The Shaker football team is going to its first Section II championship game, but not without a critical defensive stand.
The Blue Bison (9-0) held on for a 28-21 Class AA semifinal victory over Schenectady last Friday in Latham.
The key play came in the final minute of the fourth quarter. On a fourth-down play deep in Shaker territory, Schenectady quarterback Kwame Jarvis rolled out to his right and made a dive for the end zone. Four Blue Bison leaped in from the side and pushed Jarvis out of bounds just as it appeared the ball hit the pylon.
The referee ruled the ball did not cross the goal line and marked it at the 1-yard line. An official measurement then ruled Jarvis also failed to get the first down, which gave the ball to Shaker.
“That’s something we always preach to our guys – never give up on a play,” said Shaker coach Greg Sheeler. “He improvised, and our guys did a good job of getting over there to make the play.”
The defensive stand propelled the Blue Bison – the state’s No. 3-ranked Class AA team – into Friday’s scheduled championship game against Shenendehowa (8-1) in Clifton Park. The Plainsmen defeated Columbia 34-12 in last Friday’s other semifinal contest.
“It should be a very exciting atmosphere, and we’re looking forward to it,” said Sheeler.
Shaker jumped out to a 14-0 lead against Schenectady with its running game. Tailback Ryan Griffin scored on an 18-yard run, and tailback Kenny Jackson contributed a 27-yard touchdown scamper in the first quarter.
Schenectady (6-3) got back in the game with a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter. Felix Rodriguez scored on a 1-yard run early in the period to trim Shaker’s lead to 14-7. Blue Bison quarterback Chris Landers had a 3-yard touchdown run to bump Shaker’s advantage back to 14 points, but Jarvis threw a 6-yard scoring strike to Trent Wheeler before halftime to make it 21-14.
Jarvis came through again in the third quarter with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Rodriguez. Nakia Boozer’s extra point kick tied the score at 21.
Shaker responded with a long drive capped by Griffin’s 1-yard touchdown run and extra point kick to take a 28-21 lead, and that’s how the score remained despite Schenectady’s best effort to tie the game.
“They’re a talented team, and I thought our guys played well on defense and gave us opportunities to be successful,” said Sheeler.
Griffin rushed for 114 yards, and Jackson contributed 95 yards for Shaker. Jarvis threw for 169 yards to lead Schenectady’s offense.
Shaker now turns its attention to Shen, a team it defeated 35-8 during the regular season.
“We’re not looking at the last game and thinking it’s going to be an easy game this time,” said Sheeler. “It’s going to be a tough game.”