Sullivan West Quiets Naysayers With Dominant Win Over Class B Rondout Valley; Bulldogs Improve To 3-0 Bolstering Their Credibility
Sullivan West 40, Rondout Valley 13
By RICHARD A. ROSS
Photos at: www.sportsinsights.smugmug.com
JEFFERSONVILLE, NY—For many followers of high school football around Section IX, including some prominent sportswriters, (present company excluded), Sullivan West was due for a wake up call as it got set to host Class B Rondout Valley.
After all the Ganders had already bested Saugerties and Monticello and the team which had reached the Class B title game last year in one of the greatest turnarounds in recent history, was already garnering attention as a contender once again.
As for Sullivan West, its 2-0 record via a narrow 14-6 win over rebuilding O’Neill and a trouncing of young Roscoe to the tune of 54-0, had, aside from local fan fervor, drawn a bevy of yawns across the region.
So it was with ardent surprise, no, make that shock, that readers learned that the Bulldogs had not only beaten the Ganders, but they had done it in resounding fashion, once again rolling up a massive amount of real estate in a running attack that is starting to turn heads.
With 17 seniors on board, one year after missing the playoffs behind disappointing league losses to Millbrook and Liberty, the Dawgs are hitting their stride, working assiduously to be better prepared for their trio of home league frays against Millbrook on October 4, Tri-Valley on October 18 and Liberty on October 25. Winning two of three will earn them a berth in the October 31 Class C title game at Dietz Stadium.
When push comes to shove, non-league wins, even impressive ones against teams like the Ganders or Highland should they prove victorious in that one, won’t define a successful season if the Dawgs fail to make it to the dance, or from their point of view better yet, win the title., something they haven’t done since 2006. The Dawgs lost the title game to Tri-Valley in 2007 and to Ellenville in 2008 and they haven’t reached the championship game since.
But that was then and this is now.
An impressively large crowd was on hand including a sizeable cadre of Ganders fans who had journeyed hoping to see their team improve to 3-0.
Rondout Valley Coach George Iaocobaccio seemed upbeat during warm ups. With 12 seniors and 13 juniors in the fold, the Ganders while losing talent to graduation, still looked to be formidable. The wins against the Sawyers and Panthers had affirmed that. But playing at Sullivan West was going to be a new test.
The last time the Ganders visited Lake Huntington in 2011 they were beaten 18-0 on the Westies’ Homecoming night. But the ailing program turned due north a year ago and this figured to be far more compelling.
The Ganders won the toss and elected to defer. Senior Dan Finkbeiner showed his powerful foot eliciting a touchback on the opening kickoff. The Dawgs marshaled one first down in the series but quarterback Richard Shevak barely avoided an interception by safety Andrew Koonz. Justin Diehl punted and the Ganders wentto work. The Ganders’ advance was hindered by a block in the back penalty but junior quarterback Jake Hikade would find success in hitting his favorite target senior Joseph Hafner. The drive stalled at the Dawgs’ 23 on a fourth down tackle by Diehl.
The Dawgs drive was marred by the first of four substitute infractions. But steady ground gains by Shevak and Andrew Stabbert kept the chains moving. Facing a second and one at the 11, an unwise audible call resulted in an interception of a pass intended for Diehl by R-V’s Christian Rossi at their own nine-yard line.
On the first play Hikade found Koonz who raced 91 yards for the score with 2:08 remaining in the first quarter. Finkbeiner split the uprights and the Ganders were staked to an early 7-0 lead.
But not for long.
Ronj (The Rocket) Padu returned the kickoff to the R-V seven-yard line via an electrifying run The quarter ended but as the second stanza began Padu ran it in from the one to make it 7-6. Diehl’s PAT attempt failed. Subsitution infractions became the order of the evening as the Ganders had one and then the Dawgs had another two. The second one gave the Ganders new life as they were set to punt.
The Dawgs defense held fast and they got the ball back on downs at midfield. Stabbert showed his grit and drive with successive runs. Stabbert would amass 228 yards on 27 carries by game’s end. Added to the 255 he had in the prior two games, “Artie,” has he is familiarly known, now has 483 yards to date. His five-yard TD run at 8:15 of the second quarter was his third of the season.
The Dawgs took a 12-7 lead and they would never trail again. The two-point conversion was nixed.
Rondout Valley had great field position most of the night on their returns. That said their choice to run screen passes ad infinitum wasn’t fooling the defense. This time they wen three and out. The Dawgs scored on a nine-yard pass from Shevak to Brian Stauch with 2:36 remaining in the half to make it 18-7. Stauch was playing in his first game since suffering a concussion in the Port Jervis scrimmage and he immediately made his presence felt repeatedly on both sides of the ball.
With 6:22 remaining in the third quarter Hafner took a 26-yard screen pass to the house to make it 18-13. Finkbeiner’s PAT sailed wide left but the game was now seeming up for grabs.
The operative word here is seemingly. For indeed the Westies defense would alow no more points by their visitors who were losing players one by one to injurines. In total three went out of the game by night’s end. With 2:13 remaining in the third quarter, Shevak ran it in from the four to make it 24-13. Diehl scored on the two-point conversion to make it 26-13.
When Stabbert picked off a Hikade pass and raced 42 yards for the score, the lead burgeoned to 32-13 and you could tell this one was going in the Dawgs’ win column. Stauch took the ball on a sweep to the left sideline and ran it in from the 13 with 1:03 remaining to make it 38-13. Austin Melchick scored on the two-point conversion to reach the final tally of 40-13.
Shevak ended the night with five of 12 passes completed for 46 yards. He had 15 carries for 63 yards bringing his total to 238 yards thus far.
Stabbert led the team with 10 tackles. Sean and Kevin Hart recorded two sacks apiece. Kevin has five sacks this season thus far. Sean has four. Tyler Davis had a sack as well. Padu is the team’s leading scorer with four TD’s to date. In this game the Bulldogs rushed for 313 yards. Their season total to date is 1022 for an average of 8.89 yards per carry. They have scored 108 points while yielding only 19.
Iacobaccio summed things up this way. “We weren’t ready to play tonight. This wasn’t the team that showed up last week or the week before. This is always a tough team up here. These guys always play hard up here but we brought nothing to this game tonight. I was very disappointed,” he noted. “We have Marlboro for our league opener next week and that’s a big one for us,” he averred. “We held them three and out twice in the first half but we couldn’t make it go our way. We had a couple of bad blocks and a bad punt, not great snapping. This was something to build on but like I said I was just not happy with the play.”
Sullivan West Coach Ron Bauer said, “We played good football tonight. The line blocked really well and Stabbert ran really hard as did Shevak. We had a lot of good yardage tonight. We have a few mistakes we have to correct as far as penalties on special teams. Overall it was a good job and a good win,” noted Bauer. Sullivan West travels to Dietz Stadium on September 27 to play Rensselaer, one of the top Class D teams in the state.
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