The Saugerties High School varsity football team mounted a thrilling comeback in their Section IX, Class A home opener on Saturday, but they came up short in a 40-30 loss to Goshen. The defeat dropped the Sawyers to 1-1.
Saugerties was down 34-8 to a Gladiators team that rolled over Kingston High one week earlier, but they fought their way back under the steady hand of senior quarterback Matt Bucci. Bucci amassed 388 passing yards and a pair of touchdown tosses, along with 96 yards on 11 rushes and a rushing touchdown.
But while the Sawyers looked sharp down the stretch, it was an early fumble that may have set the wheels in motion for the loss. After pulling to within 14-8 on a 14-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Heinlein capped by a 2-point conversion run by Caleb Edwards, Saugerties looked set to tie the game on their next possession before fumbling the ball away on the Goshen 2-yard line. The Gladiators marched the ball back 98 yards on the ensuing possession capped by a quarterback sneak by Matt Giordano. Giordano connected with Jake Kunis twice and both Jordan Weaver and Jared Cassel to give Goshen a commanding lead.
Saugerties’ late comeback included rushing scores by both Bucci and Edwards, along with a touchdown pass to Graeme Knisell, who led the Sawyers with 120 yards on four catches. Another touchdown by the home team was called back because of a holding penalty.
The Sawyers were led defensively by Anthony Owen (10 tackles, sack), Edwards (nine tackles, two sacks), Craig Laurey (nine tackles, sack) and Heinlein (six tackles, interception).
The Sawyers fared better in their non-league season opener on Friday, August 31, when they beat O’Neill 26-14 under the lights at Highland Falls. Bucci went 6-for-7 in the air for 182 yards and two touchdowns, adding 83 yards on the ground. Knisell picked up 76 rushing yards on three tries, adding a touchdown to his tally; he also caught a 65-yard touchdown toss by Bucci. Sean Costello amassed 69 yards on two catches, one of which was a touchdown.
Defensively, Owen led the Sawyers with 11 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. Edwards (11 tackles), Colden Staccio (seven tackles) and Laurey (seven tackles) also contributed.
Expectations are high for the Sawyers under first-year head coach Drew Carpino, who served as the program’s defensive coordinator under Dom Zarella last season. Zarella, the district’s athletic director, will coach the Sawyers’ modified team this year. Orrin Logan and Lee Meisinger joined Carpino’s staff for 2018.
Saugerties boasts 21 seniors this season, looking to build upon their successes over the second half of last year. After dropping four of their first five games in 2017, the Sawyers went 3-1 to close out the year.
To improve upon last season, the Sawyers will face numerous hurdles from within the league and beyond. Joining them in Class A’s Division 2 is New Paltz, Wallkill, Goshen and Monticello. Division 1 includes Cornwall, FDR, Warwick and Minisink Valley. While the road will be tough, Saugerties must only finish among the top three teams in their division to make the postseason.
The Sawyers will host Cornwall on Saturday, Sept. 15 at 1:30 p.m. before playing their next two — at New Paltz and FDR — on the road. They’re back home against Monticello on Saturday, Oct. 6 before closing out the regular season at Wallkill on Friday, Oct. 12.