By ROB JONAS
EAST GREENBUSH – As Suburban Council rivals, Averill Park and Columbia play against each other in virtually every varsity sport. Gridiron meetings have been rare in recent years, though, because football leagues are determined by class level.
Until this season, Columbia had been a Class AA football team, while Averill Park was in Class A. The only way the neighboring schools could have met was in a crossover game after the regular season concluded.
When the new statewide BEDS numbers were released earlier this year, Columbia was one of four Class AA teams (along with Troy, LaSalle and Ballston Spa) that found themselves dropping down to Class A. This gave Columbia and Averill Park the opportunity to meet in the regular season.
“One of the nice things about realignment is that Troy, Columbia and LaSalle are in the same division as us,” said Averill Park head coach Zach Gobel. “It’s nice to play our neighboring rivals.”
The game itself was a one-sided affair. Averill Park (5-0) scored two quick touchdowns in the first quarter and pulled away for a 34-0 victory over Columbia (3-2) Friday, Sept. 28.
A blocked punt set up Averill Park’s first scoring series. The Warriors recovered the blocked kick at Columbia’s 26-yard line, and quarterback Anthony Childrose scored four plays later on a 1-yard touchdown plunge. Tailback Joe Milanese added a two-point conversion run to make the score 8-0.
Columbia started stringing good plays together on its next series, but Averill Park put a stop to it with a momentum-changing turnover. Blue Devil wide receiver Aidan Hickey caught a short pass from Garrett McDonald and took off down the right sideline for a big gain, where he was met by two Averill Park defenders. The ball was stripped from Hickey’s grasp, and James Finelli recovered the loose ball at the Warriors’ 40-yard line. Hickey injured his right knee on the play and was lost for the rest of the game.
It didn’t take long for Averill Park to capitalize on the turnover. Long runs by Milanese and Matt Morin set up Childrose’s 16-yard touchdown pass to Jake Bornt to give the Warriors a 14-0 lead.
Averill Park did not get on the scoreboard again the rest of the first half, thanks to a combination of solid defensive play by Columbia and several costly penalties that negated long gains.
“We had a good amount of offensive yards in the first half, and we had just as many yards in penalties in the first half,” said Gobel.
“I thought we did what we wanted to do defensively in the first half,” said Columbia head coach Robert Treacy.
Finelli gave Averill Park a boost midway through the third quarter when he broke through the middle of Columbia’s defense for a 45-yard touchdown run. The two-point conversion pass attempt failed, but the Warriors had a 20-0 advantage.
Another special teams play gave Averill Park prime field position late in the third quarter. The Warriors deflected a Columbia punt attempt, which Bornt caught and returned to the Blue Devils’ 27-yard line. Fullback Carl Nitz capped the ensuing drive with a 2-yard touchdown run, and Childrose connected with Bornt on the two-point conversion pass to put Averill Park ahead 28-0.
The final Warrior touchdown drive was set up by another strip fumble off a Columbia reception early in the fourth quarter. Childrose called his own number and scored on a 20-yard run to create the final margin of victory.
“We got focused [at halftime], and it made us better,” said Childrose.
“Today was just a game of little isolated plays,” said Treacy.
For a photo gallery from this game, click here.