SARATOGA SPRINGS — When it’s the first week of the high school football season, and not every play is scripted, big plays and turnovers can be a welcome sight.
They were welcomed with open arms by Ballston Spa on Friday in a 21-7 non-league win over Saratoga Springs.
The Scotties caused four turnovers, one of which kept the Blue Streaks out of the end zone and another that led to their third touchdown.
“We had four turnovers, and their backs are big and physical,” Saratoga Springs coach Terry Jones said. “If you give a team so many chances, they become much more difficult to defend.”
Junior Nico Savini intercepted Rondell Evans III of Saratoga Springs in the end zone in the first quarter. On the Blue Streaks’ next drive, he recovered a fumble.
Still, Saratoga Springs put together a nine-play, 56-yard scoring drive for their first drive of the second quarter, capped by a 5-yard touchdown run by Carter Vaughn with 6:10 remaining.
Then came the first big move from Ballston Spa. Isaiah Hannah sent the kickoff at the Scotties 7-yard line, faked a handoff and ran down the left sideline to tie the game at the 7-yard line just 15 seconds later.
“We were on our heels,” said Ballston Spa trainer Greg O’Connor. “Saratoga took it from us by a quarter and a half. The defense held on and gave us a chance. That kickoff return was huge. That seemed to cheer the boys up.”
The Scotties’ big defensive plays came in the form of sacks by defensive lineman Darrien Insogna. The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder sacked Evans for an 18-yard loss on fourth down, giving the Scotties the ball at the Saratoga 40-yard line with 3:59 remaining in the first half.
Ballston Spa used six runs and one pass on their ensuing drive, ending it with a one-yard pass from quarterback Savini with :17 left.
“We just executed better,” O’Connor said. “We weren’t hitting holes [earlier], there were seams there. It’s week zero, lots of problems to solve. But again, we just had to keep playing defense. Then we worked some things out, got a little bit of momentum and went from there.”
On Saratoga Springs’ first possession of the third quarter, Insogna sacked Evans again, causing a fumble that Blaine Zoller recovered at the Saratoga Springs 9. One play later, Savini rolled to the right and found Zoller cutting to score. The duo even added the conversion, though that was a bit more dramatic, with Savini escaping from a tackler and then throwing the ball in Zoller’s direction, but Zoller (6-3) jumped in for a catch.
“Last year I wasn’t very good defensively and I wasn’t getting the practice I needed at the d end, so they moved me to nose tackle,” Insogna said. “I give credit to all the guys; we just keep working as hard as we can.”
“Blaine Zoller just went up and caught that ball,” O’Connor said of the conversion. “It helps when you have an athlete like that. Hey, that’s a great play; just throw it at Blaine and go get the ball.”
Jones felt pretty good about his offense, except for the turnovers. Evans completed 15 of 26 passes for 174 yards and two interceptions. He also rushed the ball 18 times for 29 yards, but lost 31 yards on three catches. He especially credited defending him.
“You can’t ask for much more from your defense with the running backs they have,” Jones said. “You can’t do those. [offensive] mistakes, but we’ll get back to work.”
The Scotties return with many players from last year’s 2-6 team that had some close losses in key games.
“Last year we didn’t have the best season, but we’ve got most of the guys back,” Insogna said. “We’re definitely filling in the gaps where they need to be, and it’s going well.”
Spa Ballston 0 13 8 0 — 21
Saratoga Springs 0 7 0 0 — 7
S — Vaughn 5 run (Murray kick)
BS – Hannah 93 kickoff comeback (Ayala kick)
BS – Savini 1 run (kick blocked)
BS – Savini’s Zoller Pass 9 (Savini’s Zoller Pass)
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Categories: High School Sports, Sports, Sports