RAVENA, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Teams with a championship DNA find ways to win even when they’re not at their best, and that’s exactly what the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk football team did in front of its’ homecoming crowd Friday night in our 1st & 10 “Game of the Week.”
The two-time defending Class B champs improved to 5-0, fending off a fellow unbeaten Schalmont squad 14-7 behind two, 100-yard rushing efforts from Dominik Paljusaj and Ethan Green, along with a stout defensive showing.
The visitors put Ravena on its’ heels in the opening quarter. With the Indians deep in the red zone, the Schalmont defense forced a fumble that was recovered by senior defensive back Daniel Benedetto, keeping the game scoreless at the conclusion of the quarter.
Schalmont started the second stanza in the shadow of its’ own end zone, but after gaining some yardage to create some breathing room, senior wideout Isiaih Smith blew the top off the Ravena defense by taking an end-around 78 yards to the house for the game’s first score.
The Indians quickly responded, though, marching right back down the field for a six-play, 68-yard touchdown drive that was capped off by a one-yard Kaden Potter run. Head coach Gary VanDerzee elected to go for a fake PAT, two-point conversion try, and the Sabres snuffed it out. So, Ravena trailed 7-6 heading into halftime.
Arguably the turning point of the game came late in the third quarter when another VanDerzee gamble this time paid off. With the Indians approaching midfield, the 41-year head coach kept his offense on the field for a fourth-and-short situation, and they picked up the first down to continue the drive.
The possession carried into the fourth quarter, and was punctuated by a Paljusaj four-yard tote to pay dirt. The senior wideout added on a two-point conversion, and Ravena took a 14-7 lead it would never relinquish.
Indians sophomore defensive back Mason Carkner recorded the game-sealing interception on Schalmont’s final drive, and the offense managed to run out the remainder of the 2+ minutes left on the clock.
For a team that won its’ first four games of the season by an average of 34.5 points per outing, Friday night proved to be its’ first test of adversity. And VanDerzee was pleased with how they responded.
“That was probably one of our major concerns going into the year: how we would handle that- (adversity) when we got it,” said VanDerzee. “And I like the way they handled it. The leaders took over, and they stood up defensively, and did what they had to offensively. I said to the kids, “You get punched in the mouth; how do you respond?” They responded well.”
“We all had to believe in each other,” said Paljusaj, who finished with a game-high 146 yards on the ground. “At halftime, we just stared at each other, and were like, “We gotta do this.” Schalmont’s a good team; they’re really good. And this rain (was) not helping any of us, so…I feel like…all the faith we had in each other led us to this win tonight.”
Ravena (5-0) now turns its’ attention to Hudson in Week 5, while Schalmont (3-1) looks to return to the win column next week when it hosts Ichabod Crane.