Basketball is known as a game of runs, with coaches and players hoping to have the most, and more importantly, the final run of the contest. Friday night in Mechanicville the players wore helmets and pads and the ball had laces, but in a back and forth game early, Greenwich owned the final run of the night, scoring 20 unanswered over the final 16:00, to earn the 41-20 victory over Tuckahoe in a Class D state quarterfinal.
Greenwich put the game’s first points on the board with 8:23 left in the opening frame, on a Jesse Kuzmich 23 yard run and with the Declan Kelleher point after, the Witches led 7-0.
Tuckahoe responded with seconds remaining in the period, when Jax Colacicco found Nick Pagnotta for a 12-yard TD connection and with the tack on point pulled even at 7-7 entering the second quarter.
In the opening minutes of the period, Greenwich grabbed momentum cashing in with a pair of scores two minutes apart.
Witches quarterback Kuzmich hit Deontae Bennett with a 21-yard scoring strike, and after Parker Jamieson picked off a Colacicco delivery, Matt Conlin rumbled 63 yards for points, extended the Witches advantage to 21-7 at the 7:47 mark of the period.
But the Section I champions refused to go quietly, responding with back to back scores of their own.
The Tigers put together a drive late in the frame that ended with a Michael Myers 1-yard touchdown run, cutting the Witches cushion to 21-14 heading into the halftime break,
Less than three minutes into the third, Colacicco connected for his second scoring strike of the night, finding Jake Matarazzo on a 19-yard throw and catch, but the point after attempt failed and Greenwich maintained the lead at 21-20.
Greenwich then responded with a pair of championship drives with Conlin, Kuzmich, and the O-line taking center stage.
Their first series covered 60 yards with Kuzmich, twice converting on fourth down option runs, and Colin finishing the drive, after totes of 28 and 8 yards, with a 3-yard touchdown giving Greenwich a 27-20 lead with 4:12 left in the quarter.
After the Witches “D” forced a three-and-out, Greenwich took control.
The Section II champs went to work behind their dominant front, moving 68 yards on 11 plays, with Conlin carrying seven times, setting up a Kuzmich 20-yard scoring run to extend their lead to 34-20 at the 9:51 mark of the fourth.
The final points of the evening came when Kuzmich found Tyler day for a 14-yard touchdown with seconds remaining, completing their end of game dominance, and sending the Witches to a state semifinal matchup with Section VII champion Moriah, at Middletown High School, on Friday at 3 p.m.
When Greenwich makes the short trip to Mechanicville late this afternoon, the Witches realize they stand two wins away from a state final appearance. They also understand those wins won’t come easily.
Standing in their way on the first leg of their post season journey, are the Tuckahoe Tigers from Section I, with a 8-1 mark and a spread offense that puts points on the board.
The sixth ranked Tigers have averaged 42 points per contest, throughout their nine game campaign, with their only defeat coming against Class C power Dobbs Ferry, dropping a 34-20 decision.
They advanced to the semi’s with a 48-40 victory over Haldane last weekend, a game in which the Tigers needed all their offensive prowess to post the “W”. Tuckahoe senior running back Michael Myers ran for 352 yards and three scores in the Section I final, while sophomore quarterback Jax Colacicco found four different receivers with scoring strikes.
On the year Myers has rushed for 1193 yards and 17 touchdowns, while Colacicco has thrown for 786 yards and eight scores, in relief of junior Mike Annunziata who had impressive numbers of 830 yards through the air to go with just under 600 yards gained on the ground.
However make no mistake, the Witches can score with anyone. Greenwich averages 41 points per contest, and have ridden that potent attack to a 10-0 mark.
They come in off a 31-7 victory over Stillwater in the Section II final last Saturday in Schuylerville. On a wet, raw afternoon built for running the football, Greenwich did just that with sophomore back Matt Conlin leading the way with 161 yards and a pair of scores, while Aiden McPhail and quarterback Jesse Kuzmich both added rushing touchdowns.
The powerful Conlin has run for 1049 yards and 19 touchdowns this year, while Kuzmich gets it done through the air as well as on the ground with nearly 1800 combined yards and 26 TD’s. All purpose player Deontae Bennett has scored 16 touchdowns, with nine receiving scores, six rushing and one coming on a return.
One thing that stands out to me is Tuckahoe has allowed 19 points per game including 88 over their last three outings, while Greenwich has held their opponents to eight points per, with a propensity to create turnovers, including a pair of timely interceptions last weekend versus Stillwater.
Don’t overlook the travel time for Tuckahoe who hails from southern Westchester County, and is looking at a three hour trip, while the Witches spend 40 minutes on road, and once they arrive are very familiar with the Mechanicville venue.
I think Greenwich will run the football with physicality and also look to get their passing game going on what looks to be a dry night, weather-wise.
On the defensive side of things, Greenwich has the athleticism to matchup with the spread attack of the Tigers, and the ability to pressure the quarterback.
I like Greenwich to handle their business, and advance to the state semi’s, next Friday in Middletown, moving one step closer to the ultimate prize.
On a raw, wet, Saturday afternoon, Greenwich used a dominant ground attack, and an opportunistic defense, to earn the Section II Class D football championship with a 31-7 decision over Stillwater, on the turf in Schuylerville.
The Witches, went up tempo on the game’s opening drive and mixed a trio of ball carriers in Colin Hughes, Aiden McPhail, and quarterback Jesse Kuzmich to methodically march the ball down the field for points, when Hughes plowed in from the two, and with the Declan Kelleher point after, led 7-0, just four minutes in.
On Stillwater’s first offensive series, Greenwich forced a Warrior punt, but the Maroon and White quickly regained possession when Trevor Cowin intercepted a deep ball from Kuzmich and returned it to the Greenwich 33-yard line.
