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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 6, 2007

Some Athletic players from Guilderland

GUILDERLAND — The Albany Athletics of the Albany Twilight League had an outstanding baseball campaign this summer led by some Guilderland natives.

Joe Altieri of Guilderland led the Athletics as manager and general manager of the team. Two of his players — Tom Zink and John Marcella — are from Guilderland.

The Athletics concluded this past season as the most successful team in the long history of the Albany Twilight League.

The Athletics finished the season with a 46-7 overall record and a 20-3 mark in league play. The 46 wins set a franchise record for wins in one season. It is the second time since the 1980s that a team in the Twilight League has had 20 wins. The Athletics went 22-2 in 2001.

"I had a feeling we were going to have a special season when this team was put together," said Altieri, who has served as head coach and general manager for all 12 years. "We had a core of 14 to 15 players coming back and supplemented our roster with six to seven new players who really bolstered our pitching and offense.

"It was a lot of fun this year," Altieri added. "The guys on this team were intense, competitive, and talented and those are the perfect ingredients for success at this level."

The Athletics reached their first-ever North Atlantic Regional final, falling to Easton, Mass., 12-3, in the title game. It was only the second time a Twilight team has reached the regional finals since 1989 when Apex Printing won it and advanced to the National World Series. The Albany Senators reached the regional final in 2004, the same year that the Athletics finished third in the regionals.

The Guilderland players were major contributors to the success the Athletics had this summer.

Tom Zink, a 2004 Guilderland High School graduate, had a .342 batting average (38-for-111) and 17 runs batted in, and he scored 25 runs. He also had two home runs and 16 stolen bases.

Zink played all over the field, seeing time at catcher, right field, and third base this summer.

Zink attends the University at Albany and plays for the Great Danes during the spring.

John Marcella batted .310 (44-for-142) this summer for the Athletics. He had 40 RBIs, scored 28 runs, hit six home runs, and stole 11 bases this summer.

Marcella is the starting center fielder. He graduated from Christian Brothers Academy in 2003 and played baseball at The College of Saint Rose.

Altieri graduated from Guilderland in 1995. He improved his career record to 381-165-8 in his 12 seasons as coach. He had a 153-64-1 record in the Twilight League in 10 years as a member of the league.

The Athletics won their second consecutive Twilight League championship this summer as well as their second straight Upper New York Stan Musial League championship.

They are the first team to win back-to-back state and league titles since Apex Printing in 1992 and 1993.

The Stan Musial title was the seventh for the Athletics since 1998. The runner-up finish was the best ever for the Athletics.

The Athletics were ranked 21st in the pre-season National Amateur Semi-Pro Baseball Association nationwide poll.

The team got as high as number four in the NASPBA poll, which they reached on July 29.

The Athletics finished the season and are currently ranked sixth in the nationwide poll.

Bright lights on opening night for Dutch

By Tim Matteson

GUILDERLAND — Before the start of Friday night’s game, the Guilderland football players ripped through a banner that was held by the cheerleaders.

The banner read, "Friday Night Lights presents 2007 Gland Varsity Season Kickoff." There could have been a subtitle added to that: "Welcome to the Drew Smith Show."

The dynamic Smith scored on two electric plays and was backed by a strong defense as Guilderland shut down Albany, 20-0, to open the 2007 football campaign.

"We had a couple of explosive plays," Smith said after the game. "I got great blocking by the line. We have speed on the outside, but my passing wasn’t so good."

Smith moved from the wing back position to quarterback for this season. But he still made his presence known with his legs and not his arm. He did not complete a pass in the game.

Smith scored on a 75-yard punt return and a 53-yard run — both in the second quarter to give the Dutchmen a 20-0 lead. Senior running back Paul Booker scored the first touchdown of the game on a 10-yard run.

"Drew’s a neat kid," said Guilderland Coach Dan Penna. "Every time he has the ball in his hands, a big play can happen. Coach [Garth] Childs did a nice job in the off-season with him. We also want to utilize Drew’s speed."

"Championship-caliber kid"

Neither team scored in the first quarter. Albany had opened the game with a big long drive but fumbled the ball at the Guilderland 36-yard line. Senior linebacker Pete Stanish recovered the ball for the Dutchmen.

Guilderland would later capitalize on the turnover. The Dutch moved the ball to the 48-yard line.

