TROY, N.Y. — Hoosick Falls/ Tamarac football got off to a slow start Friday night, actually trailing 7-6 at the end of the first quarter, but caught fire from there and rolled to a 41-7 victory at home over the Stillwater Warriors.
Quarterback Jake Sparks was at the center of everything, rolling up 234 total yards (126 passing, 108 rushing) and four total touchdowns on offense, while playing inside linebacker for a defense that didn’t surrender a first down the entire second half.
“A couple of those plays were busted plays. No one knows that, it looks great. He’s just a 225-pound, 4.8 (second forty-yard dash), manchild,” said head coach Erick Roadcap after the game of his senior captain. “He can improvise, and he’s a middle linebacker playing quarterback. He’s unbelievable.”
The win is a great sign and a bit of relief after an inauspicious start to their season last week in Schuylerville, a 28-0 loss, especially against an opponent that entered with wins of 34-0 and 56-6 over Greenwich and Watervliet, respectively.
“I’m excited for the kids. It was a tough game last week,” Roadcap said. “This is a very good Stillwater team… They’re going to be in the playoffs. It was nice to see how we came at these guys.”
If any of the offensive troubles from last week carried over, they certainly didn’t last long. After sophomore Rich Stifter Jr. took the opening kickoff back to the Stillwater 34 (and a personal foul moved the ball to the 19), the Wildcats were unable to get anything going on the first two series, which ended by turnover on downs and a Sparks interception.
The great field position finally paid off, though, as the Wildcats took over at midfield on their third series. Keeping it on the ground for all six plays, their no-huddle attack overwhelmed the Warriors in just 1:36, senior Bryan Mackey (nine carries, 52 yards) capping the drive with a 7-yard run to the left side and into the end zone.
The Wildcats’ lone blemish defensively came the next series, as Stillwater’s Colby Paffen found Lukas Lilac in the flat and he took it 55 yards to the Wildcats 18. Two plays later, Jaxon Mueller punched it in for the score.
It was all Wildcats from there, though. Those three plays were the Warriors’ only trip to Hoosick/ Tamarac territory, and the 7-6 lead would be their only one of the game. The Wildcat defense was stifling the rest of the night.
“They got us on a nice little play on the backside,” Roadcap said. “(Defensive coordinator) Coach Fleming made a nice adjustment and the kids just kept banging, kept hitting. That was the difference in the game. Fundamentals, and the kids kept hitting.”
The Hoosick/ Tamarac defense didn’t spend much time on the field from there, but when they did, junior Eli King (who also started at left tackle on offense) lived in the Stillwater backfield. He was around the ball all night, and had a strip sack in the second quarter (recovered by the Warriors), and batted down a pass in the third after hurrying the quarterback.
The second quarter was all about Sparks’ connection with fellow-captain James Blake. Blake only had two receptions on the night, but he made them both count. The first was a quick screen that Blake broke several tackles on, taking it 54 yards to give the Wildcats a lead they wouldn’t give back.
Two series later, Sparks found Blake again in the middle of the field, Blake making a couple of tacklers miss and racing to the right pylon for 31 yards and another score to make it 20-7 before the half.
The Wildcats leaned on their punishing running game in the second half. Senior Dylan Grogan’s night might not look overly impressive in the box score at just 17 carries for 48 yards, but the workhorse clearly took his toll on the Warrior defense. He was finally rewarded with a 3-yard touchdown plunge late in the third quarter that made the score 34-7.
Grogan and Mackey’s carries were the “body blows” to Sparks’ second-half “knockout” touchdown runs from 26 and 35 yards out, respectively.
“The thing that I, and the staff, kept driving home, is that it’s not how you start. It’s how you finish,” Roadcap said of their turnaround from last week.
Hoosick Falls/ Tamarac evens up their record at 1-1. The Wildcats are on the road at Granville/ Whitehall this Friday. Stillwater falls to 2-1 and hosts Rensselear/ Loudonville Christian on Friday.