Going into this past Saturday’s home football game against Monticello, head coach Dominic Zarrella and his Sawyer players knew they had a tough mountain to climb. They climbed it.
Starting quarterback, junior Matt Bucci was out with a pinched nerve in his back. Cornerback Tavin Rell, who serves as Bucci’s backup, was sick all week and unable to practice. While he was able to play, it was not as quarterback, Zarrella said.
So it was up to third-string quarterback sophomore Graeme Knisell to move under the center for the team. “Graeme did really well running the offense,” Zarrella said.
Because he was the lone quarterback standing, Knisell, who also plays outside linebacker and is the team’s leading tackler, didn’t play defense. “We wanted to play it safe and not risk and injury,” the head coach said.
Also on offense, big Noah Degroat, a six-foot-three offensive tackle, was out on a concussion protocol. Running back Caleb Edwards was unable to play as well.
On defense, Knisell wasn’t the only player not on the field. Corner back JP Monaghan, also one of the team’s best tacklers, was on the sideline with a concussion protocol.
Things were looking pretty grim for the Sawyers. But that didn’t stop them. Knisell led the Sawyers to a 53-42 victory, the team’s first of the season.
It’s wasn’t a pretty game, with each team unable to stop the other’s running game. The Monticello running back scampered for more than 300 yards in rushing against the depleted Sawyer defense, while Jack Hindes, who public-address announcer Bill Ball called The Bulldozer, pounded out 214 yards on 22 carries.
The Saugerties offense came away with 16 first downs.
Knisell was two for two in the passing game, with 33 yards. “He was coming off a shoulder injury, and we knew his passing would be limited,” Zarrella explained.
Some of the other big contributors for the Sawyers included Jimmy Heinlein, who took back one kick off for 80 yards and a touchdown, and accounted for a number of long runbacks on other kickoffs.
Mako Gordon, filling in for Edwards, may have found a home at running back. He scored a touchdown and made several long dashes down the field. He’s a junior with a lot of talent, Zarrella said. “He just got back after an ankle sprain and is a good change-of-pace runner.”
While the Sawyer defense gave up more than 300 rushing yards, at one point it rattled the Monticello center, who made a bad snap to the quarterback. The ball was scooped up by defensive end Zach Hartrum, who took it in for a touchdown.
Zarrella predicted that the next two weeks “will make or break our season.” The Sawyers travel to Goshen on a rare Thursday afternoon game on September 28 and are at home for the annual Mum Bowl game against FDR on October 7.