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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 12, 2006

Dutch in the playoffs like its 1999

By Tim Matteson


That year has been in the thoughts of the Guilderland Dutchmen football players and coaches this season. And it is not because of elementary-school flashbacks.

The Dutchmen players have wanted to do something that hasn’t been done by a varsity team at the high school since the last year of the last millennium: Make the Section II playoffs.

And with a 28-12 win over Queensbury on Saturday, the Dutch earned their spot in the postseason and will be in uncharted territory.

"I told the guys before this game," said senior captain Kevin Forbes, "that I’ve been here for three years. I told them do it for us and do it for Coach. I’m proud of the kids. Everyone stepped up"This is a beautiful win for coach. We worked hard in the off-season."

Coach Dan Penna is in his second year of being the head coach but had been an assistant coach under Pete Schwan for six years.

Penna would be the last guy to take full credit for getting the Dutch to the playoffs. He would credit his assistant coaches — Bill Schewe, in his third year with the program, and old stalwarts Garth Childs and John Winters. Both Childs and Winters have coached in the lower ranks of the Guilderland program for years and got the call to the varsity this past season.

Penna also knows that it takes players who are willing to work and are dedicated to the program to make the postseason. And, for the most part, over the past seven years, the Guilderland program has had players like that. But this year, there is an added ingredient, a depth of talent.

The Dutch have had some talented kids, but this year’s team has more — the most this writer has seen, covering the team since the fall of 2000.

"We have great kids," Penna said. "We have great athletes. We have great coaches. We have great teamwork and the seniors have provided leadership. These things made it happen."

Forbes, and fellow three-year varsity player Kyle Hussey have been in the spotlight this season. So have classmates Greg Barcomb, Nick Zannotta, Tom Sweeney, Russell Qulia, Jarrell Gatterson, Donovan Lloyd, and Joe Lima.

Talented juniors Drew Smith, Paul Booker, Pete Stanish, Josh Sawyer, Parker Wolff, and Paul Malamood have also been huge contributors to the team’s success.

But, after Saturday’s game at Queensbury, Penna made sure to point out a group of kids who work hard every day but don’t see much playing time on Friday nights.

"I’ve got to credit the kids that simulated Queensbury’s offense and defense," he said. "They are a big part of this."

Penna then circled the names of several players on this reporter’s roster. He circled Jason Des Moines, Benjamin Kosinski, Raymond Callanan, Micheal Ward, Lee Russell, Paul Sheehan, Matthew Percoski, Alexander Leclair, Anthony Jasenski, Steven Miller, Ryan Cahill, Phillip Mazzotti, and Chris Murray. Murray subbed for an injured Ian Desol and long snapped on punts and extra-point kicks.

It takes a mixture of star athletes and hard-working yeomen to form a good team.

It also takes leadership from kids on the field.

"They do a great job," said Smith of the seniors. "Kevin Forbes at running back does a great job; Kyle Hussey with the linemen is tremendous. Greg Barcomb is a great leader. They all know what they are doing."

Since the last time the Dutchmen went to the playoffs, the team has had a one-win season and three 4-5 seasons. They shared the Gold Division championship in the old Suburban Council — before Section II did away with leagues and went to classification play before the 2004 season. The Dutch won three games in 2005, including two cross-over games.

"It’s always a goal," Smith said of making the playoffs. "Now our focus is on the playoffs and to earn respect. Other teams, I think, will start to respect us. We are now a team to be reckoned with."

Dutchmen respond to Queensbury’s challenge

By Tim Matteson

GUILDERLAND — The Guilderland Dutchmen had a lot to play for on Saturday. Everything they had worked for was almost taken away.

But a new attitude carried by this year’s team allowed the Dutchmen to overcome some on-field adversity.

Respond instead of react. That is what the Dutchmen did in the second half — especially in the fourth quarter — to pull away for a 28-12 win over Queensbury on a picturesque Saturday afternoon.

"We’ve talked to the kids to respond rather than react," said Guilderland Head Coach Dan Penna. "I’ll have to look at the game tape to see if we made those mistakes, but I’m proud of the fact we responded. We want to keep fighting and working harder and harder to control how the game turns out. I’m proud of how we responded today."

The win clinches a second-place finish in Division I of Class AA in Section II for the Dutch. The finish ensures Guilderland a spot in the upcoming playoffs, for the first time in seven years. (See accompanying story).

The Dutchmen trailed the Spartans, 12-7, late in the third quarter when adversity struck. And it basically struck one kid, junior Andrew Smith.

