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Albany High’s Late Surge Halted, Patriots ground Falcons

September 14, 2015

by Justin Porreca

With both defenses seemingly impregnable for the majority of the game, it came down to late turnovers by the Albany High Falcons that pushed the Schenectady High Patriots to victory, 13-12, Saturday afternoon.

Both offenses lacked execution; with neither team producing quality drives in the first half. Clogged running holes and incompletions plagued the first half. However, turnovers changed the pace and tide of the game in the second half.

“Today we just needed to do a better job and once again we will get back at it on Monday and look to get better offensively blocking, getting better running the ball and our running backs getting better reads,” said Coach Joey DiPiazza. “Big picture we want to be a team playing late into the season, we need to be able to run the football.”

Albany High Defensive End, Phillip Williams leaps and swats quarterback, Nate Schneider’s pass attempt/Justin Porreca

Albany High Defensive End, Phillip Williams leaps and swats quarterback, Nate Schneider’s pass attempt/Justin Porreca

It was a tale of two halves for both teams. Still a defensive duel, it came down to execution and the capitalization of turnovers and miscues. The Falcons lost the turnover battle, 3-2, and one key turnover late in the game proved to be the deciding factor.

The Patriots lone offensive score came from a 3-yard touchdown run by tailback Collin Derboghossian. It was their lone offensive highlight for the afternoon. However, the drive was extended due to a key pass interference call on cornerback Aaron Shields on fourth down that brought the Patriots into the red zone where they would exploit the Falcons mental mistake.

With 8:12 left in the fourth quarter and the Falcons down by six, they needed the offense to come alive, and they did. Albany High’s offense drove the ball into Patriots territory, only to make a debilitating mistake.

On first down inside the 20-yard line, Lamar Grady took the hand-off, was met by a slew of Schenectady defenders, held up and stripped. Cornerback Sa’kim McNeil would pick up the loose ball and return the fumble 86 yards for the score, increasing Albany High’s deficit to 13.

Down 13-0, and down two tailbacks, the Falcons had 6:05 left in the fourth quarter to make a comeback.

Joey DiPiazza would turn to back up quarterback, Semaji Jones, to lead the team, after Noah John struggled once again to push the ball downfield.

However on his first drop back, Jones threw an interception in the flat, which the Patriots failed to convert into points to seal the Falcons fate. He would settle down after that, and put on a show.

With 5:08 on the clock and down by two scores, the pressure was on Jones to carry his team. On first down, he dropped back and threw a 53-yard bomb to wide receiver Jerrel Chaney for a touchdown, reinvigorating a mute Albany crowd. The extra-point was blocked making the score 13-6 with 4:56 left.

With pressure in his face, Patriots quarterback, Nate Schneider, sits poised in the pocket and heaves a deep pass/Justin Porreca

With pressure in his face, Patriots quarterback, Nate Schneider, sits poised in the pocket and heaves a deep pass/Justin Porreca

Schenectady would get the ball and proceed to milk the clock, forcing DiPiazza to use his timeouts. However, on a 3rd and 4, with 2:12 remaining on the clock, Schenectady High opted to pass instead of running the ball to kill the clock. Quarterback Nate Schneider dropped back and heaved a deep ball intended for Maurice Tillman that fell incomplete, stopping the clock and forcing the Patriots to punt.

“That was the call to make. The box guys saw something, we had the matchup that we wanted, and even with the matchup that we wanted, the perfect ball the perfect route, sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your way,” said Coach Mark Cerrone. “I wouldn’t have questioned it, I would have done it all over again.”

With 1:51 left on the clock, Albany High needed to drive 60-yards and in a hurry. On first down, Jones would drop back once again and proceed to key on Chaney. Throwing a deep ball in his direction, he would bobble it initially, but then make a dazzling one-handed grab and take it to the end zone. A 60-yard catch a run by Chaney made the score 13-12.

“I felt the pressure, just escaped the pocket and I noticed throughout the game that the corner was soft and that it was a mismatch, so I knew I was going there,” Jones said.

DiPiazza opted to go for two and the win. However that wouldn’t be the result. On the two-point conversion, Jones would take the snap and get pummeled, never getting the opportunity to get the play into motion.

With score still 13-12, the Falcons needed a miracle, but the magic ran out. Schenectady would recover the onside kick and proceed to run the remaining time off the clock.

Running back, Ky’Ere Tillery takes the pitch and looks up field for a hole to run through/Justin Porreca

Running back, Ky’Ere Tillery takes the pitch and looks up field for a hole to run through/Justin Porreca

Albany High struggled to run the ball, but they lost their starting running back Ky’Ere Tillery and their back up tailback, Syeed Holtzclaw, to lower leg injuries in the second half.

“They’re going to rest up today, obviously, they’re going to rest up, ice up, they’ve met with the trainer, we’re going to evaluate them tomorrow and see what it looks like for the week,” DiPiazza said. “We’ll get a better idea tomorrow as far as how it looks and just make sure we take care of it going forward.”

Both squads have several areas to improve on going into practice this week, focusing on ball security will be one of them.

“We don’t like putting the ball on the carpet at all, so that’s going to be addressed and fixed going into next week,” Cerrone said.

Derboghossian was pleased with his team’s effort Saturday, especially after last week’s debacle. However, he understands there’s work that needs to be done.

“Obviously we had a few miscarriages that fell on the carpet, we’re going to make an improvement on that this week.”

As for Albany High, it’s back to the drawing board. Working on fundamentals and cleaning up mental mistakes will be key this week.

“The goal in practice this week is looking to get better today, than what we were yesterday in all aspects, offensively, defensively, special teams, knowing your assignments, did you do your job and execute,” DiPiazza said.

Chaney would like to see his team improve on execution and have more passion in the early-goings of games going forward.

“The team just needs to improve on, just getting that initial push in the beginning of the game, coming out fierce with fire, instead of having it come out later in the game when we are down. We need to get out first and keep it pushing.”

It’s homecoming week for the Falcons, and they have an afternoon duel, next Saturday, home against Ballston Spa. As for the Schenectady High Patriots they are on the road against Shaker High School.

“The teams that are successful and are playing late in the season are teams that are able to run the football and that’s what this program is going to be about, is being able to run the football and playing good defense,” DiPiazza said.-30-

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