Later in the drive, facing a 4th and four at the Greenwich 15, Colby Paffin found an open Jaxson Mueller who made a leaping grab at the two, setting up first and goal. One play later, Mueller took the snap out of the Wildcat and pushed the pile in for the score and the Liam Brady tack on, evened things at 7-7 with 1:08 remaining in the frame.
On Greenwich’s ensuing drive the Witches used 25 penalty yards from Stillwater, a 19-yard keeper by Kuzmich and a pair of steamroller runs by sophomore Matt Conlin, the second a 12-yard touchdown tote, to take a 14-7 advantage.
After the Greenwich “D” forced Stillwater’s second punt of the day, the Witches took over on their own 41 and again cashed in for points.
Four Conlin carries moved the ball to the Warrior 41, when Kumich, working out of the pistol, took the snap, delayed, and accelerated through the middle, breaking a tackle at the 20, and outrunning everyone to the left pylon, to give the Witches a two score cushion at 21-7.
A Parker Jamieson pick quickly gave the ball back to Greenwich, but the Stillwater defense held and took over on downs at their own 20 yard line with 3:30 left in the half.
Warrior running back CJ McNeil mixed a pair of inside runs, with two toss sweeps, and coupled with a 15-yard penalty on Greenwich, Stillwater was set up at the Witches 34.
But Greenwich stiffened, sacking Paffen for a five yard loss, and stopping McNeil on a fourth and short to end the scoring threat, sending the squads to the halftime intermission.
After the break, Stillwater’s initial drive moved the ball to the Greenwich 48, but stalled there and the Warriors were forced to punt.
Taking over on their own 20, the Witches consumed clock, and yards on the series, courtesy of the powerful Conlin.
The 235 pound back carried eight times for 65 yards in the 7:30 drive, including runs of 21, 16 and 15 yards, setting up a 30-yard field goal from Kelleher, giving Greenwich 24-7 lead with 1:23 left in the third.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Jamieson came up with his second pick of the contest, running it back to the Stillwater 30, and two plays later, with thunder in the distance, play was stopped for a weather delay.
After the stoppage, facing a fourth and one, a Kuzmich sneak took the ball to the Warrior 15 yard line, and on the next play it was Conlin, breaking three tackles, and scoring on a 16-yard foray, extending the Witches advantage to 31-7 and leaving no doubt that the championship belonged to Greenwich.
Conlin finished with 160 yards on 21 carries to lead the Witches attack, and McNeil paced the Warriors with a 119 yard effort carrying 26 times.
Greenwich, (10-0), advances to regional play and will face Tuckahoe, next Friday night in Mechanicville.
After Stillwater and Greenwich met in week two of the regular season, a game won by Greenwich 27-19, most felt the two squads would face off again at some point in the post season. Neither has lost since that matchup on 9/17, clearly establishing themselves as the top two teams in Section II Class D. Both units handled their business on Saturday, posting semifinals “W’s”, and will indeed meet, in a much anticipated title game on Saturday, in Schuylerville at 1:00.
Greenwich 48 Chatham 20: Despite losing their leading rusher to injury on Saturday, the Witches held a 14-0 lead after a quarter of play, and a 28-6 advantage at the half, in posting the Class D semifinal win over Chatham, in Schuylerville.
Matt Conlin, Greenwich’s sophomore back, ran for 56 yards and a touchdown, before he suffered an injury mid-way through the second period and did not return.
Deontae Bennett got Greenwich on the board at the 8:51 mark of the first, scoring on a 6-yard run, and later in the quarter Jesse Kuzmich added a 72-yard scoring scamper for a 14-0 cushion.
Seconds into the second frame, Conlin rumbled in from three yards out to put Greenwich in control at 21-0.
Midway through the period, Chatham quarterback Tyler Kneller scored on a 20-yard run trimming the lead to 21-6, but before the break it was Kuzmich again, this time scoring on a 2-yard carry, extending the Witches halftime lead to 28-6.
Two minutes into the third, Greenwich put the game away when Colin Hughes broke out for a 74 yard TD run and a commanding 34-6 advantage.
Hughes and Aiden MacPhail added rushing touchdowns later in the half to round out the Witches scoring.
On the defensive side of the ball Greenwich picked off the Chatham signal-caller Kneller, four times in the contest.
Stillwater 31 Warrensburg 12: After a back and forth, first half that ended with the teams knotted 12-12, Stillwater scored 19 unanswered after the break, to pull away, notching the Class D semifinal “W” over Warrensburg.
Tim Kelley opened the scoring for Warrensburg at the 7:36 mark of the first, on a 6-yard carry, and a 6-0 Burgher lead.
Stillwater answered quickly with Colby Paffen finding Jaxson Mueller for a 9-yard touchdown connection, pulling the Warriors even at 6-6.
In the second, Warrensburg jumped back in front, taking a 12-6 advantage on a 28-yard touchdown tote by Dylan Winchell with 4:21 remaining in the half.
But Stillwater cashed in on their last drive of the half when Mueller rumbled in from three yards out, sending the teams into the break deadlocked at 12-12.
The Warriors Gavin Baker scored the only points points of the third frame on a 10-yard TD run at the 6:07 mark, giving Stillwater their first lead of the day at 18-12, and one they wouldn’t give back.
Stillwater closed things out with a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns on a 66-yard fumble return by Caleb Dyer, and a 33-yard scoring run by C.J. McNeil, while the Warriors defense shut the door on the Burgher attack.
McNeil finished with 107 rushing yards on 20 carries, while Paffen hit on 7 of 10 attempts for 103 yards through the air for Stillwater.