November 2, 2011
Before I get into my predictions for this weekend's Sectional football finals, here is a brief recap of how I've been doing.
I have a record of 15-3 through the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds of the Class AA, A and B playoffs. I missed one pick in the quarterfinal round and two picks in last weekend’s semifinal round.
Two of the three misses have involved Columbia. I felt that the Blue Devils (8-1) were ripe for an upset in the Class AA quarterfinal round against Guilderland, but they pulled away for a 40-19 victory. Then I picked against Columbia in last weekend’s semifinal game against Christian Brothers Academy, and the Blue Devils proved me wrong again by beating the Brothers 25-14.
The one miss I truly regret right now is taking Troy over Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake in last weekend’s Class A semifinal. I should have known better than to pick against Matt Shell’s Spartans (8-1), who have not lost a Sectional playoff game in four years. Shell came up with a great game plan to stop Troy’s offense, and his players executed it well on their way to an impressive 38-7 victory on the road.
Not much else about football Sectionals has surprised me. I felt that Shenendehowa would romp into the Class AA finals, and the Plainsmen (9-0) have done just that with impressive victories over Shaker and LaSalle. I thought that Schalmont (9-0) and Albany Academy (9-0) were on a collision course to meet in the Class B final, and that’s the match-up we have. And in Class A, I was fairly certain that Amsterdam (9-0) would get to the Super Bowl, and the Rugged Rams haven’t disappointed me.
Now that we are on the eve of championship weekend, here is how I see things happening in all five classifications (going from smallest to largest divisions).
In Class D, Cambridge (9-0) meets Rensselaer (8-1) Saturday at Schuylerville. Cambridge has walked over the competition in Section II this season, including Rensselaer (a 48-19 victory Sept. 17). Frankly, I don’t see any reason why the Indians would have any problem with the Rams now. I’m going with Cambridge 42-14.
In Class C, it’s a battle of undefeated division winners as North champion Hoosick Falls (9-0) takes on South champ Fonda-Fultonville (8-0) Saturday night in Schuylerville. Both teams have made a habit of winning by impressive margins, but I think Hoosick Falls is a bit more talented than Fonda at the skill positions. In a high-scoring game, I will take Hoosick Falls 41-27.
In Class B, it’s Albany Academy and it’s one-man scoring machine known as Conner Hartigan taking on Devon Willis, Alex Hildebrand, Niko Nicoletti and the rest of the two-time defending Sectional champion Schalmont Sabres Saturday. Hartigan has scored 26 of Academy’s 39 touchdowns this season, but I think Schalmont will find a way to keep Hartigan out of the end zone for much of this game. It will be tight and low scoring, but I give Schalmont the edge here with a 14-6 victory.
In Class A, we have the rematch of the Week 2 surprise when Amsterdam forced seven BH-BL turnovers on its way to a 23-7 victory. I don’t think the Spartans have turned the ball over seven times in the seven games since losing to the Rugged Rams. The question is, can they hold on to the ball against a physical Amsterdam defense? I think BH-BL has learned its lesson, and the Spartans will prevail Saturday 21-14.
Finally in Class AA, the surprising Columbia Blue Devils get their shot at the undefeated Shen Plainsmen Friday in Clifton Park. Christopher Smith is one of the most talented running backs in Section II with 1,611 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns for the Blue Devils, but the Plainsmen have a tough runner of their own in Tony Fusco (1,240 yards, 24 touchdowns). The difference is in the passing game where Shen quarterback Teddy Van Galen has quietly thrown for more than 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns. I think Van Galen gets the better of Columbia’s defense, which will help Shen pull out a 28-14 victory.
There you have it. Check back after this weekend's games to see how well I did.