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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 17, 2009

Blackbirds play with more confidence, beat Catholic Central

By Jordan J. Michael

VOORHEESVILLE –– The Blackbird football team is heading in the right direction after its first win of the season.

Voorheesville opened up a 28-to-0 lead on Catholic Central on Saturday afternoon at home and never looked back. The Crusaders made a late push, but the Blackbirds closed it out, 34-18.

Voorheesville seemed much improved this week after Head Coach Joe Sapienza mentioned a “lack of confidence” in the season-opening loss to Chatham.

“We regained our confidence because we knew we were a lot better than how we acted in the first game,” said senior receiver Elliot Stryker after the game. “I’m sure we’ll keep improving every week.”

“I really stressed the importance of playing with confidence in the week leading up to this game,” Sapienza said. “I’m happy that my guys responded. Also, we practiced more game-like situations.”

Jason Slingerland got the Blackbirds on the board with a 10-yard touchdown run with 8:26 left in the first quarter. About three minutes later, Max Schuster broke a 32-yard carry to push the score to 14 to 0.

Schuster continued to run strong in the second quarter and scored on a run from the two-yard line with 2:25 remaining in the first half. Voorheesville took a 21-to-0 lead into halftime.

“The blocking in front of me was great and Coach called some good plays,” said Schuster, who ran for 177 yards and three touchdowns. “Slingerland and I try to stay on our feet as long as possible.”

The Blackbirds decided to go for it on a fourth and three from the 50-yard line in the third quarter and Schuster was the man again, gaining 30 yards down to the 20-yard line for a first down.

Nick Brockley caught a pass from Ryan Duncan on third and goal to get Voorheesville down to the two-yard line. Schuster took the fourth-down handoff and easily scored for his third touchdown. The lead was now 28 to 0 with 5:12 left in the third quarter.

Joe Cillis came into the game to kick the extra point after scoring the game-winning goal for the Blackbird soccer team over Loudonville Christian earlier in the day.

“We’re lucky to have Schuster. He’s an all-around back,” Sapienza said after the game. “He’s powerful, sees the field well, and hasn’t fumbled the ball. Slingerland put up 89 yards for some good support. I feel like this offense can add new things every week.”

Clawing back

Voorheesville looked to have the game completely wrapped up, but Catholic Central made a late push and never gave up.

Michael Sunkes threw a 45-yard completion to Bryce McMahon with 1:45 left in the third quarter to bring the Crusaders down to the four-yard line. McMahon soon made a diving touchdown catch over Stryker to put Catholic Central on the scoreboard, 28-6.

“We had a goal of not letting them score, but they got in,” said Schuster. “We let them come back, but it ended in our favor.”

Mike Chiseri relieved Duncan at quarterback in the fourth quarter and Slingerland came in for Schuster. Chiseri hit James Currier for a 24-yard pass down to the one-yard line. Slingerland ran for a touchdown on the next play.

The Blackbirds weren’t letting the Crusaders get very close.

Sapienza told The Enterprise that every game against Catholic Central follows a similar pattern. “We always control these games at first and then, at some point, they change the momentum,” he said. “They just keep coming at us. I had to put my first defense back on the field.”

With 6:48 left in the fourth quarter, Patrick Jansen threw a 53-yard pass to McMahon up the middle of the field. Jansen threw another touchdown pass to Sam Clemente for five yards to end the last minute fight by the Crusaders.

“We did well against the run, but we gave up some long passes,” said Schuster. “If we keep playing hard and adjust on the deep passes, we’ll be all right.”

 Catholic Central started scrambling with the ball in the second half and that caused Voorheesville’s coverage to break down.

“Our defensive ends need to contain the quarterback,” said Sapienza. “It’s an adjustment we can make for next time.”

“I was very pleased with the first half this time after last week’s disappointing game,” Sapienza said. Last week the Blackbirds lost to Chatham, 35 to 14. “We learned how to set the tone,” he said. “Now, we need to learn how to finish the job.”

Coach Sapienza has a lot of faith in his offense. The team is doing well, both in the air and on the ground. The Blackbirds are capable of making big plays downfield.

“We can do some great things on offense and that’s what we’ll focus on this week,” said Sapienza. “I have a lot of belief in my running backs, receivers, and my quarterback. I want this team to be able to put the nail in the coffin.”

“This team is equally as comfortable with a run or a pass,” Stryker said. “We trust our coach to make the right calls.”

For Voorheesville, it’s all about getting the winning reputation back that the team once had. The Blackbirds head to Cairo-Durham on Saturday.

“Turning this team around is the main concern,” said Schuster. “We’re trying to rise back up.”

“There’s no doubt that we’ll be a winning team if we keep pushing,” said Stryker.

“I feel really positive about these kids and how they support each other,” Sapienza concluded. “A win might be all they needed to get on a roll.”

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