HOOSICK, N.Y. -- Reaching the Section II semifinals for another year in a row, the Hoosick Falls Central School football team and coach Ron Jones are looking at the little things.
"That's the story of the playoffs," Jones said. "Did you play well by taking care of the football? The little things at this point will make the difference."
Jones leads the 8-0 Panthers into a semifinal matchup against Fonda-Fultonville, a game Hoosick Falls won last season in a shutout. Hoosick Falls, the top team in the state in Class C, has a 48-game Section II win streak and a 21-game streak overall on the line on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Stillwater High School.
Jones said he expects a much different game this time.
"The thing about Fonda, they are solid at every position. There isn't one that you wouldn't say they aren't good [at]," Jones said during Thursday's practice. "At this point in the season, you have to find little technique things to take advantage of."
The Panthers are averaging 40 points per game on the back of quarterback Garrett Wright and running backs Brandon Hodges and Mike Matatt.
Wright -- who has thrown for 928 yards and 11 touchdowns with no interceptions and rushed for eight more -- missed the second half of the Panthers' 41-6 win over Watervliet with a lower leg injury but is expected to return against the Braves.
Wright's favorite target on the outside is receiver Levi Brewster, who has 20 catches for 329 yards and four touchdowns.
In the backfield, Hodges has had most of the carries, rushing for 850 yards and 16 touchdowns -- more than 120 yards a game. Matatt has 46 carries for 285 yards and four scores.
Splitting time in the backfield has been a blessing, Jones said.
"They both look good and because of the rotation they are both fresh," said Jones, who has both playing at linebacker on defense as well. "I'm sure they both want more carries then they are getting. We talked about how the big runs are gone, that we need some great 4-yard runs, breaking a tackle in the backfield and getting a first down."
The Fonda offense is a balanced one, going 7-1 with the only loss to undefeated Chatham in Week 5. Junior running back Pat Hart has 944 yards and 10 touchdowns, while quarterback Russ Williams has completed 44-of-82 for 686 yards, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions in seven Section II games (the Braves' eighth game was against Section VII opponent Ticonderoga.)
"We have to stop the run, they run a mid-line zone," Jones said. "Their running back is very shifty, has good hands and he's hard to get a good tackle and a clean shot. We have to win the battle on the [defensive] line first and secure tackles, limit yards after contact."
The defense has been nearly impenetrable so far this season, allowing only 25 points. Hodges and Matatt have combined for 30 tackles and five for loss, while Colby Davendonis has 24 tackles and five for loss from his outside linebacker spot.
David Hardesty has 21 tackles and returned an interception 101 yards for a score this season from his outside backer position.
At the same time, the unit is plus-15 in turnover margin, recording 21 takeaways.
"One of the keys is that [we] have to also play a clean game," Jones said. We have to be very good with our fundamentals, need to be clean, cause more turnovers than we give up."
With the recent success for the Panthers at the sectional and state level, Jones said the extra game and practice time as the playoffs go on is a boon for some of the younger players.
"Mark Hackett is a good example, he got better in the playoffs last year, and continued to develop as we went along against better competition. He matured in the postseason.
"Derek Bird went from a really good player to a very good player in the postseason. Brandon Hodges played well all year long but in the playoffs, we saw [a lot of] improvement. They wouldn't have had those opportunities, maybe they're a half-season behind."