Sunday, August 21, 2005

MetroMallers tame Bulldogs

 August 21, 2005
   By Rich Thomaselli
   For the Times Herald-Record
   Monroe – In the end, it came down to exactly what everybody thought it would – a matchup of two teams whose respective defenses were about as stingy as a 3-year-old being asked to share his toys.

   This time, the Albany MetroMallers were slightly more petulant than the Orange County Bulldogs. The MetroMallers scored the go-ahead touchdown with a long drive to start the second half and then shut down Orange County the rest of the night, beating the Bulldogs 17-12 in an Empire Football League showdown between nationally ranked and unbeaten teams.

   An estimated crowd of 1,000 fans packed the bleachers and the north end zone of Smith Clove Park to root on the Bulldogs, who fell to 6-1 in the EFL with three games remaining. Orange County was ranked fifth in the country in the latest American Football Association poll; Albany, now 7-0, was ranked sixth.

   "It went exactly how we figured," Orange County coach George St. Lawrence said. "We knew it would be hard to get points, we knew we'd be able to slow them down, but you can't have the mistakes we made."

   You had to figure something was amiss with the Bulldogs when quarterback Jared Pillitteri, who had only two interceptions all season, threw three in the opening quarter. And you had to figure something was really wrong when the Bulldogs, who had allowed 17 total points in six games, gave up 10 in the first 16 minutes.

   But Orange County came back to capture the momentum. Pillitteri's 41-yard touchdown pass over the middle to a streaking Louis Allen cut the deficit to 10-6 just more than 10 minutes before halftime.

   Then, a 67-yard drive highlighted by Freddy Riullano's 28-yard run and Pillitteri's 12-yard run out of a shotgun draw gave the Bulldogs the lead, and the momentum, at 12-10 despite missing both extra points.

   But Albany quarterback Scott Lawson came out after halftime on fire. Lawson completed 5-of-6 passes for 79 yards on the MetroMallers' opening drive, capping things with a 17-yard strike to Macio Clinton for the 17-12 lead.

   Orange County made two critical mistakes on the drive, dropping a sure interception on Lawson's only incompletion and then watching helplessly as at least one member of the Bulldogs' secondary appeared to be playing zone defense instead of man-to-man on the touchdown pass.

   "You can't make those kinds of mistakes against a team with a defense like that," St. Lawrence said. "You leave yourself little room for error."

   The MetroMallers held the Bulldogs in check the rest of the game, their only sustained drive ending in a punt after reaching Albany's 46-yard line.

   Lawson finished the game 15-for-28 for 222 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Pillitteri was 5-for-18 for 59 yards, one TD and four interceptions.

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