CLIFTON PARK – The Queensbury Central football team showed Massena Central why it stood atop the Class A rankings heading into the 2013 NYSPHSAA football tournament. Playing in the opening round on Saturday night, the Section 2 champion Spartans relayed an early 14-0 lead into a 42-0 decision over the Raiders at the Shenendahowa High School field.
Our guys played as tough as they could the whole game but we went up against a very strong, very physical, very solid football team tonight, noted coach Anthony Diagostino afterward. I think our guys showed that we were able to be competitive but you cant make the mistakes that we made tonight against like Queensbury and expect to get away with them.
With the win, Queensbury improved to 11-0 and advanced to a semi-final round game next weekend at Dietz Stadium in Kingston while Massena, making its first appearance in the state tournament in the six-year tenure of coach Anthony Diagostino, closed out the season at 7-3.
The Spartans quickly took control, churning out rushing touchdowns on their first two possessions before showing an efficient passing game to put the game further out of reach with a last-minute drive that pushed their lead to 21-0 by halftime. They opened the scoring on their opening possession, marching 65 yards on just four plays with Phillip Wettersten, one of eight backs to carry the ball in the first half, bursting into the endzone from six yards out less than two minutes into the game. After stopping the second Massena possession when Brett Rodriguez intercepted a pass near midfield, the Spartans went 58 yards on seven plays and doubled their lead midway through the first quarter on an 11-yard touchdown scamper by Kalen Minott.
But the Raider defense settled down to stop the next two Queensbury possessions, the first when junior lineman Nolan Terrance broke through to halt Rodriguez on a fake punt attempt. They were able to move the ball down to the nine-yard line before their only venture into the redzone was stopped on downs. On the next Spartans possession, senior linebacker Jeremy Malone dropped Wettersten for a six-yard loss on a fourth-and-goal at the five-yard line.
The Raiders were unable to move the ball from deep in their own zone but a long punt by Malone pushed the Spartans back to their own 49 with a minute and a-half left in the second quarter. After two failed pass attempts, quarterback Aidan Switzer connected with Kody Bruno for a 24-yard gain on a screen pass. Two plays later, Switzer hooked up with Keeghan OLeary for a 15-yard touchdown completion with eight seconds left in the half to make it 21-0 at the break.
The Raiders opened the second half with their most sustained drive, moving the ball 35 yards to the Queensbury 32 before being stopped by the second interception of the game. Six plays and a 15-yard personal foul penalty against the Raiders later, Bruno bolted in untouched from one yard out and the Spartans went ahead 28-0 with 3:33 left in the third quarter. Queensbury then sealed their 11th win in as many games with a pair of fourth-quarter scoring drives.
Senior JP Reagan, who led the NAC in rushing this season, closed out his career at the leading rusher for the Raiders with 78 yards on 16 carries and had two pass receptions for another 25 yards while senior quarterback Rory Corcoran connected on three of nine passes for 35 yards with junior Isaiah Dillabough logging the other catch.
Malone and classmate Connor Paquin anchored the Massena defense from their linebacker positions with Malone notching the only sack of the game for the Raiders, who will be losing 19 seniors to graduation.
Overall, were pleased with the way our season went. We came together as a football team and showed a big improvement over the last couple of seasons, said Diagostino. This game was a great experience for us. Now that weve been here and seen how big a stage it is, the next time we make it down here, well be much more comfortable playing in this atmosphere.
This was a tough way for us the end the season but were definitely glad we made the trip down here, he added. Our kids gave us their best efforts tonight and thats about all you can ask for.
Switzer wound up completing four of seven passes for 58 yards while Rodriguez was Queensburys leading rusher (7-69) and Kyle Gross converted on all six of his PAT kicks. The Spartans, who beat defending state champion Burnt Hills in their sectional final, will now gear up to take on Section 9 champion Cornwall in next weekends semi-final in Kingston. Cornwall outscored Section 1 champion Somers 34-7 in its quarter-final round matchup.