As the second quarter began, Smith took the snap and the line opened a huge hole in the center of the line. Smith ran up the middle and wasn’t stopped until 42 yards later, and giving his team a first-and-goal on the 10-yard line.

Booker scored on the next play on a run around the right end, and Guilderland had a 6-0 lead with 11:27 left in the second quarter.

Guilderland forced the Falcons to punt on their next possession and the Dutchmen scored quickly.

Smith fielded the punt on his own 25-yard line. He made a couple of moves and broke a couple of tackles, then sprinted down the home-team sideline untouched as he got excellent blocking and strolled into the end zone to give his team a 12-0 lead.

Smith and Booker connected on a two-point conversion pass and the Dutchmen had a 14-0 lead with 9:48 left in the first half.

"We feel that we got our best athlete on the field," Penna said of Smith’s fielding punts. "He wants the ball in his hands and to make plays. We have other personnel that are capable of returning the ball.

"Drew is a championship caliber kid," Penna said. "At crunch time, he wants the ball. We always wants to win and he works hard."

The final score came with 4:52 left in the second quarter.

The Dutch recovered another fumble later in the second stanza as Devan Van Auken recovered a fumble by the Albany quarterback. Guilderland moved the ball to the 47-yard line of Albany.

On the next play, Smith took the snap and, in a play similar to his last long run, he ran up the middle and broke tackles before finding pay dirt and giving the Dutch a 20-0 lead. The extra-point kick was blocked.

"That run was a designed play," Penna said. "If the middle is wide open, the quarterback and center go. It was a big run, and we designed a lot of run plays to find seams in the defense."

Neither team scored the rest of the way. Both defenses played well, but Guilderland could not take advantage of three more Albany turnovers.

After Guilderland made it 20-0, Albany fumbled the ensuing kick-off. The Dutchmen recovered at the Albany 32-yard line, but could not score.

Smith just missed hitting Nick Ranalli with a pass in the end zone on first down, and then the Dutch lost yards on the next two plays and had to punt.

"Ranalli’s got like 4.4 [second] speed," Smith said. "I threw a pretty good ball. I wanted to show that we have a passing game, and that I am a double threat."

Guilderland also got an interception from Jesse Lutz in the fourth quarter. Parker Wolfe recovered a fumble in the second quarter after Paul Malamood knocked the ball out of an Albany runner’s hands.

"The four fumble recoveries were huge," Penna said. "It’s great to get turnovers. We had them go against us a lot of times. I’m proud of how we came up with those opportunities."

Smith finished the game with 118 yards rushing and no yards passing. Booker rushed for 66 yards for the Dutchmen.

"A lot of potential"

"I was really pleased overall," Penna said after the game. "We were physical for most of the game and we knocked heads for four quarters. Albany has a lot of speed and at times they got big plays.

"We showed our youth tonight," Penna added. "We didn’t adjust to different formations and we shot ourselves in the foot. We executed somewhat on offense and showed that we had big-play kids. But to be where we want to be, which is a championship contender, we really need to clean up our mistakes."

The Dutchmen did a good job of limiting Albany’s offense.

"They run the option and they have quick backs," Penna said. "We had to make sure we had quick pursuit and to break down when we were tackling. Overall, we did well. I was surprised we shut them out. If you were to say we would win by 20, I’d say we would win 40-20.

"Jesse made a big interception and almost had another one," Penna added. "Pete Stanish had another big game and Joe Cardillo at end was strong."

Penna is now looking for consistency for four quarters. He is confident it will come.

"We had first game jitters," the coach said. "We settled down in the second quarter and in the third we were flat. In the fourth, we picked it back up."

The Dutchmen travel to Queensbury on Saturday. Kick-off is at 1:30.

"The paper ranked teams and we were pretty high," Smith said. "But that is not good enough for us. We have a lot of potential. And I don’t know how anyone can stop us as long as we keep working and getting better"

"This is really big," Smith added of Friday’s win. "Last year, we made the playoffs, but we want to make a run."

Despite big win, Birds going back to work

By Tim Matteson

VOORHEESVILLE — Don’t get too excited, Voorheesville.

Saturday’s 42-14 win was against a second-year varsity program and Coach Joe Sapienza knows his team has a lot to work on but also has a lot of potential.

Voorheesville scored early and often then cruised to an easy victory against Hoosic Valley, which first played a varsity schedule last fall.

