While none of the Saugerties High School football team’s four wins have been easy, the latest, a 34-27 contest, against Valley Central this past Friday afternoon was its toughest test yet.
In each of the first three wins, the Sawyers defense hads relied on its ability to shut down their opponent’s’ run game. However, they have shown a remarkable inability to stop the pass.
Other teams hadn’t exploited the Sawyers’ slow corners and safeties, but Valley Central did. They beat the Saugerties defensive backs time and again for long gains and touchdowns.
The Sawyers were torched on screen passes, short over-the-middle-and-out passes, and long bombs.
The only thing that really prevented Valley Central from coming out on top in this contest was the inability of its receivers to catch the ball. At one point Valley Central’s receivers dropped five passes in a row, several of which had hit them in the hands.
Things got to the point for the Sawyers’ pass defense that when assistant coach Nick Bernard recognized that Valley Central was in a screen-pass formation, he yelled it out at least four times to his defense. Either the Saeyer players failed to hear him, or just couldn’t stop the play from being a long gain that lead to a touchdown the following play.
On the plus side, the Sawyers’ powerful ground game, which has seen at least one of its running backs featured in each contest, once again proved the team’s main strength.
This week junior Jack Hindes led the charge with 161 yards. Saugerties rushed for a total of 350 yards.
Coach Dom Zarrella also mixed in several pass plays, one a 56-yard toss from quarterback Matt Bucci to wide receiver Keith Hartrum went for a touchdown.
A Hartrum cousin, Zach Hartrum, got am early touchdown when running back Jim Ball fumbled the ball near the Valley Central 20-yard line. Hartrum scooped the ball up and took in for a TD.
Kicker Seth Vanderbeck hit the extra point, and it was the Sawyers up 7-0 at the 7:18 mark of the first quarter.
Valley Central was next to score, this on a pass. They failed on the extra point attempt, and the score was 7-6 Saugerties.
Hindes, who did yeoman work carrying the ball all day. scored the Sawyers next TD. They failed on the attempt and it was 13-6 Saugerties. On the Sawyers’ next possession, a 15-yard penalty nullified a TD and the two sides went into the half 13-6.
Saugerties came out flying in the second half with Jim Ball running for a TD, which was followed up by a two-point conversion by Hindes to give Saugerties what appeared a commanding 21-6 lead.
Valley Central for its part went to the air. Despite all the drops by its receivers, they were able to finally score and the game was 21-12.
On its next possession, Saugerties went for it on fourth down and failed, turning the ball over to Valley Central, which proceeded to unleash a long touchdown pass on the first play. After a two-point conversion, it was shaky 21-20 Saugerties lead.
Matt Bucci quickly remedied the situation with a 56-yard bomb to Keith Hartrum. After a two-point conversion try failed, the Sawyers were up 27-20.
On their next possession, Saugerties was driving for a touchdown, when running back Rob Trincellito fumbled on the Valley Central four-yard line. But Saugerties got the ball back and marched it down the field. Bucci scored on a keeper. Vanderbeck kicked the extra point through the uprights, and it was 34-20.
But the game wasn’t quite over. With less than two minutes left in the game, Bernard yelled out ‘screen play,’ the defense failed to react, and it was 34-27 with the clock winding down.
Saugerties held onto the ball and ran out the clock.
It was a close one for the Sawyers, who now travel to 2-2 Wallkill for a game Friday night.
In the final stats, Bucci went four for five for more than 100 yards. The Sawyers had 19 first downs. On defense, Anthony Owen had two sacks, and Nick Dennis had five tackles.