Rugged Rams stop unbeaten Bishop Maginn 43-28

What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? The Amsterdam Rugged Rams, the Bishop Maginn Griffins, and a capacity crowd on senior night in Amsterdam learned the answer Friday night at Lynch Literacy Academy field in the regular season finale for both team teams. At stake was the top seed inn the Class A Southeast division.

Leading 36-28 in the third quarter, and with Bishop Maginn driving, the Rugged Rams defense faced a second down and two yards to go at their own five yard line. Something had to give, but on this night it was not the Amsterdam Rugged Rams. Defensive linemen Austin Brock and Carlos Acosta led a surge forward, grabbed hold of a Griffins running back and forced him to the ground. The momentum swung in Amsterdam’s favor.

“That play was huge,” said AHS head coach Doug Edick. “Defense sets the momentum for the game. Defense dictates the game.”

A holding penalty on Bishop Maginn forced the Griffins back to the AHS 11 making it third down and 11. Bryan Stanavich brought the crowd to its feet on the next play intercepting a pass by Griffins quarterback Neiko Bianchino and flew 95 yards for an apparent touchdown. A penalty nullified the touchdown putting the Rams back at their own 24, but the defense had made a stand. The immovable object made its point.

“The line blocked, the defense stepped up and rallied in the second half,” said Coach Edick. “We didn’t give them a point in the second half. I’m proud of the defense and how they stepped up.”

The game did not start well for AHS when Griffins standout running back Jaushir Weaver took the opening kick off 90 yards for a touchdown. Weaver also ran in for the two point conversion. Only 16 seconds came off the clock in Weavers dash and Maginn led 8-0. There was plenty of time however for the Rams to respond.

Amsterdam handed the ball often to Stanavich who gained most of the yardage on the Rams first drive and in the process went over the 1,000 yard rushing mark in only his junior year. A key third down pass from Rams quarterback Tony Isabel to Keenan Holloway kept the chains moving, but it was Stanavich getting outstanding blocking from the Rams offensive line who carried most of the workload on the first drive and throughout the game.

“I give it all to my (offensive) line,” said Stanavich. “They make the holes and I run through them.”

Time after time, Stanavich gained positive yardage finally putting the ball on the Griffins 19. Isabel then found Brian Swank in the end zone for the Rams first score and in the process the senior quarterback went over the 1,000 yard passing mark in his varsity career. Marcus Pritchard kicked the first of five crucial extra points cutting the Griffins lead to 8-7. However, the drama was just beginning.

On Maginn’s next drive, Weaver burst through the middle of the field and headed to the AHS end zone. The junior running back’s first fumble was recovered by Stanavich, who moments later took a hand off from Isabel and rumbled 90 yards for the go ahead score.

“Coach wanted to pound the ball up the middle,” said Stanavich. “We went out and showed them what we can do.”

Weaver once again responded for Maginn with a 48 yard touchdown run of his own at 2:14 left in the first quarter. The two point pass play was incomplete leaving the score tied at 14-14 entering the second quarter. The momentum again surged in Amsterdam’s favor.

Stanavich and the offensive line kept working in the second quarter. A 57 yard run on the Rams first drive of the quarter set up AHS at the Maginn four, where the junior back pounded it in giving AHS the lead once again, 21-14.

“I play as good as my line plays,” said Stanavich.

The Rams defensive line was key on the next Maginn drive, stopping Weaver and the Griffins near their own end zone. Amsterdam had good field position and made the most of it when Isabel connected with Swank for a 51 yard pass play. Isabel then pushed one over the line from one yard out putting the Rams up 28-14. But Maginn wasn’t done yet.

The Griffins scored twice in the last 3:31 keyed by a fumble recovery by Ayinde Duckett and an interception. Duckett’s alertness led to an 18 yard score by Weaver. The interception with less than 30 seconds left led to a 21 yard score by Weaver on the half’s last play. The Griffins Dylan Storm caught the two point play tying the score at 28-28.A sudden silence came over the crowd, but it wouldn’t last long.

Stanavich scored on the Rams opening drive of the second half running in from eight yards out and converted the two point play. He scored the Rams last touchdown taking a pass from a Isabel and dashing in from 54 yards out for the final margin of victory with 5:36 left in the game. Both scores were followed by big stops by the AHS defense. David Crawford’s interception in the end zone late in the fourth quarter ended any chance of a Griffins comeback.

“We said no more,” said Stanavich. “Our defense said no more.”

Weaver’s four touchdowns led all scorers, but all were in the first half. The AHS defense stood fast and made the big plays when it counted most.

“The fans were out here for us and we played hard,” said Stanavich. “We’ve got a lot of heart. We just need to keep making plays and getting better. We have to make plays.”

Stanavich’s three touchdowns led Amsterdam. The junior running back and defensive back will have plenty of chances to make big plays before his career is through at AHS.

“He’s an excellent back,” said Coach Edick. “I’m glad I have him here for another year.”

The win gives Amsterdam (5-2, 4-1) a share of the Class A Southeast division title with Bishop Maginn (6-1, 4-1), but Amsterdam gets the top seed and will host Gloversville in the divisional playoff next week. A win by the Rams will give them another home game and a possible rematch with the Griffins.

The Amsterdam Rugged Rams recognized team athletic trainer Carla Pasquarelli before the game. Pasquarelli, a constant presence at all Amsterdam sports events and a 2012 winner of the football program’s Billy Bernat Award that is given to individuals in a volunteer role, is among school athletic trainers who are being recognized nationwide this month.

(Photos by Scott Mulford)

Scott Mulford

Scott Mulford has been covering local sports for over 20 years. He previously wrote for the Amsterdam Star and The Free Press of the Mohawk Valley.