Smith took a hand-off from senior quarterback Greg Barcomb and had a long run that would have picked up a big first down, but a Guilderland player was penalized for an illegal block in the back and the play was wiped out.

Smith got the ball on the next play, and this time had an even more impressive run, hurdling defenders and using spin moves to get by would-be tacklers for a 69-yard touchdown run.

But another flag — this one for a holding call — wiped out the touchdown and essentially gave Smith a three-yard gain.

"The coaches have been telling us all year that the first reaction isn’t always good," Smith said. "They said that you want to be the first to respond and be prepared to face adversity. The first time, Nick [Ranalli] did a great job of doing that to keep the drive alive."

Ranalli made a big play as the fourth quarter began. He picked up 19 yards to give the Dutch a key first down.

The next play, Smith made his third impressive play of the drive, and this one counted, as he ran for a 47-yard touchdown to give the Dutch the lead.

Nick Zanotta kicked the extra point and Guilderland led 14-12.

"It’s heart"

The Dutch then got the break of the game as Queensbury responded with a long drive that put the Spartans in field-goal position.

Jeff Benway, the Spartans’ quarterback, attempted the field goal but it was wide right and kept the Dutch in the lead.

The Dutch responded with a 28-yard touchdown run by senior Kevin Forbes — set up by a 48-yard run by Smith — that gave the Dutch a 21-12 lead.

Paul Booker added the final touchdown for the Dutchmen on a 24-yard run with 1:24 left in the contest.

"It’s heart," said Forbes. "That is how good teams are made. Anyone can do well when things are going their way. But, when your backs are against the wall, that is when you find out how good you are. And we left it all here. We’re all sore but we’ll enjoy this weekend and start getting ready for Ithaca on Monday."

Slow start

The first quarter ended in a 0-0 tie, but Queensbury took the lead early in the second stanza.

Brad Middleton scored on a 24-yard run to give his team a 6-0 lead. The two-point run attempt failed.

Guilderland took the lead late in the frame. Forbes scored on a three-yard run to cap a nine-play drive — which included a big fourth-down run by Forbes — to even the score. Zanotta’s extra-point kick gave the Dutch the lead, 7-6.

The Spartans scored late in the third quarter after a long drive. Dominic Marino scored on a one-yard plunge into the end zone. Again, Queensbury failed to convert the two-point attempt and the Spartans had just a five-point lead.

The Dutch were able to come back with three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, using their depth and athleticism.

"Coming together"

"We came right back and it was like a shot of adrenaline," Penna said. "It got us going. At this point in the season, the kids are coming together. The heart the kids have was demonstrated today. You knew Queensbury wasn’t about to quit."

And Smith’s big plays were a help.

"Drew’s a terrific athlete," Penna said. "He has great spirit and is a team player. He took advantage of some nice holes. The line put hats on hats.

"Queensbury is a strong and tough team," Penna added. "We used our speed to our advantage."

Queensbury was able to use its running game for the most part, but never got the big play.

"They have four great backs," Penna said. "You can’t count on just focusing on one of them. Benway is a terrific runner at quarterback and their fullback [Marino] played extremely hard."

"This is great for us," Smith said. "This was a hard one. Queensbury is a great win. They came out physical and we let up a little. But we were able to hit and run and we executed."

The Dutch will be in the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

"They got there with Coach Schwan," Penna said of his predecessor Pete Schwan. "We’ve been working to get back ever since. And we could be a four, five, or six seed."

It has been a long time coming. But there is more the Dutch want to achieve, like finish the season with a winning record.

"Every year, we are knocking on the door," Penna said. "We have not pushed over the hump. We had a lot of enthusiasm for this game. We knew if we won we would be in the playoffs. One of our goals was to make it. And this will help with the other goals."

Voorheesville get win, Canjo clash next

By Tim Matteson

VOORHEESVILLE — The Voorheesville football team took care of business last Friday night and is ready to wrap up the regular season with a surprisingly big contest.

The Blackbirds will fly into Canajoharie on Friday night and take on a Cougars squad that beat Chatham. Chatham handed Voorheesville its only loss in September and Canajoharie is unbeaten in the league.

The Blackbirds set up the showdown with a 35-7 win over Tamarac last Friday.

"We pretty much controlled the tempo of the game," said Voorheesville Coach Joe Sapienza. "They did some pretty clever things on offense to take us out of the game. It was difficult for our big guys. They spread the ball out to move the ball and they were doing it. They wanted to have time of possession and things like that.

