FONDA — Of the 29 players listed on Fonda-Fultonville’s varsity football roster, 27 of them are either juniors or seniors.
In Friday night’s 41-14 Section 2 Class C win over Johnstown, it was the two younger members of head coach Mike Mancini’s team that made the biggest difference.
Quarterback Keegan Croucher, the only freshman on the varsity team, completed just three passes in the first half against the Sir Bills, but all of them went for touchdowns.
Running back Colin Pickering, the lone sophomore on the team, was part of an effective one-two punch in the backfield. Pickering powered his way to 136 rushing yards and a touchdown while rotating with senior Jose Vargas, who ran for 124 yards and a score of his own.
After a last-second 34-32 loss to Schuylerville the week prior, Friday night’s performance was a big momentum boost for the two young Fonda-Fultonville (1-1 Class C, 1-1 overall) standouts — and one they both credited to the older players around them.
“It feels great. First win,” Pickering said. “We have such good leaders. They led us through, so it just feels like a normal win for us.”
“They push us through practice and make us better,” Croucher said.
Croucher had missed on his first two attempts through the air, but got a chance to reset late in the first quarter when, with Fonda-Fultonville leading 7-0, the game was halted for a little more than 30 minutes after lightning was spotted in the area.
On the first play after the restart, Vargas gained 11 yards. On the next, Croucher fired a perfect deep pass to senior receiver Brady Melious, who hauled it in for a 36-yard touchdown.
“That controlled the whole game,” Croucher said. “It set the tone.”
Pickering said the team’s early trip back to the locker room left them raring to go once they headed back out onto John G. Boshart Field.
“We were just ready to get rolling,” he said. “I mean, we’re driving down the field [when the delay started]. We just had to keep our heads into it. We knew we had the ball, so we were just going to go out and score.”
Fonda-Fultonville scored on five of its next six possessions following the lightning delay, including three of its final four offensive series of the first half.
The highlight of the night came in the second quarter when, after Johnstown (1-1, 1-1) had pulled within 21-14 thanks to a pair of Ryan Hoyt touchdown runs, Fonda-Fultonville faced a fourth-and-14 from the Sir Bills’ 40-yard-line.
In a show of confidence in the team’s young signal-caller, the Fonda-Fultonville coaching staff gave Croucher the green light to chuck it deep.
The 6-foot-3 freshman responded with a perfect ball down the seam to Mason Smith for a touchdown that gave Fonda-Fultonville a 28-14 halftime lead.
“When they told me what the play was, I was like, ‘Bet,’” Croucher said.
From there, it was a businesslike conclusion to the game for Fonda-Fultonville. That’s an approach the team’s two youngest contributors are already embracing.
“We’re on to next week already,” Pickering said. “We’re just going to go step-by-step. Coach Mancini is a big ‘tasks’ guy. Right now, our task is to beat Watervliet [next week], and we’ll see what happens from there.”
Johnstown 0 14 0 0 — 14
Fonda-Fultonville 14 14 13 0 — 41
F-F — Webber 2 run (kick failed)
F-F — Melious 36 pass from Croucher (Hernigle run)
J — Hoyt 20 run (Hoyt kick)
F-F — Melious 23 pass from Croucher (Herngile kick)
J — Hoyt 27 run (Hoyt kick)
F-F — Smith 40 pass from Croucher (Hernigle kick)
F-F — Pickering 21 run (Hernigle kick)
F-F — Vargas 11 run (kick failed)