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Sabres impress in opener

Willis scores five touchdowns in opener

Schalmont’s Marcus Ramundo (65) tries to elude a tackle as he returns a fumble recovery during last Saturday’s season opener against Cohoes. The Sabres tamed the Tigers 41-7.

Schalmont’s Marcus Ramundo (65) tries to elude a tackle as he returns a fumble recovery during last Saturday’s season opener against Cohoes. The Sabres tamed the Tigers 41-7. Photo by Rob Jonas.

— Section II Class B football teams are going to have a hard time containing Schalmont tailback Devon Willis if he continues to rack up yards and touchdowns at his current rate.

Willis needed only seven carries to rush for more than 130 yards and five touchdowns in the Sabres’ season-opening 41-7 victory over Cohoes last Saturday.

The sophomore broke free for a 41-yard touchdown run the first time he carried the ball. The second time he touched it, he ran off on a 48-yard scoring run.

“Devon had some really good experience as a freshman on varsity last year,” said Schalmont coach Joe Whipple. “He’s worked really hard with his father during the offseason, and he’s grown a lot. He’s not afraid of the big stage.”

Still the Sabres (1-0) only led Cohoes 14-0 at halftime, primarily because their defense had a difficult time stopping the Tigers’ offense in the first half. Cohoes took the opening kickoff and mounted a drive that ate nearly seven minutes of the first quarter before Schalmont forced a fumble deep in its end of the field. Cohoes’ next series took several more minutes before the Sabres stopped it.

Whipple attributed his team’s first-half defensive problems to over-eagerness.

“We had guys flying off the defensive line in the first half, so we had to settle them down at halftime,” said Whipple.

Schalmont turned things around with a 27-point third quarter that put the game out of Cohoes’ reach. Willis had three of the four touchdowns with runs of one, five and 24 yards, and Alex Hildebrand added a 13-yard scoring run.

“Give credit to the offensive line because they ran the offense and created the little creases Devon needed to run through,” said Whipple.

Schalmont’s defense kept Cohoes out of the end zone until the fourth quarter when Nick Bowen scored on an 8-yard run, but by then the Sabres were well on their way to victory thanks to an efficient offensive performance.

“We ran only 20 offensive plays the whole game, and seven of them were to Devon [Willis],” said Whipple. “We had four different guys touch the ball.”

The Sabres play their home opener Friday night against a Hudson team that Whipple said provides a match-up of speed vs. speed.

“Hudson is fast. They are very fast,” said Whipple. “We have to play good defense and good offense to be in the game with them.”

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