GOSHEN, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Prior to the 2022 high school football season, Niskayuna had never even won as much as a sectional championship. Now, the Silver Warriors are headed to the state final four for the second straight year.
Niskayuna, ranked third in the state in Class A, powered past Section IX’s Cornwall in the regional round of the NYSPHSAA Football Championships Friday night at Goshen High School. Brian Grastorf’s bunch unloaded for a 49-14 victory over a previously undefeated Dragons squad that was No. 4 in the state rankings.
The Silver Warriors set the tone early with an 85-yard touchdown strike from junior quarterback Ethan Gilson to sophomore wide receiver Cameron Grasso on the second play from scrimmage – one of four passing touchdowns for Gilson on the night, three of which were hauled in by Grasso.
“Going into this game, we knew we needed to make a statement right away. I think we really did,” said Grasso. “(I’m) just lost for words. It’s amazing. A great team win. It’s great being out here, but it’s gonna be even better in Middletown.”
“We wanted everyone to know we were real,” added Gilson. “We’re in the same spot we were last year. We’re excited for the opportunity. We’re gonna go in there and play some damn good football.”
If Niskayuna’s display of football in the final four looks as good as it did Friday night, Somers is in for battle. After the Gilson-to-Grasso connection started the scoring, the Silver Warriors reached the end zone on three of their next four drives.
A 32-yard touchdown pass from Gilson to senior running back Chase Nappi on a screen play and a second end-zone hookup between one of Section II’s top QB/WR duos capped a 21-point Niskayuna first quarter.
The ground game ramped up on the Silver Warriors’ first drive of the second stanza. Junior tailback Isaiah Linyear housed a carry off the right side 86 yards to give his team a 28-0 advantage with still 11:30 remaining before halftime.
Niskayuna’s offense would be held off the scoreboard for the remainder of the quarter, but that doesn’t mean the Silver Warriors were kept out of the end zone. With just over a minute left on the game clock, Cornwall was backed up just outside its own 10-yard line. Grasso picked off a pass attempt from back-up quarterback Quinn Pikarsky and returned the interception 23 yards for his third touchdown of the first half. Nisky would take a 35-7 advantage into the locker room.
The Silver Warriors struck for two more scores after the break: a two-yard touchdown run from Linyear in the third quarter, and Gilson linked up with Grasso for six one final time in the fourth quarter to complete the offensive barrage.
“We came out flying – made some plays early,” said head coach Brian Grastorf. “Cam had the big catch on the second play. Our defense came to play, as they have every game. Every phase of our game showed today that we can play with anybody. It’s just great to see. These guys have earned it (with) all the hard work they put in. It’s great to see (that) come out on the field, and on the scoreboard.”
Niskayuna’s impending state semifinal clash with Section I champion Somers is a rematch of last year’s final four matchup. The Tuskers handled Nisky easily, winning 35-7, en route to winning the Class A title.
That game will be played next Friday, Nov. 24 at 6:00 p.m. from Middletown High School.