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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 11, 2008

Dutchmen struggle in season opener

By Jordan J. Michael

BETHLEHEM –– The Guilderland varsity football team knew that the Bethlehem Eagles would be an extremely tough match-up. But the Dutchmen expected to complete more than a single first down in the opening half.

“We came out sluggish against a real good team,” said Head Coach Dan Penna. “We have to come out with more fire power in situations like these.”

The Dutchmen opened the 2008 season against the Eagles on a humid Friday evening at Bethlehem Central High School. Despite a 29-to-7 loss, the Guilderland faithful were louder than the home team fans.

“This is quite the opening game,” said one Dutchmen fan. “Bethlehem doesn’t have any idea what’s coming.”

However, it seemed as if Bethlehem had a very good idea of what was coming from the Dutch. The Eagles read Guilderland like a book throughout the entire game, on both sides of the ball.

The Dutchmen started the game with the ball, but quickly went three downs and out. It wouldn’t take long for Bethlehem to score. It scored on the first drive of the game.

Eagles senior captain Sean Murphy ran the ball in for the first score of the game, with 5:57 left in the first quarter. It was the climax of a blanketing drive downfield.

Guilderland’s second drive ended with another three and out. The frustration was building, due to Bethlehem’s stranglehold defense. Bethlehem ended the first quarter with the ball and a 6-0 lead.

The Eagles decided to go for it on fourth and two, after a third down stop by the Dutchmen. Bethlehem gained five yards on the play and set up another shot at the end zone.

After a near touchdown pass, Murphy ran the ball it in from five yards out for his second touchdown of the evening. Bethlehem succeeded on a two-point conversion to make it 14-0 with 8:39 left in the second quarter.

“It’s the first game of the season. They have first-game jitters,” said Randy Stark, father of Guilderland running back Lucas Stark.

The Dutchmen would have another go at it with the ball, but could not buy a first down. “It was disappointing. All we needed was one first, but their defense was a wall,” said Penna.

Bethlehem started the next drive on its own 30-yard line. Sam Gallup almost broke a big run for a score. The Guilderland defense let Bethlehem convert two different fourth downs for first downs during the drive.

Eagles’ quarterback Randy Bowers found Kyle Niehaus in the corner of the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown with 0:27 left in the first half. Bethlehem completed a two-point conversion to make the score 22-0.

Ryan Smith and Robert Falcone shared quarterback duty for Guilderland. “Falcone and Smith have different dynamics,” said Penna. “One is a better runner and one is a better thrower. Each is equally important to the team. We have to evaluate.”

The Dutch got its lone first down of the opening half with one second left on the clock. The half ended with a surprise Hail Mary completion that almost earned Guilderland a score. “We got a boost from that play; it set the tone for the second half,” said Penna.

“This team needs to focus on teamwork if they’re going to come back,” said Mike Heiserman, father of Guilderland player Michael Heiserman “They have to come together.”

“Odd series”

Bethlehem opened the second half with the ball. Guilderland needed to get stops on defense if it wanted to get back into the game. A weird sequence happened early on in the third quarter.

Heiserman intercepted a pass from Bowers on Bethlehem’s first drive. This was the change of momentum that it needed. On the very next play, Niehaus made an interception to give the ball right back to the Eagles.

“You don’t see back-to-back interceptions too often,” said Penna. “It was an odd series of events. We gave the control of the game right back to them.”

Bethlehem ended up punting the ball, giving Guilderland another chance to get on the scoreboard. Matthew Ward caught a 20-yard pass to end the third quarter. The Dutchmen were still down, 22-0.

Ward caught another pass for a first down to move Guilderland closer, followed by a sideline grad by Heiserman. The team got its first score with a 10-yard stomp by running back Jason Lawrence. Bethlehem led 22-7 with 9:53 left in regulation.

Bethlehem had the ball on its own 45-yard line after an unsuccessful on-side kick by the Dutchmen. The Eagles’ punter fumbled the snap and Guilderland had the ball on Bethlehem’s 33-yard line.

Alex Trolenberg and Lawrence made two great plays before Niehaus intercepted Smith and ran it all the way back for a 90-yard touchdown. Bethlehem had been reading Guilderland’s offense all night long.

“Those interceptions really killed us,” said Penna. “It was a tale of two halves. My guys played hard in the second half. I’m proud of them, but we can’t be careless with the ball.”

Andy Bettinger of Bethlehem intercepted another Guilderland pass to end the game. Bethlehem won, 29 to 7.

Murphy rushed for 131 yards on 25 carries and scored twice. Heiserman pulled in two catches for 56 yards and also had an interception.

“Bethlehem is an amazing football team; we knew it would be tough,” said Penna. “We came out and played harder after a disappointing first half. This is a team, we all made mistakes and we all will improve from those mistakes.”

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