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Massena set to take on top-ranked Queensbury in state football opener

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MASSENA - To be the top Class A team in the state, the Massena Central football team will first have to go through the top ranked Class A team in the state.

“They’re definitely a good football team. A few of us went down last weekend to see them in their sectional game and we were impressed with how they played. There’s no question it’s going to be a challenge for us,” said coach Anthony Diagostiono as the Raiders get set to take on Section 2 champion Queensbury in the opening round of the NYSPHSAA Class A tournament this Saturday night at the Shenendahowa High School Field starting at 7 p.m.

The host Spartans enter the game at 10-0 after knocking off five-time sectional and defending state champion Burnt Hills 14-7. With that win, Queensbury held on to the top spot in the New York State High School Sportswriters Class A football poll and advanced to the state tournament for the first time since 1998.

“We’re looking forward to this game,” noted Diagostino. “I’m in my sixth year as head coach and it’s the first time we’re playing outside our section in the state tournament. We don’t get a lot of chances to play against this level of competition so we’re hoping this is going to be a good learning experience for all of us.”

The lone Class A program in Section 10, the Raiders closed out the regular season three weeks ago with a loss on the road to undefeated NAC champion Potsdam. They were not involved in any sectional playoffs but geared up for their state tournament matchup by playing a pair of non-league games where they produced hard-fought wins on the road against Franklin Academy (25-18) and Tupper Lake (21-13) in raising their overall record to 7-2.

“One of our concerns going into those games was that the kids wouldn’t take them seriously because they weren’t really part of any playoff,” said Diagostino. “In both games, we did what we needed to do to win and we were happy to come out of them with victories.”

“We had a bye last week and that gave everyone a chance to rest up a little bit but we’ve been working hard on getting refocused on the task at hand,” he noted.

The Raiders have outscored their opponents 210-126 through nine games. Their offense has produced nearly 3,000 yards with the majority of it coming on the ground led by senior runningback J.P. Reagon, who has generated 1,632 yards and 25 touchdowns on 168 carries. Senior quarterback Rory Corcoran is the team’s next leading rusher with 344 yards and one touchdowns on 59 carries while junior Isaiah Dillabough has gone for another 266 yards and two touchdowns on 37 rushes.

Corcoran has also completed 38 of 103 passes for 600 yards and nine touchdowns with seven interceptions. Junior Josh Manley has been the team’s most effective receiver with 377 yards and seven touchdowns on 19 catches while Reagan has pulled down another 12 passes for 144 yards with a solo touchdown grab. Junior place-kicker Jayce Lanning has contributed 11 successful PAT’s toward the Massena offense.

Anchored by senior linebacker Jeremy Malone, who was named the 2013 NAC Defensive MVP for his efforts, the Raider defense allowed the second fewest points in the league this fall. Malone leads the team in tackles with 61 followed by Dillabough with 46 and Reagan with 43. Seniors Connor Paquin and Sam Gerber has been in on 35 tackles each while junior Nolan Terrance has notched another 31. The Raiders have recorded 24 sacks this season led by senior Josh Blair with four and classmate Ross Davis with three and a-half. Seniors Robert Cunningham and Cody Hooper has each logged another three.

Massena has also defended well against the pass this fall with 14 interceptions led by Manley with five. Dillabough and junior Matt Thibault have picked off three passes each.

The Spartans have churned out more than 3,400 yards of total offense in their 10 games. Operating out of a double-tight, double-wing formation, they boast a formidably well-balanced running game that features four runningbacks with at least 400 yards rushing. Sophomore Brett Rodriguez, who is also a threat to throw the ball from the halfback option pass formation, leads the ground forces with 907 yards and 10 touchdowns on 85 carries. Also making key contributions throughout the season were senior Tim Voorhis (74x545, 7TD), senior Kalen Minott (50x456, 9TD) and Kody Bruno (51x401, 5TD) while lanky senior quarterback Aidan Switzer capably orchestrates the offense.

“This isn’t the kind of team that we can make vital mistakes against,” Diagostino noted. “A big key for us is keeping the guys with a positive attitude. If we go down there with the attitude that we’re going to get beat then they already have us beaten.”

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