"But we settled in," Sapienza added. "They got a drive and score using that package but we adjusted to it and we were able to keep their offense off the field."

The Voorheesville offense also had a good day on the field.

"In the first half, we ran the ball well," Sapienza said. "In the second half, we passed the ball well."

Quarterback Jay Conde completed his first seven passes of the second half.

Junior running back Pat Jones rushed for 208 yards and scored two touchdowns. Conde connected with Tim Robinson for two touchdowns and Adam Duncan scored on a run for the Blackbirds.

Conde finished the game with nine completions for 106 yards and two touchdowns. Robinson caught six of those passes for 82 yards and caught the two scoring strikes.

Duncan rushed for 74 yards and also caught three passes for 48 yards.

"We are a significantly better team than we were against Chatham," Sapienza said. "We’ve improved in both offense and defense and special teams have gotten better. We are a good team in all facets of the game."

"Wide open"

But Class C is loaded with tough teams and a lot of balance.

"Every team has a loss," Sapienza said. "There is no dominant team. It’s a good opportunity for a team that’s peaking."

Three weeks ago, the Blackbirds were hoping for a second-place finish in the Southern Division of Class C and an automatic playoff spot. Now the Birds have a chance to win the division.

"We need to take care of what we have to do and see what happens in other games," Sapienza said. "The criteria they use for seeding, which is in its first year of use, is complex in how they apply it. We could have a scenario where we win the division and a scenario where we finish third."

Canajoharie’s win was surprising to Sapienza.

"That’s not to underestimate Canajoharie," the coach said. "But I thought Chatham was the team to beat. It’s wide open. There’s going to be some Class C team eliminated from the playoffs that could win games in the playoffs. It’s that balanced.

"It comes down to every quarter of every game," Sapienza added. "All of our divisional games, we were ahead in every quarter. We have enough quarter points to win the division."

Sapienza sees a lot of similarities between his team and Canajoharie.

"They are pretty balanced," he said. "They do a good job of spreading the ball around. They are a very efficient and effective team. What Canajoharie does on offense and defense is comparable to us. The defenses are the same and the offense is practically the same. It comes down to who is going to do it better."

The Blackbirds will be focusing on stopping the Cougars’ quarterback.

"He’s dangerous when he gets outside," Sapienza said. "They will want to control our running game. They’ll be stacked up against the run. Pat is the second leading rusher in Section II; they will be prepared to stop him. We’ll have to make plays through the air."

After two blowout games, the Blackbirds are looking forward to a competitive game.

"The kids are excited about it. They’re up. The challenge at this point of the season is wanting them to get better. But they’re motivated and excited about it. They know what’s at stake."

Blackbirds look to overcome frustrating losses

By Tim Matteson

VOORHEESVILLE — It has been a difficult season for the Voorheesville girls’ soccer team, though the team is showing signs of improvement.

The Lady Blackbirds lost to Mechanicville, 2-0, on Friday to remain winless in the Colonial Council, but played well enough to force the Red Raiders into overtime.

"This is another in a series of frustrating losses," said Voorheesville Coach Joe Santos. "But it is the best game we played. Once again, we were in the ball game and, once again, we lost on what are preventable goals."

The Blackbirds had a few chances to score in regulation and held off Mechanicville for the first 80 minutes of the game. But Mechanicville scored two goals in the first 10-minute overtime period to come away with a win.

The Red Raiders got tallies by Lexi Williams with 3:42 left in the overtime and Nicole Manupella with 30 seconds left.

"We are making progress since the beginning of the season," Santos said. "Record-wise, they are the third best team in the league and here we are in overtime. We had shots on goal that we haven’t had in the past. In this case, I’m pleased with the progress."

Voorheesville controlled play in the first half. The Blackbirds got scoring chances from Kelly Glath and had numerous well-placed corner kicks deep in Mechanicville territory by senior Hayley George.

The second half was played evenly between the two teams. Both teams had scoring opportunities but both missed the goal or were stopped by the other’s defense.

Mechanicville had a great opportunity but Blackbird goalie, Brittany Holcomb, came out of nowhere to make a spectacular diving save and keep the game scoreless.

Holcomb finished the game with 19 saves for the Blackbirds. Molly Denier made 13 saves for the Red Raiders.


Santos also credited the play of defender Lindsay Dembo.

"She works hard on defense," Santos said. "She is our sweeper and plays sideline to sideline. She knows what will be asked of her, which is do all that is possible. And, if you prove to yourself that you can do nothing more, nothing can be said. Lindsay is doing more to make up for lack of experience of the other girls."

