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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 9, 2010

Christmas comes early for Coach Sapienza
Voorheesville clamps down on Raiders in first game

By Jordan J. Michael

VOORHEESVILLE –– Six-and-a-half is a fine number for the amount of quarterback sacks by a team in one football game. Zero is a better number when it’s the opposing team’s score.

The Blackbirds’ defense sacked Mechanicville’s quarterback six-and-a-half times while holding the team scoreless during Saturday’s Class C season opener in Voorheesville. The Blackbirds’ defense started the afternoon’s scoring with a two-point safety.

Mike Noland set up the safety with an excellent punt to the two-yard line. The Red Raiders’ David Funaro got stopped at the goal line by Voorheesville’s defensive line, and Brian Katchman dropped Funaro down in the end zone, resulting in two points for the home team.

“I thought, coming in, that our defense would be physical, and it was,” said Blackbirds’ Head Coach Joe Sapienza after the game. “We played hard and shut out a good team. It’s a great start to the season.”

Voorheesville was churning on offense, too, with senior quarterback Ryan Duncan leading the way with 12 of 16 pass competitions for 123 yards and a touchdown. Duncan completed at least one pass to all four receivers in the 21-to-0 win.

Duncan said that running backs Max Schuster and Jason Slingerland were averaging six yards per carry in the first half. Schuster and Slingerland both ran in for a touchdown in the first half.

“There were a few mishaps on offense, but we executed very well,” Duncan said. “The line gave us excellent protection.”

The Blackbirds would have played a flawless game if it weren’t for numerous penalties. Early on in the first quarter, Duncan found James Currier for a 35-yard score, but it was called back for an illegal shifting penalty.

“Those silly penalties are a disappointment, but it comes from my players not wanting to make mistakes,” Sapienza said. “They’re out there trying to get the job done and trying not to let the team down.”

Mechanicville’s reward for surrendering a safety was to give the ball back to the Blackbirds. Duncan completed a 34-yard pass to Nick Brockley, and then hit Currier for a first down at the 10-yard line. Slingerland powered up the middle for a touchdown and an 8-to-0 lead with 3:37 left in the first quarter.

Voorheesville’s defense smothered the Raiders in the second quarter. Alex Kundel recovered a fumble; Anthony Scaccia sacked Sam Connors for a huge loss on third down; and Jacob Wood recovered a fumble on a botched punt attempt.

“They weren’t picking anyone up,” Slingerland, who had two sacks, said of Mechanicville’s offensive line. “We were owning the interior line.”

The Blackbirds were only 15 yards away from the end zone after Wood’s fumble recovery and Schuster wasted no time running it in for a score, basically untouched. Voorheesville was up, 15 to 0, with just over a minute left in the first half.

On the Raiders’ next drive, Slingerland sacked Connors for a 15-yard loss, and Connors had to leave the game with a dislocated thumb. It was uncertain at that point if Mechanicville could make a comeback, but losing Connors was detrimental.

“This team doesn’t have much depth, so that hurt us a lot,” Mechanicville Head Coach Kevin Collins said of Connors’s injury. “It’s back to the drawing board after today.”

The Red Raiders committed another punting mistake and it gave Voorheesville the ball with nine seconds left. It took Duncan one play to cover the 30 yards for a touchdown –– finding Brockley near the end zone, wide open.

“I’m impressed with the defensive intensity and the balance on offense,” said Sapienza.

Slingerland told The Enterprise that Sapienza referred to Saturday’s season opening game as “his Christmas.”

“We’ve been preparing since last season ended,” Slingerland said. “It was something to look forward to.”

Now that the first game is out of the way, Voorheesville is looking forward to a huge divisional game at Fonda on Saturday at 1 p.m. Even though it’s early in the season, the game could decide first place down the road.

The Blackbirds will have a tough time with Fonda if it doesn’t fix its penalty issues.

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“There’s always more work to be done,” Slingerland said. “One day at a time.”