STAMFORD — A.J. Albano has a problem on his hand. For the past week, and for a good part of the last two years, he has insisted he doesn’t care about the lack of respect afforded his Brien McMahon football team, even when his demenaor belied his words.
Of course Albano cared. He cared not in a Jerry Jones, it-is-about-me kind of a way. He cared because Albano cares about his players.
Now, following Friday night’s impressive 49-21 win over Stamford, Albano is going to have to contend with his team being the talk of the town, at least for the next week.
It may be the only good thing about having a bye to look forward to.
“You guys probably won’t talk about us,” Albano said. “My kids understand that the pressure just got increased. This was a high-pressure game and it increased because we won.”
It also increased because of how the Senators won. After fumbling on their first two possessions, leading to a pair of Stamford scores, they put up seven unanswered touchdowns. Many started from a different area code.
“People say this is a big win, but we had faith we could beat Stamford,” said Timmy Hinton, who contributed to a punishing ground game with scoring runs of 77 and 2 yards, which were sandwiched around a safety on a David Daniel sack that put the Senators (5-1) up for good, 15-14.
Albano might not like the lack of fanfare the Senators have received — he was in a similar position last year after a 7-0 start — but he certainly used it to his advantage.
“It got us motivated,” Hinton said. “This team plays 48 minutes fully. We play hard the entire game. The run was working, they couldn’t stop the run so we just ran it down their throats.”
JuJu Snider burst through a large hole for a 75-yard scoring run on the first play of the second half, added a touchdown from 51 yards and then used his unique combination of running skills and field vision for a spectacular 60-yard interception return that made the score 42-14 and sent Albano popping up and down like on a pogo stick before leaping into the open arms of an assistant coach.
“We’re a second-half team,” Snider said. “You’ve got to know that. We shut down every team in the second half.”
Asked about his defensive score, Snider smiled.
“I don’t know, it was all reaction,” he said. “I couldn’t tell. I see it, I do it.”
McMahon’s most important score of the night wasn’t on offense but special teams. Tyree Smith had just turned the Senators’ second turnover into a 10-yard run and 14-0 lead.
Tyre Holman, who would break a run for McMahon’s final touchdown, got the first one, an 89-yard return on the ensuing kickoff after Smith’s score. The Black Knights (4-2) were not allowed to ride the momentum wave too long.
Echoing Hinton’s words, Albano said, “This team has played 48 minutes of football like no team I’ve had at Brien McMahon. At 14-0 I was a little nervous, but we wear teams down.”
In a sense, Stamford was the perfect opponent at the perfect time for McMahon. Both teams had followed non-league losses with four straight conference wins. McMahon entered seventh in the Class LL rankings, a spot ahead of Stamford.
But since the Black Knights were 2-9 a year ago, and were winning in such an explosive manner with a glamorous vertical passing game, they were getting all the attention.
And they were — and still are — deserving.
Albano just wanted an equal slice for his players.
Now they are going to get it, by doing what Stamford has done — long-scoring plays — in a different manner. Quarterback Jason Smith will forever be able to tell how he led to the Senators to a 28-point win before a huge crowd at Boyle Stadium. He will probably leave out the part about handing off the ball on every play.
After a week off, the Senators will be favored in games against Ludlowe and Ridgefield. Win them and they travel to St. Joseph for a showdown with the potential for huge league and state implications for both schools.
“We love when you don’t respect us,” Snider said. “If you said we were going to win we probably would have lost.”
Then Snider caught himself to look at the big picture.
“We still have to work hard, play hard,” he said.
The Senators now get the chance to be the talk of the town for a week. Then it is back to trying to take advantage of the big opportunity they have created for themselves.