BY MICHAEL KELLY
CLIFTON PARK — Nine days before Shenendehowa will travel to Troy for its Week 1 game of the 2016 Section II Class AA football season, the Plainsmen participated in their annual Chris Stewart Green and White Game, an intrasquad scrimmage played Aug. 24 at Brent T. Steuerwald Stadium.
“Overall,” Shenendehowa head coach Brian Clawson said, “I was impressed with the effort everyone gave, the togetherness everyone played with.”
Here are five things of note from Shenendehowa’s game with Plainsmen on both sides of the ball.
Mike Spulnick, the team’s likely starting quarterback, looked very comfortable in running Shenendehowa’s offensive attack.
“Our tempo was great,” Clawson said of the offense. “I was pleased with how fast we played and our execution was good, too.”
Spulnick’s final pass of the night went for a 70-yard touchdown to junior wide receiver Devin Disonell, but Spulnick’s more impressive drive came immediately before that long pass. On an efficient drive down the field that ended with a 25-yard touchdown pass to senior wide Jake Szwarcberg, Spulnick went 4-for-5 on his passing attempts and had each completion go for a first down.
“That was huge,” Clawson said of the senior’s performance on that drive. “To be able to do that and not be in a huddle setting — it was in a [no-huddle] setting — that was very encouraging to see.”
One of Spulnick’s favorite targets was Disonell, a 6-foot-1 receiver playing for the first time at the varsity level.
“Devin had a really good JV season last year, he was our best receiver on that team, and now he’s been with us all offseason,” Clawson said. “He’s savvy as a receiver. He might not have that blazing speed yet, but in terms of his hands and his ball awareness he has a lot of great characteristics to be a good wide receiver.”
Disonell said playing in the the intrasquad scrimmage was an eye-opening opportunity for himself and his peers, all of whom are looking to find their place within the team.
“We all have a bit of a chip on our shoulders, [the players] coming up as juniors and now playing with the seniors,” Disonell said. “The speed is so much faster. To get some reps tonight with the first team was awesome.”
Disonell is one of 19 juniors on this year’s Shenendehowa roster, which also includes four sophomores.
There are also 23 seniors on this year’s squad, creating a balance between seniors and non-seniors that Clawson sees as a positive for his program.
“We’ve never really had it even like that, which I’m excited about,” said Clawson, who is entering his fifth season as the Plainsmen’s head coach. “From year to year, you don’t want an unbalanced roster. … This sets us on a nice track for the future.”
BIG STEP FORWARD
After graduating several starters from last season’s offensive line, that unit was strong throughout the Plainsmen’s scrimmage.
“That’s something we’ve been waiting for,” Clawson said of the relatively inexperienced group meshing together. “We know coming in that that they’re a [physically] strong group. It’s just a matter of time with them. The more they play together and the more experience they get, they’re going to become [more of] a formidable group moving forward.”
Within a linemen group that mixes sophomores, juniors and seniors, Shane Walpole — a senior — said the unit left the team’s intrasquad scrimmage encouraged it was continuing to head in the right direction.
“There’s always stuff to work on, but a lot of it is fixable,” Walpole said. “We worked a lot in the offseason on our chemistry.”
While offensive playmakers such as Disonell, and senior running backs Chris Penman and Teon Williams were amongst the Plainsmen to compile electric moments, Shenendehowa was no slouch on the defensive side of the ball.
In particular, Clawson left the Plainsmen’s first scrimmage outing encouraged with the way his players wrapped up ball carriers who had made it past the first line of defense.
“Our tackling in the open field was impressive considering this was our first real opportunity to put that to work,” Clawson said.