The first Friday night football game in Watervliet did not go the way the Cannoneers planned.
Quarterback Robert Denman rushed for three touchdowns and passed for two more to lead visiting Voorheesville to a 44-12 victory over Watervliet Sept. 12.
Tailback Matt Feller rushed for 184 yards and a touchdown to help the Blackbirds (2-0) stun their long-time rivals from Watervliet (1-1).
“I’m just really proud of the kids,” said Voorheesville coach Joe Sapienza. “This is a pretty challenging thing to do to come here on a night like this.”
Watervliet was psyched to play its first game on its new football field in front of a standing-room-only crowd and on local television. But once Voorheesville scored its first points of the evening on a 1-yard touchdown run by Denman, it went downhill fast for the Cannoneers.
“I’m disappointed for the kids,” said Watervliet coach Brian Hoefer. “I know they had their hearts set on this (game).”
Denman’s touchdown 8:52 into the second quarter capped a long Voorheesville drive that started late in the first quarter. It took less than one minute for the Blackbirds to score again, though. Facing fourth down deep in its own territory, Watervliet attempted a punt, but the ball sailed over Dan Burns’ head and into the end zone. Burns recovered the ball before Voorheesville’s David Cardona tackled him for a safety, which gave the Blackbirds a 9-0 lead.
On Voorheesville’s ensuing possession, a long run by Denman was negated by a chop block penalty. That proved to be of little concern to the Blackbirds, as Denman connected with Shane Parry on a 41-yard touchdown pass on the next play. Mickey Knight’s extra point increased Voorheesville’s lead to 16-0.
Watervliet got the home crowd buzzing later in the second quarter with a well-executed offensive series that culminated with a halfback option touchdown pass from Michael Nadeau to Ryan Sandoval. The Cannoneers went for a two-point conversion, but quarterback Anthony Halpin’s pass fell incomplete, which left Watervliet with a 16-6 deficit.
“We just didn’t give the offense a chance,” said Hoefer. “When you get down a few points, you have to change the calls and take some chances downfield.”
Any hope for a Cannoneer comeback faded at the close of the first half. As time expired, Denman rolled right and heaved a long pass that a wide-open Knight caught for a 50-yard scoring strike. Knight then kicked the extra point to put Voorheesville ahead 23-6.
Feller found plenty of running room to begin the third quarter. His first two carries brought Voorheesville from its 34-yard line to Watervliet’s 8. Two plays later, Denman plowed his way for a 4-yard touchdown run to put the Blackbirds ahead 30-6.
“It was kind of funny because I told him (Feller) at halftime that we were going to milk the clock, and he should be ready for more touches,” said Sapienza. “I didn’t want us getting down there that quickly, but that’s what happened.”
“I’ve got to dedicate some of the credit to my (offensive) line – especially the left side,” said Feller.
Denman tacked on an 11-yard touchdown run later in the third quarter, and Feller added a 24-yard scoring scamper early in the fourth quarter to extend Voorheesville’s lead to 44-6. Collin O’Brien set off Watervliet’s end zone cannon with a 17-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter, but by then most of the Cannoneers’ fans had left.
Despite the home team’s one-sided loss, Watervliet athletic director Michael Foust said the night was a success.
“We wanted to play underneath the lights. The community wanted it. The taxpayers paid for it. It’s great,” said Foust.
Watervliet will have to wait two weeks for its next shot to win on its new home field when it hosts Tamarac on Sept. 26. Before that, the Cannoneers look to get back into the win column Friday, Sept. 19, when it visits Chatham.
Meanwhile, Voorheesville gets to play on its home turf for the first time in 2014 when it hosts Mechanicville (2-0) Saturday, Sept. 20, in a critical Class C Central Division contest.
“It’s a huge game. They’re 2-0, and we’re 2-0,” said Sapienza.
Associate editor/sports editor