SCHUYLERVILLE, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Just when you thought a matchup between the Schuylerville and Fonda-Fultonville football teams couldn’t get any more electric than last year’s Section II, Class C semi-final, the two sides outdid themselves Friday night.
In Fonda’s first game since that semi-final where Schuylerville cut short the Braves’ perfect season with a 14-13 overtime defeat, Mike Mancini’s bunch erased a 20-point deficit in enemy territory to take a fourth-quarter lead with 1:50 to play, only for Black Horses senior quarterback Luke Sherman to lead a game-winning drive, stunning Fonda yet again by a final of 34-32.
It was the most highly anticipated matchup in Week 0 of the high school football season, and it certainly lived up to the billing. But in the first half, it wasn’t shaping up to be the closely-contested contest expected from the two Class C frontrunners.
The Braves were plagued by miscues from the jump, fumbling the opening kickoff, which led to three quick Schuylerville points on a field goal from junior placekicker Connor Battle. Following back-to-back turnovers from both sides, the Black Horses defense forced a turnover on downs, and on the ensuing drive, Sherman took a quarterback keeper 53 yards to the house to put his team up 10-0.
Schuylerville continued to enforce its’ will to open up the second quarter, tacking on yet another Battle field goal, which was followed minutes later by a Martin Flanders Jr. seven-yard touchdown run.
In desperate need of any sort of momentum-shifting play, the Fonda defense delivered with a turnover that set the offense up deep into Black Horses territory. They were unable to capitalize in the red zone, but did manage to pin back Schuyerville for its’ next drive.
After forcing a three-and-out, Fonda senior Karsen Bulan again set the offense up with favorable field position following a sizeable punt return, and this time, the Braves cashed in for six on a one-yard touchdown run from senior running back Jose Vargas. That cut the margin to 13 points with 2:42 to play in the second quarter, and the score would remain 20-7 as the two sides retired to the locker room.
Fonda continued to put its’ foot on the gas out of the break. Senior defensive back Brady Melious, who already had a fumble recovery, took an interception back 41 yards for a touchdown just over a minute into the third quarter. Then, on the Braves first possession of the second half, freshman gunslinger Keegan Croucher, who’s filling the void left by do-it-all quarterback Jackson Cusack, showed off his arm strength with a 48-yard TD strike to Bulan, tying the game at 20.
Schuylerville had an answer, though, in the fourth quarter. Sophomore running back Rosevald Delair punched one in the end zone on the ground from a yard out, reclaiming the Black Horses the lead with 6:01 to play.
But the Braves marched right back. Sophomore running back Colin Pickering reached paydirt on a five-yard run, but after a missed PAT, Fonda still trailed by one.
So, Mancini elected to dial up on an onside kick, and the Braves pounced on it to get the ball right back. Croucher’s breakout debut continued with a 35-yard touchdown strike to Melious, giving Fonda its’ first lead of the game at 32-27 at the 1:50 mark of the fourth.
Schuylerville was forced to go 85 yards for a potential go-ahead score, and Sherman showed why he’s considered one of the top playmakers in the section. He led the Black Horses right down the field, eventually linking up with senior running back Sam Dwyer for a 39-yard pitch-and-catch on a busted coverage, putting Schuylerville back on top with just 14 ticks left on the clock.
Fonda was unable to come up with one more miracle drive, and their valiant comeback effort came up just short in what will be an early candidate for “Game of the Year.”
Schuylerville (1-0) will be back home for its’ next outing with Cobleskill. The Braves (0-1) return to Fonda in Week 1, welcoming in Johnstown.