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Football: Defense helps Shaker win first Sectional title

Blue Bison shut out Shen to claim Class AA crown

Shaker’s Ryan Griffin tries to get through a pair of Shenendehowa defenders during last Friday’s Section II Class AA championship game in Clifton Park. Griffin rushed for 122 yards and a touchdown to lead the Blue Bison to a 14-0 win.

Shaker’s Ryan Griffin tries to get through a pair of Shenendehowa defenders during last Friday’s Section II Class AA championship game in Clifton Park. Griffin rushed for 122 yards and a touchdown to lead the Blue Bison to a 14-0 win. Robert Goo

— For the first time, the Shaker football team can call itself a Section II champion.

Two big offensive plays and a stout defensive performance propelled the Blue Bison (10-0) to a 14-0 victory over Shenendehowa in Friday's Class AA Super Bowl at Steuerwald Stadium.

"We looked up at the football banner (inside Shaker's gymnasium) earlier today and saw that we'd never won a Section II title before," said Shaker quarterback Chris Landers. "We were determined to change that."

"I'm thrilled with how well we played on defense," said Shaker coach Greg Sheeler. "We got some good pressure up front and made some nice plays."

Shaker got an early jump on Shen (8-2). On the second play from scrimmage, Landers rolled right and dumped a pass to Michael Mainella. Mainella then turned on the jets and ran untouched into the end zone for an 80-yard touchdown that gave the Blue Bison a 7-0 lead.

Landers said he and Mainella discussed the play earlier that day.

"We're next door neighbors. We drive in together every day," said Landers. "(Mainella) was driving me in this morning, and he tells me, 'I'm going to score on that first play.' I thought he was crazy, but he did it."

"That stung a little bit," said Shen coach Brian Clawson.

Shen's defense stepped up after allowing the touchdown. The Plainsmen bottled up Shaker's running game and allowed only one Blue Bison first down through the remainder of the first half.

"We changed our (defensive) front and the way we played their tight ends by using our defensive ends," said Clawson. "Our linebackers were filling the gaps and tackling well, and our defensive backs were playing well on the edges."

As well as Shen's defense played in the first half, Shaker's defense played even better. The Blue Bison forced two Plainsmen turnovers and sacked quarterback Ryan Buss twice. And even though Shen possessed the ball in Shaker territory several times, it couldn't get near the end zone.

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