Spartans spoil Rugged Rams 2016 home opener

Everything appeared to be going right for the Amsterdam Rugged Rams varsity football team’s home opener Friday night at Lynch Literacy Academy field, at least in the first half. The Burnt Hills- Ballston Lake Spartans scored 22 unanswered points in the second half to defeat Amsterdam 29-20 in the first game of the season for both teams.

“I told our guys at halftime that this is only a two score game,” Burnt Hills- Ballston Lake head coach Matt Shell said. “If we come out and make some stops, we’re in this game.”

Trailing 20-7, the Spartans got the ball first in the second half and put together a time consuming drive led by sophomore quarterback Darien LaPietro who rushed for a key first down late in the drive on a second down and eight play from the Amsterdam 28 yard line, taking the ball all the way to the Rugged Rams five yard line. On the next snap from scrimmage, junior running back Jacob Stanko powered in for the touchdown, and with Connor McCormick’s extra point kick, cut the AHS lead to 20-14. McCormick, along with teammates Stanko and Vincent Daviero led the defensive charge to force the Rams to punt on their next possession giving the Spartans a chance to score once again.

“Our defense fed off our offense, “Coach Shell said. “Our special teams were outstanding, and we knew we had our hands full with a good Amsterdam football team. Our kids didn’t buckle. They kept making good plays, and I’m proud of them.”

The Spartans got the ball at midfield on their next possession and quickly moved into Rams territory. A pass from LaPietro to McCormick picked up twenty yards to the AHS 30 yard line, and Stanko picked up five more before Daviero, a running back in the Spartans offense burst through the middle of the field and into the end zone for a score with 2:05 left in the third quarter. McCormick’s extra point kick gave the Spartans a 21-20 lead, their first since the opening quarter. LaPietro’s play was key in both scoring drives.

“He’s a good quarterback,” Coach Shell said. “A young kid who did an outstanding job, and I trust him to make those decisions.”

Meanwhile, Amsterdam’s offense couldn’t sustain any momentum in the second half. The Rugged Rams were forced to punt when their first drive of the fourth quarter stalled near midfield. An interception by AHS sophomore defensive back Trey Ausfeld, his second of the game, gave the Rams some life with under 11 minutes to play as AHS started with the ball on the BHBL 39 yard line but, didn’t get past the Spartans 35 yard line and again a drive stalled forcing Amsterdam to punt with 8:05 left in the game. Less than a minute later, Spartans senior wing back Jackson Lindbergh hauled in a 61 yard touchdown pass boosting the lead to 27-20. Stanko ran in for the two point conversion try and a 29-20 score putting Amsterdam in a situation where they needed two scores to win. Only 7:12 remained on the game clock and a determined Rams team took their shots at the end zone.

It looked like the Rams next drive would only stall again as they faced a third down and 15 from the BHBL 45 yard line, but on the next play Amsterdam’s Dale Stanavich took a screen pass from Rams quarterback Trey Holloway and bolted untouched into the end zone for an apparent score. However, the touchdown was called back due to an illegal block penalty. The ball was placed on the BHBL 35 yard line, but again an AHS drive into Spartans territory yielded no points when Holloway was sacked by Daviero on fourth down. The Rugged Rams got the ball back one more time with 3:08 to play and would advance the ball all the way to the BHBL one yard line, but a false start penalty on the AHS offense backed them up to the BHBL six and again kept them out of the end zone. Holloway was pressured by Daviero and Cannon Martucci and his fourth down pass fell incomplete and brought an end to a comeback chance for the Rams. Penalties proved costly for the home team.

“Burnt Hills- Ballston Lake is a good football team and we knew they weren’t going to quit,” Amsterdam head coach Doug Edick said. “We made mental mistakes, and we have to go back to the drawing board and improve on what we’re supposed to do. We need to do a better job of blocking and tackling. We need to clean things up.”

Amsterdam looked like a team in position to get the win with their play in the first half. Stanavich rumbled for a 42 yard gain during the Rams first possession of the game putting the ball on the Spartans 38 yard line. A key fourth down catch by senior receiver Jacob Smitka put the ball on the BHBL 12, and was followed by another run by Stanavich to the Spartans two. Holloway bulled ino the end zone on the next play giving AHS a 6-0 lead with 8:16 left in the first quarter. The extra point kick however was no good, and BHBL took a 7-6 lead with 2:33 remaining in the opening period when Stanko hauled in a 14 yard pass from LaPietro followed by McCormick’s kick.

Amsterdam’s first scoring drive involved moving 78 yards in ten plays, but the next scoring strike moved much quicker. Rams junior receiver Louis Fedullo out- jumped a pair of Spartans defenders to bring in a 40 yard pass on a big second down play that put the ball on the BHBL 20 yard marker. Stanavich then wasted no time in getting n the end zone on the next play for his first score of the season and boosted the AHS advantage to 12-7 on a three play drive. But, again the extra point try, this time on a run attempt was denied. Ausfeld’s first interception ended the next Spartans drive as the Rams were in front to end the first quarter.

The teams waged a defensive battle for much of the second quarter with Amsterdam’s defensive front line of Nico Orengo, Jiovani Orengo, Jesse Kellogg, Elijah Newborn, and Giovanie Adorno keeping the Spartans from gaining much ground, and keeping them out of the end zone. The Rams took the ball with 2:14 to play before the half and increased their lead.

Stanavich moved the ball from the BHBL 45 yard line all the way to the BHBL 22 as the clock continued to wind down. Holloway’s pass on third down and four yards to gain to senior Robbie Spagnola kept the drive alive with only 48.7 seconds left in the half. Holloway then took the ball down to the BHBL 13 where Stanavich broke through for his second touchdown of the game with 41.5 seconds left. Stanavich finished the first half with 14 rushes for 138 yards and a pair of scores. Holloway completed the two point run play for a 20-7 AHS lead. The Rams would not score again.

“Our speed hurt them in the first half,” Coach Edick said. Our front blocking was good in the first half but non existent in the second half.”

The second half was the opposite of a productive first half for the Rams, who had defeated the Spartans in last years’ Secton 2 Class A title game.

“We came out flat in the second half,” AHS senior captain Elijah Newborn said. “As a team captain that’s my fault. We need to come out better next time. We need to be ourselves in practices and games.”

The Rugged Rams return to Lynch Field for their next game on Friday against Mohonasen. Kick off is set for 7pm.

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.