Friday, August 31, 2012

Niskayuna 38, Saratpga Springs 14 8/31

The defining play in Saratoga Springs' season-opening 38-14 loss was a seemingly routine one. Quarterback Jake Eglintine threw a 9-yard pass to Travis Mooney, who was hit immediately by Uwem Akpanikat.

Akpanikat immediately got up. Mooney didn't. The tackle occurred close to the sideline, so Mooney tried to crawl his way off the field. He couldn't. And then came the scream — one of disbelief and anguish — because certainly, this couldn't be happening. But it was.

You may recall the feature story we did on Mooney as the Blue Streaks began training camp back on Aug. 13. He, perhaps more than anyone, was excited to get back on the field. He had missed all but a handful of plays in 2011 after breaking his leg in the team's season-opening win over Albany.

The coaching staff was happy to have him back too. Terry Jones named him one of the team's two permanent captains. And yet there was Mooney writhing in pain on the Saratoga Springs sidelines, injured on a play that was eerily similar to the one that cost him his junior season.

He was helped off the field and didn't put any weight on his right leg. The training staff was examining his right leg and knee. Jones said he didn't have an update on Mooney after the game, but the senior was seen walking on crutches. That is never a good sign.

Jordan Wilcox, the team's other permanent captain, said you can't help but feel for Mooney. His injury, plus an apparent upper-body injury to freshman Dakota Harvey, were serious blows to the team Monday night. That's what I focused on in the game story, but I wanted to use this blog post to provide some additional analysis into tonight's game, with quotes that didn't make the print cut.

Plan to do this for every Saratoga Springs game this season. More after the jump. Before that, though, check out this shot from Saratogian photographer Ed Burke. It's Dakota Harvey's first varsity touchdown, the moment he crossed the plane on his 64-yard run.

Coach Terry Jones

On the injuries: "They hurt us pretty bad tonight. We need to get better. That's what we talked about. You learn from what we did tonight and we have to get better."

On whether the injured players (Mooney, Harvey, Joe Miller) will miss significant time: "I don't know. I haven't talked to the doctors about the injuries. All they tell me is this person's out, that person's out. ... How serious, they won't know until they get looked at."

On Jake Eglintine, who left after a high hit: "He almost had his head taken off. At that point, we're down three touchdowns, maybe four touchdowns, there's no point keeping him in the game at that point. He could have gone back in."

On the team's overall performance: "We weren't very good tonight. They didn't do anything we didn't expect them to do. We knew they were going to off the corner. We knew they were going to run (Adrien O'Brien, who finished with 218 yards on 23 carries). We knew they were going to take their tackles and shoot the gaps. We didn't execute. They're kids. That happens."

On Niskayuna's use of the Wildcat formation, which saw O'Brien get direct snaps: "They've been running it for years. We've run against the Wildcat for three weeks now. The bottom line is their offensive line is bigger than we are. We're not very big up front. Sometimes, physically, you just can't stop someone."

On next week's game at Bethlehem: "We have to get a lot better. We have to block better, we have to throw better, we have to run better, we have to catch better, we have to tackle better. We were misaligned at times. We didn't run certain stunts at times. All around, we have to get better."

Running Back Jordan Wilcox

On whether the injuries will ultimately hurt more than the loss: "Definitely. We're hurting now, we're a couple guys down, but hopefully we'll bounce back next week."

On how the injuries affected the team's game plan: "I had to bump to fullback and we had to put in our third-string tailback, Zach Grandy. We were supposed to rep us all, we were supposed to get a lot of touches, but it messed up our whole game plan."

Editor's note: The Blue Streaks finished the night with 138 team rushing yards, but 92 of those belonged to Harvey. Another five belonged to Mooney. Their injury replacements, Grandy, Wilcox and Calvin Millar combined for negative-2 yards on eight carries. Eglintine had 43 under center.

On Niskayuna's game plan: "We saw it coming. They were blitzing every game. Their pass game was good. (Akpanikat, the game's leading receiver) was doing his thing. (No.) 26, Aiden, ran the ball well. We knew it was coming, Wildcat and everything. We should have stopped it."

On necessary improvements heading into the Bethlehem game: "We're going to work hard this week, see what we can do and bring it back tomorrow morning at 9."

Editor's note: I'm a big hockey fan and the sport has this tradition of honoring the night's top players in a "Three Stars of the Game" ceremony. I thought I'd bring it here to the blog for football.

1. Aidan O'Brien, RB/LB, Niskayuna: 23 carries, 218 yards and two touchdowns for sophomore who ran Silver Warriors' Wildcat formation.
2. Uwem Akpanikat, WR/DB, Niskayuna: Senior picked up 78 receiving yards on five catches, including an impressive 27-yard touchdown grab.
3. Dakota Harvey, RB/LB, Saratoga Springs: Freshman began day at orientation, finished with 64-yard touchdown run in limited action before leaving with injury.
UNSUNG HERO: Ian Timm, OL/LB, Niskayuna: Had interception and fumble recovery, both of which set up Niskayuna touchdowns.

Headed to Hudson Falls tomorrow, or later today, to catch the Black Horses game. Anyone else making the trip? Let me know.

Until next time,
— MC


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