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Alvirne football brushes aside Pelham

Photo by CHRIS PANTAZIS Junior quarterback Kyle Gora and the Alvirne Broncos had their troubles getting uncorked against Pelham in Hudson on Friday night.

HUDSON – Anybody who attended the Division II football season-opening contest between Pelham and Alvirne in Hudson on Friday night and was hankering for some good old-fashioned offense didn’t see a whole lot. Nope, the visiting Pythons and host Broncos engaged in an epic defensive battle in which neither side tallied even a single point until the middle of the fourth quarter.

And when the final whistle of the night blew, the home-standing Alvirne crew had itself one heck of a hard-fought 15-0 victory to savor.

The locals only tallied 31 offensive yards and three first downs in the scoreless first half, while Pelham had some success through its passing game (117 yards) but a mere five rushing yards during the opening half.

Alvirne finally busted the scoreless deadlock with a long touchdown pass followed by a long interception return for points during the last 6:07 of quarter number four.

After savoring a 2018 campaign during which coach Tarek Rothe’s Broncos established some significant program milestones – including a first-ever playoff victory and a trip to the D-II title game – the locals strode into the new season on their own home turf against a Pelham crew which narrowly failed to reach the playoffs last autumn due to a 5-4 record which just wasn’t quite good enough.

Most folks had Pelham pegged for the playoffs last fall, only to see the Pythons end up as the odd team out with that 5-4 mark. But with some 11 starters back in the fold for 2019, they remain right in the mix at the top of Division II.

The Broncos, with a huge crew of 27 seniors back and junior standout Kyle Gora returning at quarterback, are one of the most feared entities in D-2 and its South conference.

So Friday night’s season-opener for both contingents looked to be a prime battle. But it’s entirely possible that nobody could have guessed accurately how dominant the defenses would be.

The Pythons’ defensive unit cut through the Alvirne line like the proverbial hot knife through butter throughout the first half, holding the hosts to a mere 16 rushing yards and 15 passing yards.

The Pelham offense – helmed by senior quarterback Ian Hoey – collected some 117 passing yards in the first half to go with a paltry five yards gained via the ground game.

Hoey completed seven of his first nine throws of the night, but the Alvirne defensive backfield would tighten up markedly in the second half and hold the skilled signal-caller to just two completions on his next 16 throws with no less than three interceptions.

The first of those three pass picks was absolutely huge as it killed a 13-play drive which lasted more than eight minutes and appeared headed for points. Versatile Alvirne senior Morgan Williams came down with the ball on the goal line of the Broncos’ end zone on the third play of the fourth period and ran it out to his team’s three as the host fans got a big chance to cheer a major moment.

Alvirne quarterback Gora then led his offense down the field on a 10-play drive which chewed up nearly five minutes and concluded with a 32-yard scoring toss from Gora to a wide-open Kyle Boucher about 20 yards behind the stunned Pelham defenders with 6:07 showing on the clock.

The Broncos then pushed their lead from 6-0 to 8-0 when kick holder Dylan Bliss executed a fake kick perfectly, tossing the ball to his left to booter Colin Prescott who ran the ball into the end zone.

The Pythons then went four plays and out before the Broncos ran a series which evaporated a little more than four important minutes off of the clock but ended with a punt with a little more than a minute to go.

But the hosts wrapped up the win with 55.1 seconds to go when Pelham quarterback Hoey threw his second pick of the night which was snagged by Travis Perry, who ran the ball back 40 yards to pay-dirt.

The contest ended on a Boucher interception as time ticked away, and Alvirne had a hard-fought shutout success with which to start the 2019 season.

Both teams ended the night with just 51 rushing yards, while Alvirne’s Gora finished up with 98 passing yards and six completions on 12 attempts. He also rushed for 25 of his team’s ground yards.

The visitors ended up with 191 total offensive yards, but a mere 23 through the air in the second half as the Broncos’ secondary was a primary reason for Ian Hoey’s frustration.