DELMAR, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The La Salle Institute football team has only played three home games this season. But the Cadets managed to secure a fourth Friday night – and this one will be the most significant of them all.
Head coach John Audino’s bunch locked down the No. 2 seed in the Class A Capital Division with a 20-15 win at Bethlehem Friday night in our 1st & 10 “Game of the Week.” The victory ensures home-field advantage for the Cadets in the opening round of sectionals.
La Salle was led, as it often is, by star senior running back Matt Bott, who recorded all three of the team’s touchdowns, and even had an interception on the defensive side of the ball.
Bott said Thursday he felt this game was the biggest one of the season for the Cadets, and he shined once again under the bright Friday night lights.
“It took everything we had: offense, defense, special teams,” said Bott. “This is a staple win for the program. It’s absolutely great. Having a tough loss on Senior Night, getting another opportunity to play at home is huge for us.”
Points were difficult to come by in the first half. Late in the second quarter, Bethlehem maintained just a 3-0 lead, courtesy of a George Abdo field goal. But the La Salle offense found a rhythm on its’ final drive of the half. After a long hookup from Chris Chenette to wide receiver Tommy Miller that put the Cadets deep into Bethlehem territory, Bott capped off the possession with his first trip to the end zone of the night: a three-yard rushing score that gave his team a 7-3 lead at halftime.
The Eagles managed to get their workhorse, senior tailback Jason Black, going to start the third quarter. Black rattled off a 64-yard touchdown scamper – shedding five would-be tacklers on the play – to reclaim Bethlehem a 9-7 advantage.
But La Salle responded on the following drive. Set up by another huge Miller reception, the Cadets pushed their way to the Bethlehem one-yard line. On fourth and goal, Bott took a handoff straight ahead and muscled his way across the goal line, putting La Salle back up 13-9.
Bott’s do-it-all evening continued on Bethlehem’s ensuing set of downs. From his linebacker position, Bott picked off Michael Waldenmaier on the final play of the third quarter to give the Cadets a short field to start the fourth stanza.
They’d capitalize on that favorable field position. On fourth down and long, junior quarterback Johnny Rivero hoisted a pass to the back of the end zone, and Bott high-pointed the ball, securing a 17-yard touchdown reception, growing the margin to 11 at 20-9.
Bethlehem managed to cut into the deficit with a 23-yard touchdown strike from Waldenmaier to Christian Franchini at the 8:13 mark of the quarter, but that’d be the last time the Eagles possessed the football. La Salle ran out the final eight minutes and change on their final drive, holding on for the 20-15 victory.
“It feels great; the kids earned it,” said Audino. “I’m really proud of the guys. I think they did everything that we’ve asked them to do. I thought we played a really, really good game. We played a good game against Columbia, a decent game against Averill Park. I think we’re coming to a really good point in what we’re doing, and let’s continue on.”
La Salle (5-3) will host Queensbury (3-3), the No. 3 seed in the Grasso Division Friday, Oct. 28. Bethlehem (6-2) falls to the three-seed in the Capital, and will travel to Burnt Hills (6-1), the No. 2 seed in the Grasso, in the opening round of sectionals.