Blackbirds still growing wings
The Enterprise — Jordan J. Michael
Contemplation: Voorheesville Head Coach Joe Sapienza, left, addresses his football team after a fight broke out on the field in the fourth quarter against Taconic Hills last Saturday. Andrew Waldbillig, Justin Lee, and Scott Roney were ejected from the game for the Blackbirds. Voorheesville won, 33 to 6.
VOORHEESVILLE — The Blackbirds easily handled Taconic Hills last Saturday, but the football team is striving for much, much more.
Voorheesville is 3-2 in Class C entering a Week 6 game against crossover opponent Granville (2-3). However, a burden to the Birds’ winning record is abysmal losses to Fonda (49-12) and Chatham (61-6).
The Blackbirds are still growing, still learning.
“We’re still developing,” said senior Slater Nolan after the 33-to-6-homecoming victory over Taconic Hills; he caught two touchdowns. “You have to keep developing, getting the chemistry together, and that’s where we still are, unfortunately.”
Chatham is steamrolling opponents in 2013; the Panthers beat Fonda, 44 to 14, in Week 5. What separates Chatham and Fonda from the rest of Class C?
“Their defensive aggressiveness was 10 times better than ours,” Jared Paigo said from his experiences. “They come out ready to hit, looking to hit you hard. If you look afraid, they come at you even harder, so we’re trying to bring that mentality to our game.”
Play against Taconic Hills was physical, and a fight broke out in the fourth quarter. Voorheesville players Andrew Waldbillig, Justin Lee, and Scott Roney were ejected from the game for “unsportsmanlike conduct.”
Paigo was talking about Voorheesville’s need to be tougher, but fighting people probably wasn’t what he was thinking.
Head Coach Joe Sapienza prides himself with maintaining composure during a game, and expects his players to follow his lead. “That should never happen,” he said, referring to the fight. “If you get into, ‘He did this,’ or ‘He did that,’ then you have rationale for throwing a punch, and I can’t say that’s OK; I can’t.”
Matt Feller, who rushed for 149 yards and a touchdown against Taconic Hills, said that Voorheesville is making a lot of mistakes. The Birds’ execution has room to mature.
“There were a few highs, but like Matt said, there’s some stuff that we have to clean up,” Nolan said. “It was nice to win, but we could have done better.”
Voorheesville didn’t seem excited to beat Taconic Hills by 27 points; the team wanted a shutout. The Titans are 0-5, one of the worst Class C teams.
“They have very high expectations as football players, as leaders, and they want to do the best that they can do,” Sapienza said of his players. “They play very hard, but make some mistakes that they probably shouldn’t be making at this point.”
Coming off that depleting loss to Chatham in Week 4, did Voorheesville improve?
“Definitely,” said Sapienza after Saturday’s game. “We talked about making our defense better; we’ve given up a lot of points . Today, our defense got better.”
Sapienza told The Enterprise that Voorheesville picks something specific to progress on every week. “We address things every Monday; that’s what a good football team does, figure out their weaknesses,” he said. “Then, you fix them.”
But, focusing on specifics can be a double-edged sword, Sapienza said.
“Sometimes, you fix those problems, but then something else goes by the wayside,” he said. “It’s a constant battle to make sure that everyone understands that every single play, every block, every special team, makes a difference against a good opponent. It takes a while for the kids to understand that.”
Voorheesville realizes that Fonda and Chatham may be superior teams, but that doesn’t mean that it’ll lie down and die if it sees those opponents in the playoffs.
“We still have potential to come back,” Feller said.
“We can’t ever settle for enough,” Nolan added. “Got to keep pushing.”
Still, Chatham is a very experienced, senior-laden team that probably won’t lose this season.
“They’re that good, that’s the main thing,” Sapienza said of Chatham. “That’s a state- championship-contending team. I always think teams can get better every week, make game plans to put themselves in a position to win, but I consider Chatham the frontrunner.”
What is Voorheesville to do if it is lined up against Chatham (5-0), Fonda (4-1), or Hoosick Falls (5-0) in the Class C playoffs?
“We’re going to prepare and go after them,” said Sapienza. “That’s all we can do.”