TROY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – There’s no secret the Averill Park football team has the workhorses in the backfield capable of wreaking some havoc in Class A this season. And the Warriors’ potent ground game was on full display in their Week 0 matchup Saturday with Section I’s Eastchester; three different tail backs recorded rushing touchdowns, en route to a 22-20 overtime win in game two of the Capital District Football Showcase and Community Resource Event at RPI’s ECAV Stadium.
“Our backs all ran well,” said Averill Park head coach Zach Gobel. “If you took a look, our guys on the perimeter blocked really well today. Our split ends got out there; blocked their tails off. Our H-backs and our tight ends did the same thing. And then, when they (the backs) needed a couple extra yards, they got it. They ran hard.”
It took a while for the Averill Park rushing attack to gain some traction – longer than Gobel would have preferred – and the Eagles capitalized, scoring on their second possession of the game: a two-yard rushing touchdown from senior quarterback Aidan Schultz.
The score remained 7-0 until halftime, but on the second play from scrimmage out the break, the Warriors caught lightning in a bottle.
Junior running back Drew Canaday burst through a gaping hole on the interior of the offensive line, and raced untouched into the end zone from 71 yards out, drawing A-P within one point.
The Warriors still had some catching up to do after a missed PAT, but they erased that deficit on their very next possession with an 11-yard touchdown scamper from junior back Jacob Phelps, and after Charles Ratigan muscled in a two-point conversion, A-P maintained a 14-7 edge.
It’d stay that way until the final minute of action, as Eastchester came marching down the field, eyeing a potential game-tying score. And it got just that with 44 seconds to go on a brilliantly designed lateral play. Schultz connected on a screen pass with Kieran McCloskey at the 20-yard line. Before he even fully had possession, McCloskey quickly pitched the ball back to Jaden Bruner, who, with a full head of steam, raced down the Eastchester sideline for a touchdown that brought the Eagles within one. Jerome Harrigan tacked on the PAT, forcing overtime at 14-14.
Averill Park had the first possession in the extra period, and rode their tailbacks 20 yards to paydirt – Ratigan finishing off the final two yards. Gobel elected to try the two-point conversion, and quarterback Justin Matthews took a keeper off the right side, lunging across the goal line to push the margin to eight points.
The Eagles managed to find the end zone on their possession via a crafty, four-yard scoot from Bruner. Forced to go for two to try and extend the game, Schultz rolled out to his right, and lobbed one up towards the back line for Michael Provenzale, but the pass was batted down, allowing A-P to escape Week 0 with the win.
After the game, Canaday recalled the message Gobel gave to the team at halftime that ignited their play in the second half.
“He told us that it’s not gonna be easy, and we really gotta step it up,” said Canaday. “I think the whole team did that. Our O-line was good, our defense stepped up when we needed ’em and they led us to a good win.”
Averill Park returns to action Friday in a non-league game at Shaker before opening up Class A play Thursday, Sep. 14 against Niskayuna in a rematch of last year’s Super Bowl.