Guilderland gains victory, final playoff berth

Dutchmen run past Bethlehem in regular season finale

— The Guilderland football team used its feet to beat Bethlehem.

The Dutchmen (3-3 division, 4-3 overall) ran for more than 230 yards and three touchdowns on their way to a 32-20 victory over the Eagles in Friday's Empire Division game at Shenendehowa High School -- a move necessitated by heavy rains that made Bethlehem's field unplayable.

The win secured fourth place for Guilderland and a berth in next week's Section II Class AA playoffs against Liberty Division champion Columbia, while Bethlehem (2-4, 2-5) dropped into fifth place and the consolation round.

"This season wasn't as pretty as what we drew up before the season began," said Guilderland quarterback Tim O'Connor. "But we got here [to the playoffs], and that's all that matters."

Normally, the Dutchmen balance the run with a short passing attack. But when a steady rain fell during the second half, Guilderland went almost exclusively to the run. The move paid off early in the fourth quarter when the Dutchmen put together a scoring drive purely on runs that gave them a 24-14 lead.

"We don't like using weather as an excuse, but the ball was pretty slick," said O'Connor, who rushed for 82 yards and passed for 63 yards. "We had some success running the ball, so we kept doing it."

"With our offense, we want to attack with a balance of running and passing, but sometimes circumstances dictate how you're going to attack," said Guilderland coach Dan Penna.

Guilderland's decisive drive was set up by a daring Bethlehem play that fell flat. Trailing by two points and with the ball near midfield, the Eagles tried a fake punt that Guilderland stopped. A short time later, Tony Stanish capped the Dutchmen drive with a 2-yard touchdown run and a two-point conversion to extend Guilderland's lead to 10 points.

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