Saugerties finished the season at 2-7, with a playoff berth enough to whet the appetites of the team’s underclassmen while sending its seniors out with a taste of what gridiron competition is all about.
“Our year started off not as good as we expected, but that’s okay,” said senior running back and outside linebacker Nick Gruccio. “As the year went on, I think our team progressed little by little every game.”
Facing off against Wallkill gave the Sawyers a shot at redemption, and if the team can take anything away from Friday’s loss it’s that they shortened the chasm between their results and that of their opponent: Earlier this year, Wallkill defeated Saugerties 43-7.
On Friday, the Sawyers were overwhelmed in the first half, but they dug down deep and put together a 12-3 run after intermission to close out the game and season. Jon Hindes broke free in the third quarter for a 73-yard touchdown run, and Pat Maloney capped the scoring with a 25-yard toss to James Zmiyarch in the fourth.
Wallkill faces off against Cornwall this Friday at Dietz Stadium in Kingston for the Class A title.
For the Sawyers, the season was a success, especially as they weren’t even certain they’d be playing at all when the athletic program was eliminated under the district’s austerity budget. Community fundraising and a large private donation allowed the Sawyers to continue their athletic efforts.
“In July we weren’t even having any sports, and then come August we were in greys,” said Gruccio. “Our program fought through that and made it all the way to the playoffs.”
Gruccio said the Sawyer squad which lost to Wallkill on Friday was quite different than the one who fell earlier this season.
“All year we were getting beat by teams we knew we could beat,” he said. “The first time we played Wallkill, we came out guns ready and scored on them quick and then everything fell apart. This game was much different. We came out fired up and put them back on their heels and made them make plays.”
Gruccio said the Panthers earned every inch of field against a tough Saugerties defense in the first half, and the second half proved the team that unraveled after halftime earlier this year had more than enough in the tank to go out swinging this time around.
“We definitely played them better this time than last time,” he said. “We put a full game together.”
For seniors like Gruccio, losing wasn’t the result they were hoping for, but they can take solace in the fact that they never gave up. It’s one of the many lessons learned on the field of play.
“My time playing varsity football taught me to never lose focus,” Gruccio said. “Never put your head down when something goes wrong. It also taught me that just because something goes wrong, that doesn’t mean something else can’t go right.”
Gruccio said he has high hopes for the Sawyers in 2011, even though he won’t be suiting up himself.
“The team is looking good for next year,” he said. “It has a great bunch of kids coming up and a good experienced bunch of coaches. They should do just fine.”