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Potsdam faces Burnt Hills in state football playoff opener

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POTSDAM - The Potsdam Central football team will get to see how an undefeated NAC regular season championship and Section 10 Class A title hold up at the next level on Friday night when the Sandstoners play host to perennial Section 2 champion Burnt Hills.

“We’ve had a very good year but we haven’t seen a team like them,” said coach Jim Kirka as the Sandstoners, who ranked 26th in the most recent state sportswriters’ Class A poll, get set to take on the fifth-ranked Spartans at Massena’s Mike Nicholas Field.

“They have speed and size and, where a team might have one or two players that you can key on, they have a couple of players at every position that can beat you,” he added.

Both teams enter Friday night’s game with 9-1 records. The Sandstoners went 7-0 to claim the NAC regular season banner but suffered their only loss of the season in the NAC Tier I Tournament final to Franklin Academy. They regrouped by stopping Massena Central 40-0 in last weekend’s Secction 10 Class A championship game.

The Spartans have reeled off nine straight wins since opening the season with a loss. They are coming off a decisive 48-6 win over Amsterdam in the Section 2 final played last Saturday at Shenendehowa High School.

Potsdam and Burnt Hills squared off against each other in the first round of the state Class A tournament two seasons ago with the Spartans pulling away to a 42-0 win.

The Sandstoners have been anchored by their offensive and defensive lines and both will again be counted on to key any success against the Spartans.

“I know it’s an old cliche’, but it all starts on the offensive and defensive lines,” noted Kirka, cited the season-long efforts in the trenches turned in by seniors Aaron Chandler, Aaron Deon, Ian Drummater, Preston Mason and Kyle Martens. “Our lines have been a big reason for our success.”

Junior quarterback Will Coleman has made a stellar return from injury to lead the Potsdam offense. Along with rushing for 218 yard and two touchdowns on 36 tries, he’s shown an accurate passing arm having completed 29 of 59 passes for 481 yards and five touchdowns.

“Will had put together a great year. He’s been right on the money passing the ball and our receivers have been making the plays more and more down the stetch,” said Kirka.

Still, the Sandstoners have generated the majority of their offense on the ground led by junior O’den Robertson with 1,016 yards and 17 touchdowns on 135 carries while enior Adam Lewis has gone for another 639 yards and nine touchdowns.

“We need to run the ball. O’den and Adam give us good outside and inside runners and it’s going to come down to how well our guys can hold their blocks,” noted Kirka.

Other contributors to the Potsdam ground game include senior David Adams (31x333yds, 3TD), senior Steven Lewis (41x304yds, 3TD) and junior Rian McFadden (61x258yds, 2TD) while junior Shawn Clark has emerged as the team’s leading receiver with 314 yards and one touchdown on 16 catches. Senior Garrett Kilgore has pulled down seven passes for 57 yards and three touchdowns.

The Spartans have scored 60 or more points three times this season and have gone over 48 points three other times. Burnt Hills only defeat was a 17-7 decision to Troy in its season opener. Spartans quarterback Ryan McDonnell has thrown for 682 yards with eight touchdowns and just two interceptions. Dan Porter leads the team in rushing with 845 yards and 17 touchdowns. Vince Dowdle has rushed for 643 yards with eight touchdowns and the Spartans leading receiver is Eric Dillon with 16 receptions for 276 yards and four touchdowns.

“They run a wing-T offense. They execute well and they have the kind of break-away speed where they can score on any given play,” said Kirka.

“Defensively, we have to squeeze the holes to make it harder for them to run through them. We need to slow them down before they get started. Offensively, we need to have long, sustained drives. We need to execute and we need to mix up our plays,” he added.

Friday night’s game kicks off at 7 p.m.

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