Dembo is a tri-captain along with Holcomb and George.

George and Holcomb are seniors and Dembo is a junior. George will graduate in January and will move on to Syracuse University where she will play for the Orange.

"She was accepted to play there," Santos said. "And Lindsay Dembo has tremendous potential to be a sought after collegiate player."

The Blackbirds have only six seniors on their 20-player roster.

"It’s young in the sense that we have girls that do not have experience," Santos said of his squad. "In games, mistakes are made over and over again. And now, toward the end of the game, they are not in a situation enough to know what is happening."

But, Santos said, the effort is there.

"It’s not a lack of trying," the coach said. "It’s the little things that count. Like standing in front of a defender or behind. We need to be next to people, not four or five yards away."

It’s not just a difficult season for Santos but also for the seniors, especially George, who has been on the varsity since she was an eighth-grader.

"For Hayley," Santos said, "three years ago, we had a successful team. Three years ago, we won 16 games and now we have won two this year. This year, I’ve done a lot more coaching."

George is also battling injuries.

"She is not 100 percent," Santos said. "Last year, she had plantar facitis and this year she has had shin splints."

The Blackbirds have 10 league losses so far this season and after Friday’s game have just five games remaining to the end of the regular season.

The Birds played at Cohoes on Wednesday. Voorheesville then plays at Holy Names on Friday, Schoharie on Saturday and hosts Lansingburgh and Schalmont to wrap up the season.

Santos hopes for improvement in those final games.

"The losses are preventable losses," the coach said on Friday. "A game like today, we play very well. The goals are not something we haven’t discussed. That’s the frustrating part. We can’t practice this. There are mental issues. They have to visualize it mentally and see and react."

BKW volleyball team looks for consistency

By Tim Matteson

BERNE — It has been a frustrating season for the Berne-Knox-Westerlo girls’ volleyball team and its coach,Cathy Allen.

The Lady Bulldogs have a record of 4-9 but a lot of the matches have been close contests — including Tuesday’s loss to Schoharie.

"Most of our matches have gone four or five sets," Allen said. "We won our first two matches of the year. They have been long matches.

"We were out there for two-and-a-half hours today and we went five [sets] with them before," Allen said on Tuesday. "We went five sets with Duanesburg and we went five with Schenectady Christian. In most of the games, we have not been blown out. We have lost three matches in three games. We have trouble staying focused and finishing."

That was evident on Tuesday as the Bulldogs held on to win the fourth set and force a fifth and deciding set.

In the final game, BKW took an early lead — the biggest at 6-2 — but Schoharie came back to tie the game at 7-7 and took the lead at 8-7 and never looked back.

The Indians won the final set by a score of 25-15.

Putting it together

BKW has five seniors and five juniors on the 10-player roster. Six of the 10 players are returning from last year.

"We serve well and we have a couple of hitters in Meghan Leonard and Kristen Spinnato," Allen said.

Of the four girls who were brought up from the junior varsity, Sarah Hallenbeck has made a major contribution. Hallenbeck has played a big role in the setter position.

Leonard along with Heather Plouffe, Tracy Williams, Kerri Rossback, and Danielle Theilson from the senior group of players. Athena Kelly, Liz Hallenbeck, Heather McCormick, Sarah Hallenbeck, and Spinnato are the juniors on the roster.

Allen schedules a lot of tough teams in non-league games; there are also some tough teams in the Western Athletic Conference.

"It’s not just in the league," Allen said. "We play Maple Hill and Hoosic Valley. We are also in the Argyle Tournament this weekend. Glens Falls, Saratoga, Ballston Spa, Hoosic Valley, Broadalbin-Perth, and Lake George are there. It’s a very tough tournament."

Glens Falls, Saratoga, Ballston Spa, and Broadalbin-Perth have much larger enrollments than BKW. Hoosic Valley and Lake George are two of the top teams in Class C, which is the same size as BKW.

The Lady Bulldogs have had their moments this season. One was in a match they lost in three games against a skilled team.

"Against Spa Catholic we played so well," Allen said. "We lost in three games but they were well-played. I said to the girls, ‘If we play like that against other teams, we win in three games.’ One day, they play well and others they don’t."

The season is nearing an end for the Bulldogs. They won’t be going to the Section II Class C playoffs because they need a .500 record and won’t be able to reach that mark.

"It’s about passing, receiving serves, and generating things," Allen said. "We just need to put those things together."

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