CLIFTON PARK, NY (NEWS10) — Shenendehowa and Shaker football renewed one of the great rivalries in Section II Friday night in the semi-finals of the Class AA playoff tournament. The matchup was a repeat of last year’s semi-final clash, in which the fourth-seeded Plainsmen knocked off the top-seeded Blue Bison for Shen’s first win against Shaker in over a decade.
The roles may have been reversed in Friday’s rematch – Shen, the two-seed, welcomed in Shaker, the three-seed – but the result was the same. Shen punched its’ ticket back to the section title game, winning 21-14 behind a three-touchdown effort from sophomore running back Ihsaan Alozie.
Alozie’s first score came at the 4:36 mark of the opening quarter. The Plainsmen were set up with favorable field position following a fumble recovery, and Alozie capitalized with a 33-yard house call out of a Wildcat formation to put his team up 7-0.
But as expected, this game was back-and-forth all night. The Bison responded on their very next drive. Senior running back Donovan Deguire took a sweep off the left side of the offensive line on fourth and short. After Shen seemingly had Deguire bottled up, short of the line to gain, he broke free, turned the corner, and rolled into the end zone to tie the game up at seven.
On the ensuing Shen drive, the Plainsmen marched right down the field, and again Alozie strolled in for a rushing touchdown out of the Wildcat – this time from three yards out – reclaiming the lead for Shen at 14-7 with 8:57 to play in the second quarter.
And the Shaker offense responded once more. A lengthy drive that ate up almost all of the remaining time in the first half was capped off by a one-yard touchdown run from junior quarterback Jake Iacobaccio, and the two sides were all square at 14-14 heading into the locker room at halftime.
The Shen defense put a stop to the Bison’s opening possession of the third quarter – one that reached the cusp of the red zone – and that allowed the offense to get the ball back in the hands of Alozie, who two plays into the drive, rattled off a 61-yard touchdown scamper that was freed up thanks to a punishing lead block by senior tight end Cody Smith.
That score reclaimed the lead for Shen at 21-14 with 5:30 to play in the third, and the Plainsmen never looked back. Shaker threatened again later in the quarter, but were never able to break through for another score against a stout Shen defense. A steady diet of direct snaps to Alozie iced the game on what proved to be Shen’s final drive, and the Plainsmen clinched a trip back to the championship game with the 21-14 victory.
After the game, Alozie said all it took for him to have the performance he did was to follow (figuratively) the game plan, and follow (literally) the big men blocking for him up front. “I just got into the flow,” said Alozie. “I think our run game was very well done. Our line was doing what they do best – just running north and south – that’s all.”
Shen head coach Brian Clawson ensured that some praise was given to a unit that doesn’t always get the love it deserves. “They (the offensive line) blocked their tails off all night,” said Clawson. “They opened up some great holes. They never get enough credit, but we want to give those O-lineman a lot of credit tonight.”
Clawson divulged why Alozie took so many snaps out of the Wildcat, and what made it such an effective formation. “He (Alozie) was great,” said Clawson. “I mean, we had an offensive package that we put in basically for him and Henry (Picard) – we’ve been practicing it for a few weeks – and went out and executed it tonight. Our hats go off to Shaker – they’re an incredible program – but our guys battled for four full quarters, and came out on top.”
The Plainsmen (8-1, 7-1) will prepare for a rematch of last year’s championship game with Christian Brothers Academy. That battle kicks off next Friday at 7 p.m., and will be played at Guilderland High School. Shaker’s season comes to a close. The Blue Bison finished 6-4, and 5-3 in league play.