FONDA - The Fonda-Fultonville Braves' offense had already suffered a three-and-out and was in danger of doing so on its second drive of the game. The struggling offense was very much in need of a spark.
Brandon Baker provided it.
The junior wide receiver beat the Tamarac defense and hauled in a pass from Fonda-Fultonville quarterback Russ Williams, taking the ball the rest of the way, completing an 85-yard catch-and-run, and giving the Braves their first score.
Fonda-Fultonville’s Ryan Derby tries to get around Tamarac’s R.J.?Rhodes after catching a pass during Saturday’s Section II Class C quarterfinal game at John G. Boshart Field in Fonda. (The Leader-Herald/Mike Zummo)
That was all the defense needed as the Braves cruised to a 34-0 win in Saturday's Section II Class C quarterfinal game behind a 21-point jolt in the second quarter.
"We came down the hill and you've seen guys, they weren't enthused or anything," Baker said. "That kickstarted us and got us going with the momentum and everything."
Prior to that touchdown, which gave Fonda-Fultonville a 6-0 lead, the Braves' defense had been doing most of the work in that quarter as the Bengals had the ball for 10 1/2 minutes over two drives to start the game in a quarter that evoked thoughts of the Braves' loss to Cobleskill-Richmondville two weeks earlier.
While the defense bent early, it didn't break as the Bengals' first drive ended at the Braves' 25-yard line and the second stalled at the 11, both on fourth-down plays.
"I was happy with our performance on both sides of the ball," Fonda-Fultonville coach Tom Carpenter said. "We still gave up some longer plays defensively than I would like. I still think we need to be a little more aggressive defensively. I think we picked it up and shut them down."
The defense picked things up after the score as Zac Nowak intercepted a pass from backup quarterback Nick Arnold - subbing for starter Dan Motzer, who missed a series with a minor injury - setting up the Braves on the their own 46-yard line.
Williams completed a 25-yard pass to Ryan Derby, and finished the drive himself with an 8-yard scoring run, giving the Braves a 13-0 lead.
Williams threw for 214 yards and two touchdowns, going 7 for 19. Baker caught three passes, two for touchdowns, and finished with 138 yards. Williams also scored a rushing touchdown.
"Baker's a great player and Russ threw the ball awesome today," Twardzik said. "You couldn't ask for a better performance out of him in his first sectional game. Our offensive line played very well. It got out of control at times but we kept our composure and played well."
Things got out of control after a punt in the third quarter with the Braves leading 34-0 as Fonda-Fultonville's Matt Westfall and Tamarac's Pat McLoughlan exchanged blows after the whistle was blown.
"I'm just trying to pull guys away," Twardzik said. "I didn't see it but from what Matt told me, he got punched in the side of the helmet and he pushed the guy away and all hell broke loose. It's very unfortunate that Matt may not be with us next week, but he has to defend himself and I'm proud of him for it."
The scuffle earned ejections for both players and Westfall will miss the semifinals.
"I'm not happy about it on either end of the deal," Carpenter said. "Our guys were told to play whistle-to-whistle and after the whistle to walk away and get back where the belong and to just talk to our guys and not the other team and not the officials."
Two plays later, Tamarac was whistled for a face-mask penalty on a pass from Williams to Sammons, prompting Carpenter to call a timeout.
"I took the timeout to make sure my guys were aware that we have another game next week," Carpenter said. "They may have another game, but it doesn't really matter. They don't really have a lot to lose and our guys do so it's important that our guys be quiet and just play."
One thing that wasn't quiet was the Braves' defense, which picked off two Tamarac passes, one of which was returned to the 1-yard line by Twardzik and set up a Nowak touchdown, which gave the Braves a 27-0 lead with 1:30 remaining in the first half.
"We played the 3-4 a lot more and I think that was very effective when it came to the passing game because we had a lot more help in the flats and over the top," Twardzik said. "Our secondary couldn't have played better today. We let a few big plays go, but one was completely my fault and other than those, we buckled down and made some great plays."
Pat Hart also scored a touchdown for the Braves (5-2 overall), who will move onto the Section II Class C semifinals against defending Class C champion Hoosick Falls, which defeated Voorheesville, 69-14, Saturday night.
"I feel it doesn't matter who they put on the field, it's 11-on-11," senior lineman Eric Moyer said. "We've got to play to the best of our ability. That's how we've got to do it."
Fonda-Fultonville 34, Tamarac 0
Tamarac0 0 0 0 - 0
Fonda-Fultonville6 21 7 0 - 34
FF - Baker 85 pass from Williams (run failed), 5:57
FF - Willliams 8 run (Hart kick), 10:37
FF - Hart 1 run (Hart kick), 1:52
FF - Nowak 1 run (Hart kick), 1:30
FF -Baker 40 pass from Wiliams (Hart kick), 7:05