Shenendehowa went about its business in beating Guilderland in Class AA football

CLIFTON PARK — The Guilderland football team traveled up the Northway Friday night knowing everything possible had to break right for the Dutchmen to win the fourth and only Section II Class AA slot available. Not only did Guilderland need to beat Shenendehowa on its Senior Night, it also needed Colonie to pull off an upset in Saratoga Springs. The Plainsmen showed that they were in no mood to cooperate.

Even with its playoff spot already secured before Friday night’s contest, Shenendehowa methodically excelled in all three phases and rolled to a comprehensive 35-7 victory that eliminated the Dutchmen from postseason consideration.

Senior running back Henry Pickard capped the Plainsmen’s opening two possessions with touchdown runs of 15 and 20 yards, respectively, in the first quarter, and sophomore running back Ihsan Alozier had touchdown runs of 4 and 43 yards in the second quarter. Shenendehowa led 28-0 at halftime after outscoring Guilderland 296-33.

“It was so much fun to go out there and support our seniors,” said Shen junior linebacker Brett Steiner, who had a stellar performance that included a forced fumble, a sack and several big hits. “We really enjoyed it. It was a great game… We play every game like it’s the Super Bowl game. We could take this week off. That’s not who we are as a team.”

“Playing like this going into the playoffs gives us a lot of confidence,” Shen senior linebacker Cody Smith said. “We like watching our quarterbacks play and everything. Our offense looks great in the playoffs and we will work hard this week in practice to get even better.”

The Plainsmen, ranked No. 16 in the state, finished their regular season 7-1 overall and 6-1 in Class AA play. They will host No. 3 seed Shaker (6-3, 4-2), the state’s No. 25 team, on Friday in a semifinal rematch from 2021, when fourth-seeded Shen upset the top-seeded Blue Bison, 17-14.

The seniors were honored before the game. Several posed after the game for photos with family and friends. Although the Plainsmen will play again at home against Shaker in Week 9, Friday’s contest was the final home game of the regular season for several players who will not be playing football beyond high school.

“We know it’s not a lifetime thing. We’re going to wake up one day and (football) is going to be gone, so I feel like we left it all out there tonight and we’ve got Shaker next week,” Shen senior linebacker Justin Velez said.

Shenendehowa wasted little time establishing itself on both sides of the ball. The offense started with punts of 74 and 86 yards. The Plainsmen mixed the run and pass effectively with junior quarterback Michael Whatley hooking up with receivers Luke McAuliffe and Blake Melo.

Defensively, Smith led the defensive line, Steiner was a standout among an active four-back contingent that also featured stellar work from Jaden Brown, Eddie Voska and Devin Leavey, and Velez excelled among the defensive backs.

“We love to see our players play because it makes our lives easier,” Velez said. “The guys up front played well too. If they can’t get a pass, that’s better for us.”

“We’re starting to peak as a unit,” Steiner said. “It’s not just about the D-line, the linebackers or the secondary. We all come together as one whole defense of Shenendehowa. I really feel like it’s great for us and it’s great for Shenendehowa.”

The teams traded touchdowns in the second half. Guilderland avoided the shutout in the third quarter with a touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Travis Berschwinger to senior running back Justin Kapusinski.

Shenendehowa senior running back Aurelio Guido burst up the middle for a 70-yard touchdown with 10:27 remaining.

Alozie paced himself with nine carries for 90 yards and two touchdowns. Pickard, who scored the game-winning touchdown in a 20-14 overtime win at Shaker in Week 4, added nine carries for 53 yards and two touchdowns. Whatley threw for 161 yards.

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