The Voorheesville football team is in the Section II Class C playoffs thanks to its defense.
The Blackbirds made several key defensive stops in the second half to hold on for a 14-6 victory over South Division rival Coxsackie-Athens Saturday in Voorheesville and lock up the No. 3 seed for Sectionals.
Voorheesville’s reward is a long road trip Friday night to Corinth to take on the Tomahawks. Both teams finished the regular season with 4-2 records in their respective divisions, but Corinth (5-2 overall) owns wins over two other playoff teams, Stillwater and Mechanicville.
“We’re going to have to play the same defensive game we played today (against Coxsackie-Athens) and figure out how to run the ball,” said Voorheesville coach Joe Sapienza.
The Blackbirds (4-3 overall) struggled to get anything going on offense. Playing their first full game without running back Matt Feller, who suffered a leg injury the previous week against Granville, the Blackbirds were out of sync against Coxsackie-Athens (2-4, 2-5).
“We knew Coxsackie was very good against the run, and they took us out of our rhythm,” said Sapienza.
Fortunately for Voorheesville, the defense bailed out the offense time and again, especially in the second half when it forced a pair of key turnovers and a crucial fourth-down stop late in the fourth quarter that gave the Blackbirds the ball inside Indian territory.
“Our defense gave us several opportunities that we didn’t take advantage of,” said Sapienza.
Quarterback Robert Denman was Voorheesville’s most effective offensive weapon. The junior rushed for both of the Blackbirds’ touchdowns and threw for 101 yards.
Denman gave Voorheesville a 7-0 lead when he capped a first-quarter series with a 10-yard touchdown run. Coxsackie-Athens quarterback Zach Girvin countered in the second quarter with a 12-yard scoring scamper, but a failed extra-point attempt allowed the Blackbirds to carry a 7-6 lead into halftime.
Coxsackie-Athens drove into Voorheesville territory early in the fourth quarter before being halted on downs. The Indians got the ball back after forcing the Blackbirds to punt, but they failed to convert on fourth down at their own 45-yard line, which put Voorheesville in prime field position.
The Blackbirds drove to Coxsackie-Athens’ 27-yard line, which forced the Indians to use their final time out with less than one minute left in regulation. Following the time out, Denman took off on a 27-yard touchdown run. Mickey Knight added the extra point to put Voorheesville ahead 14-6.
Coxsackie-Athens’ Philip Neal gave his team new life when he returned the ensuing kickoff to Voorheesville’s 40-yard line, but Andrew Waldbilling intercepted Girvin with 28 seconds left to seal the Blackbirds’ victory.
“You score the touchdown, and we think we put it away,” said Sapienza. “Coxsackie didn’t think that way.”