Tough task stands between Fonda-Fultonville, Section II Class C football title

PHOTOGRAPHER:

Fonda-Fultonville quarterback Jackson Cusack evades a Johnstown defender during an Oct. 17 game at Fonda-Fultonville High School.

FONDA — It seems simple, but the task ahead for the Fonda-Fultonville Braves is a mighty one.

Want to be Section II Class C football champions? Just win one game — against a team that hasn’t lost to an area opponent in more than two years.

That’s what stands in front of Fonda-Fultonville coach Sean Thompson’s team Friday night at 7 p.m. against Schuylerville in the Section II Class C Super Bowl at Lansingburgh High School.

The Black Horses are in pursuit of a third consecutive Section II championship. Schuylerville won the Class B title en route to a state runner-up finish in 2019, then dropped down to Class C this past spring and completed an undefeated championship season.

At 10-0 entering Friday’s championship game, Schuylerville hasn’t been beaten by a Section II opponent since falling 34-13 to Glens Falls in Week 2 of the 2019 season.

“Schuylerville’s an elite team,” Thompson said, “not only in our section, but they’re an elite team in New York State. They’re the gold standard of small-school football programs.”

The Braves (7-3 overall) learned that first-hand when the two teams met during Week 3 of the regular season.

Fonda-Fultonville stayed closer to Schuylerville than any team over the last two seasons, but the Black Horses forced key turnovers in a defensive battle that allowed them to grind out a 14-7 win.

“They’re a real good team,” said Fonda-Fultonville senior running back Giovanni DiCaprio, who was held to 82 rushing yards in that loss to Schuylerville. “They’re ranked high in the state for a reason.”

That regular-season meeting with Schuylerville came with Fonda-Fultonville playing on extremely short rest.

The Braves had forfeited their Week 1 game with Cobleskill-Richmondville due to quarantines related to the coronavirus pandemic, and sat out the following week of practice before finally getting cleared for a Monday night game against Corinth/Hadley-Luzerne.

After that win, it left Fonda-Fultonville just three days to get ready for Schuylerville on Sept. 24.

“I’m not going to use that as an excuse,” Thompson said. “Schuylerville was just better than us the first game.”

Changing the result from that first matchup, Thompson said, will require the elimination of those mistakes — especially turnovers. Both of Schuylerville’s touchdowns in the regular-season showdown were a direct product of Fonda-Fultonville giveaways.

“When two teams have an even battle, it comes down to mistakes and turnovers,” Thompson said. “Those are the things we’re going to focus on. We’re going to try to play our game and not be distracted, and let the chips fall where they may.”

Schuylerville has dominated most of its competition throughout the season. After getting tested by both Fonda-Fultonville and Hoosick Falls/Tamarac in September, the Black Horses have run roughshod since the start of October, with an average margin of victory of 34.6 points.

Of course, Fonda-Fultonville’s been playing pretty well, too.

Since dropping to 3-3 after an Oct. 8 loss to Hoosick Falls/Tamarac, Fonda-Fultonville has reeled off four straight wins by an average margin of more than 38 points.

It’s a streak that has Fonda-Fultonville brimming with confidence and energy. The Braves are back in a Section II championship game for the first time since 2014, and are seeking the program’s first area title in 22 years.

“We’ve been working since our freshman year, just trying to get a starting spot,” Fonda-Fultonville senior lineman Tyler Schmidtmann said. “This would mean a lot to us.”

“We just want to compete, give it our best shot and represent ourselves well in this championship game,” Thompson said. “Our kids have worked hard to get here. We’ve worked hard to turn the program back around and get us back to where we were. We want our kids to enjoy the experience.”

By Adam Shinder

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