CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. – Football is a game of numbers – those for your team and those you take away or don’t allow.
Shenendehowa has the perfect combination of both, an offense that has put up more than 400 points against its 11 opponents this year, including 32 touchdowns by senior running back Billy Beach to go with limiting its opponents to just 88 points and putting up three shutouts along with four single-score outings.
Much credit must go to Shenendehowa’s Fantastic Beasts on both sides of the ball and we knew just where to find them – at Brent T. Steuerwald Stadium preparing for Saturday’s NYSPHSAA semifinal against New Rochelle.
“Watching them develop throughout the year is one of the most rewarding thing from a line coach, watching them getting better week-in and week-out and that communication now picks up,” Shenendehowa line Coach Mark McQuade said. “Two or three weeks ago we were making this mistake or continuing to make this mistake, we're not there anymore, and we’re not making those mistakes.”
For the first time in the program the Plainsmen are two separate, but very equal lines, spending 90 minutes a day on their individual craft equating to almost 100 plays per session.
“I've had years where I might have had an offensive line that didn't play any defense and I might have had a defensive line that didn't play any offense, but collectively we still had some two-way players,” McQuade said. “Friday night after we lost to Shaker, we came in, presented a plan to the guys and everybody has a spot. There is no standing around. We run a play every 15 seconds.”
That has allowed the Shenendehowa defensive starters of Patrick McCane, Colin Cook, Jaysiah Woodrow and J.T. Sterle Jr. to hone their craft and focus on an opponent during each practice.
“I was playing both ways at the beginning against Bethlehem and Shaker, I was the starting left tackle and starting 'D' tackle, but I think as Pat (McCane) said towards the end of each game it was getting really tiring, especially against Shaker,” Colin Cook said. “In that loss I think a lot of kids were cramping, a lot of us were getting tired out, getting worn down.
“In this system it allowed us to play 100 percent throughout the entire game, not worrying about cramping, not worrying about getting tired, putting 100 percent effort in every single play and that translated well into shutting down teams.”
That singular focus has led to a dominating defense that is limiting the time of possession of the Plainsmen opponents and getting the ball back into the hands of quarterback Brody Vincenzi and Billy Beach.
“I think it's just mostly playing assignment football, we practice that every single day in practice,” Cook said. “Our intensity is really high every single day, we're all playing together, we pull off each other really well, and we’re reading our keys. Going 100 percent every day and that translates well into a game setting.”
While producing three-and-outs for the Shen defense, the ball is turned over to the other movers and shakers on the offensive line – Dustin Lewis, Kevin Fobare, Zachary Trump, Alex Smith,
Billy Marchewka, Sam Standaert and Christopher Lasher.
“You have to have the intelligence to play,” McQuade said. “I go to the JV games and the opponent defense is one defense, they may or may not blitz and they stay in that the whole game. “At our level it's radically different. They could change the entire (defensive) front a half second before we snap the ball and send more guys than we're capable of blocking. You have to have the intelligence to know the big picture.”
The first brush stroke on this year’s Plainsmen canvas started last December for the offensive line.
“It starts in lifting, the linemen always want to lift together, be together, you want start a camaraderie and start as a unit right off the bat,” Kevin Fobare said. “Then once you get into the year, you start to know each other more; you hang out more, start communicating more.
“We're all learning together, we'll all make mistakes together, week one and week two, we push each other to get better. Once you get to week four or five, that's when you know what to do, we're all locked in and then when you get into playoffs you have to work even harder.”
Part of that performance is creating openings for Beach and the other backs, but it’s not just one side of the line as Shenendehowa has the ability to have lineman pull or move to the opposite side to create a blocking overload on a defense.
“In years prior we would just have one side of the line that was light that was able to pull and the other side wouldn't, they would be home bodies,” Billy Marchewka said. “With this we can change it up all the time and go either way and throw off opponents.”
And then they have the best seat in the house.
“It makes us feel great; there is nothing better than seeing your running backs score touchdowns, especially with plenty of yards,” Fobare said. “Its ground and pound, you're dominating the person in front of you and the whole line is dominating the other defensive line.
“It's fun to shove around people after a job, I know I enjoy doing it, and I know all your lineman enjoy doing it. Just Billy (Beach) scoring is just an after effect, plus he's pretty good.”
The new system and the success were not pre-scripted for this year’s Plainsmen squad.
“It's been really rewarding to see them have the season and the post-season they're having and me sit back,” McQuade said. “Only Kevin (Fobare) has returned. If you told me a year ago that those guys are going to be in the state semifinals I would be like 'Really?'
“We didn't see this coming and that's kind of the joy of it.”
Shenendehowa's season ended in a hard-fought 24-17 loss to New Rochelle last Saturday night at Middletown High School in the NYSPHSAA East Regional.