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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 27, 2011

Dutchmen football run over by Smith, Blue Devils

By Jordan J. Michael

EAST GREENBUSH –– Guilderland knew that Columbia’s Chris Smith could take over a football game on the ground. The Dutch were prepared for the Blue Devils’s rushing attack, but Smith eventually got his legs going and couldn’t be stopped.

The Dutchmen even widened its tackles on defense to block running lanes, Head Coach Dan Penna said, but Smith and Jonas Godell continued to break tackles. Smith totaled 285 rushing yards and three touchdowns as the Blue Devils won the Class AA quarterfinal, 40 to 19, at home as the top seed from the Liberty League on Friday.

“Give credit to their backs for running hard on every play,” said Guilderland senior quarterback Tim O’Connor, who was short on words after the game. “We tried to stop them, but they kept gaining positive yardage.”

O’Connor told The Enterprise that Guilderland did its research on Smith and Columbia before the contest. Smith, a 6 foot, 1 inch and 205-pound junior, had 1,113 total yards coming into the game, which was 100 more rushing yards than the Dutch had as a team.

“They controlled the line of scrimmage,” Penna said of Columbia. “We didn’t execute well enough on our fundamentals.”

Smith resembled a beast on Friday, breaking multiple tackles, and sometimes dragging Guilderland defenders with him. However, the Dutch had the Blue Devils in check at the start, going up 12 to 0 and making Columbia punt the ball away on its first two drives.

Tony Stanish busted for 11 yards, untouched, through a hole for Guilderland’s first score, and O’Connor scrambled for a 26-yard touchdown early in the second quarter behind some great blocking.

Smith was being stopped and the Dutch were being productive on offense. The situation seemed swell for Guilderland, but the team had given up leads before.

On Columbia’s first offensive play after O’Connor scored, Smith broke to the outside and sprinted down the sideline for a 66-yard touchdown. After Guilderland went three and out on offense, Columbia gave the ball to Smith, who broke runs of 26 and 14 yards, as well as two yards for another touchdown and a 13-to-12 lead.

“Guilderland jumped on us, but we plugged away,” said Columbia Head Coach Craig Cavotta. “We never looked back.”

If the Blue Devils did happen to look back, it would have seen a trail of broken tackles by Smith and Godell, who had 67 yards and a touchdown.

Backed up at its own five-yard line to start the third quarter, Columbia used its ruthless rushing attack for a 95-yard drive, capped off by a 25-yard score by, of course, Smith. After another three and out by Guilderland, Columbia got the ball, and quarterback John Stanley connected with Steven Miller for a 42-yard pass play.

Godell then broke a run for 38 yards, setting himself up for a short touchdown run that gave the Blue Devils a 26-to-12 lead with 55 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Guilderland had no answer for the run.

True heart

“Collectively, I think we did a decent job tonight,” Penna said after the game. “We win and lose as a team. Columbia had the better night, but I’m pleased with the courage and the fight that we had.”

The Dutchmen watched a lead diminish, just as it had in the season-opener at Ballston Spa, as well as at Christian Brothers Academy in Week 4. O’Connor struggled for an answer when asked about his team’s finishing power in important games this season.

“Maybe we’re short manned…have trouble keeping guys fresh,” said O’Connor, who carried a lot of Guilderland’s offense on his shoulders this year. “I mean, we fight to the end and never give up. I think we proved some people wrong by getting to the playoffs.”

The Dutchmen put a solid drive together after the Blue Devils went up by 14 points. Steve Polsinelli ran wide for a touchdown of five yards, getting Guilderland to within 26 to 19.

In the end, it was an unpredictable pass play from Columbia that would ice the contest. On third and five from the 25-yard line, Guilderland’s defense lined up to stop another run, but Jacob Faas ran a route up the middle, uncovered, catching the pass for the score.

“Great call by them,” said Penna of Columbia’s execution.

“All Jacob had to do was catch the ball,” added Cavotta. “No one was there.”

Guilderland had four minutes left for a comeback, but a pass by O’Connor was intercepted by Austin Lobban, who saluted the crowd after the play.

Penna was disappointed with the playoff loss, but not with the competitiveness that Guilderland showed, which it most certainly had in every game this season.

“There is always going to be an opponent that is better,” Penna said. “We didn’t play our best ball, but we demonstrated true heart. We’ll learn from it.”

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