BY MICHAEL KELLY
EAST GREENBUSH — Facing a double-digit deficit and with an early-game drive about to stall out, Shenendehowa football senior Richard Drum only had time to react. Lined up next to junior quarterback Mike Spulnick in the shotgun, Drum saw the wobbly snap lingering in the air and made up his mind.
“The snap happened to come to me — it wasn’t designed that way — but I saw the ball, grabbed it, and ran,” said Drum, who took the intercepted snap 25 yards for a touchdown in a 28-17 victory for Shenendehowa against Columbia in the first round of the Section II Class AA playoffs on Oct. 23
In a game in which Shenendehowa (4-4, Empire Division No. 3) trailed Columbia (4-4, Liberty Division No. 2) at 10-0 and 17-7, Drum was largely the difference for the Plainsmen. The senior — who has been used this season mainly as a linebacker, not a running back — rumbled for Shenendehowa’s first three touchdowns, and helped provide a game-sealing sack late in the fourth quarter.
“From a football coach’s perspective, he’s what they call a warrior. He’s a warrior,” Shenendehowa coach Brian Clawson said. “He’s the guy you want on the field at all times because you know when the game is on the line, he’s going to make a big play.
“Tonight,” Clawson said, “he made a ton of them.”
Drum’s first two touchdowns came in the first half, with Shenendehowa trailing by 10 points before each score. His third touchdown came on a 3-yard run midway through the third quarter that gave Shenendehowa its first lead.
“Richard was amazing,” said Shenendehowa senior running back Carl Fiore, who rushed for 195 yards and the Plainsmen’s final touchdown. “He trucked over kids and opened up holes for both of us.”
Early on, it was Columbia doing the damage. After using an opening trick play to get deep into Shenendehowa territory, the Blue Devils struck first with a 21-yard touchdown run from junior Dylan Dubuque not even two full minutes into the contest.
After a few failed drives, Columbia extended its lead with a 32-yard field goal from senior Tom Brown with 3:41 to play in the first quarter.
On the next drive, though, Drum started his takeover of the contest with a 29-yard carry that moved the Plainsmen into Columbia territory for the first time in the game. Three plays later, Drum rushed for his touchdown on the play where he made the decision to field the snap himself.
“It turned out pretty well,” Drum said.
Columbia answered back with another Dubuque touchdown run and kept its momentum for most of the first half. With 106 seconds to go before halftime, though, Shenendehowa executed its hurry-up offense to perfection and went 76 yards for a touchdown with 16 seconds to spare. A 43-yard pass from Spulnick to senior Kevin DeSorbo was the drive’s play, but Drum finished the six-play spurt with a 2-yard touchdown run.
Trailing 17-14 at halftime, Clawson said his squad was still confident.
“They keep their composure,” Clawson said of his 2015 group. “There’s not one person on this football team that had a doubt in their mind. … We weren’t going to lose.”
“We knew we had to step it up,” Fiore said.
Shenendehowa did, outscoring Columbia 14-0 in the second half. Fiore gained 179 of his rushing yards after halftime, an output that included runs of 67 and 59 yards. For the game, Drum rushed for 107 yards on 15 carries.
For Columbia, Dubuque rushed for 95 yards on 22 carries, but Columbia could not overcome four second-half turnovers that the Plainsmen caused. It was four Shenendehowa seniors — linemen Tyler Comito and Michael Gillooley, defensive back Vinny Gramuglia, and linebacker Benjamin Tashjian — who recovered Columbia’s fumbles, with Gramuglia’s coming in the end zone to save a Columbia touchdown.
The Shenendehowa victory set up a Week 8 meeting Oct. 30 against Saratoga Springs, the top-ranked squad from this year’s Empire Division. The Blue Streaks bested their rival 40-14 back in Week 4, and the Plainsmen know they will need to play two halves of football like their second half against Columbia to beat Saratoga Springs.
“We picked up some intensity we definitely needed,” Drum said. “I’m glad it happened, but it’s going to have to happen in the first quarter next week.”
Shenendehowa 28, Columbia 17
Shen 7 7 7 7 28
Colu 10 7 0 0 17
Colu — Dylan Dubuque 21-yard run (Tom Brown kick)
Colu — Brown 32-yard field goal
Shen — Richard Drum 25-yard run (Nathan Fankhanel kick)
Colu — Dubuque 1-yard run (Brown kick)
Shen — Drum 2-yard run (Fankhanel kick)
Shen — Drum 3-yard run (Fankhanel kick)
Shen — Fiore 67-yard run (Fankhanel kick)