayer. Ward dove out of nowhere to make the catch and the Dutch sideline erupted into pandemonium.

“Ward made a serious play. It was all him,” said Smith. “We needed to extend the game.”

“I saw Smith slip and we made eye contact for a second,” Ward said. “I knew the ball was coming my way, but I didn’t know where it would land. God bless the dive, man.”

Wet and wild

There was still 10 seconds remaining in regulation and the Cadets almost won the game on the ensuing kickoff. Guilderland forced the ball carrier out of bounds as the clock ran to zero.

For overtime, each team would receive the ball at the 20-yard line. LaSalle got the first chance and Planz ran it in for the score on the first play. The snap for the extra point was bad and the Cadets led, 33-27.

The missed extra point by LaSalle would be the open door for Guilderland.

The Dutch didn’t score on the first play from the 20-yard line, but Smith found Quinn in the back of the end zone for the nine-yard touchdown. The Guilderland fans went into frenzy once again.

“There was no safety on me and I got tunnel vision,” Quinn said of the winning touchdown. “This night won’t ever leave my memory.”

The winning kick by Lavelle took four snaps, but it finally went through, and the Guilderland fans stormed the field in celebration.

“I was worried about the kick because everyone was so hyped up,” said Penna. “But, it just gave Lavelle more practice and he finally nailed it.”

It was an amazing win for the Dutch. The players will enjoy the win over LaSalle until they travel back to Ballston Spa for a rematch in the Class AA semi-finals this Friday at 7 p.m.

“We’re going to soak up this win and not worry about what to do next,” Penna said. “The road will be tough and teams will be playing even harder. LaSalle may have under-estimated us tonight. That won’t be the case next week.”

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