"We played well in spurts," Sapienza said. "We won the game, 42-14, but we lost, 14-7, in the second half."

Of course, with a 42-0 lead, Sapienza cleared his bench and his less experienced players gave up two late touchdowns.

Hoosic Valley showed a lot of pride and athleticism throughout the game and especially in the fourth quarter.

But Voorheesville also has a lot of new players on its varsity team as well.

"We had to rely on the younger guys, no doubt about that," Sapienza said. "We’ll get better as we go."

Big plays

Voorheesville received the opening kick-off and had its best drive of the game.

The Blackbirds started at their own 27-yard line and moved the ball down the field using the running of Pat Jones and Adam Duncan along with the passing of quarterback Jay Conde.

The Blackbirds scored in 12 plays. The 12th was a one-yard run by Jones for a touchdown.

Lee Fenner, the goalie on the Voorheesville soccer team, kicked the extra point to give the Blackbirds a 7-0 lead.

Jones scored on a 75-yard run later in the first quarter.

Hoosic Valley had a nice drive going but stalled on the Voorheesville 25-yard line as the Indians could not pick up a first down.

The Blackbirds took the ball and Jones got a hand off from Conde. Jones ran to the left side and up the visitors’ sideline untouched for a 75-yard score.

Fenner booted the extra point and Voorheesville led, 14-0.

Hoosic Valley had another good drive starting late in the first quarter. The Indians moved the ball and got a first-and-goal on the Voorheesville seven-yard line.

After a run lost three yards and an incomplete pass, another Hoosic Valley pass was tipped into the air.

The ball landed in the waiting arms of Voorheesville’s Jordan Murphy who raced down the far sideline and 93 yards later had a touchdown for the Blackbirds.

After Fenner’s extra-point kick, the Blackbirds led, 21-0, with 7:19 left in the second stanza.

Another interception on the next Hoosic Valley possession added to the Voorheesville lead.

The Indians attempted a short pass but defensive end Evan Christner picked the ball off the 37-yard line and raced untouched to the end zone for a touchdown.

Jones added a touchdown before halftime.

The Blackbirds recovered a fumble at the Hoosic Valley 36-yard line. Chris Massaroni covered up the loose ball to give Voorheesville possession.

Three plays later, Jones capped the drive with a 35-yard touchdown, his third of the game. After the extra point, the Blackbirds led, 35-0.

Voorheesville scored its final points in the fourth quarter.

Duncan scored on a 38-yard run with 9:50 left in the game. Fenner connected on the extra point for a 42-0 lead.

The Indians came back against the Blackbirds’ subs, scoring on the next two possessions before Voorheesville ran out the clock.

"Hoosic Valley is much improved," Sapienza said. "They are decent. They will win some games."

Sapienza was pleased with the win and with the way his team played in certain situations.

"With turnovers, we dominated," the coach said. "We forced turnovers and scored off them. But we did not play on every single down.

"The first drive was a very nice drive," Sapienza said, "but relied on the big play. And we left the defense on the field for too long."

Jones led the Blackbirds with 151 yards on 11 carries. Duncan added 59 yards on five rushes.

Murphy had two interceptions in the game and Christener had one.

"Our work cut out for us"

With a roster of just 23 players, Sapienza feels that his team got tired in the game.

"We are going to do a lot of running this week," he said. "We need to get in better shape."

The Blackbirds will have to do a lot of work quickly. They play Friday night at Tamarac High School.

"We have a short week to get a lot done," Sapienza said.

Sapienza also said that the Birds need to work on the offensive side of the ball. They have to get back to what has made the Blackbirds tough over the years.

"We need to get back to understanding that we need to drive the ball," Sapienza said. "We cannot rely on the big play. Somebody will take the big play away from us. We need to control the line of scrimmage. We have the ability to control the line of scrimmage. But we got shut down in the second half."

The Blackbirds can’t be so quick to score, but need to take their time and control the game and clock.

"We have to play every single offensive play like we did on that first drive," Sapienza said on Saturday. "And on defense, we have to play every single play like we did inside the 10. We stopped them, but we let them get there."

The coach knows that this team can make the proper adjustments and will get better each week. They will have to for this week’s game.

"This is a great group of kids," Sapienza said. "They have the type of character that they are not satisfied. I think we have our work cut out for us this week. Tamarac is a tough scrappy team."

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