RICKY ST. CLAIR
BEEKMANTOWN — Beekmantown and Peru looked less like high school football teams and more like heavyweight prize fighters Saturday.
With the Eagles maintaining a one-point lead in the third quarter, Justin Stevens returned a punt from his own 15-yard line and raced down the Peru sideline.
High School Sports Magazine
He was met at midfield by Blake Altizer, who tackled Stevens into a foam padding that protects players from the aluminum bleachers. A free-for-all ensued, resulting in punches thrown and two game ejections.
In the most unusual of circumstances, it might have been the spark the Indians (4-0) needed in their 36-14 win.
No. 9 Peru outscored Beekmantown 30-7 after the altercation, extending its winning streak to five games over the Eagles (2-2) in Champlain Valley Athletic Conference play.
“It happened real fast,” Indians coach Nick Damiani said. “I don’t think it would have been a huge issue, except the sidelines are so close that they rolled up against the (padding) and into the ball bags. I did see some punches thrown. But I just saw a swarm on the sideline, and I just did the best I could to pull guys off whether they were Beekmantown (or Peru players).
“You’ve got two teams that really care about what they do. Both teams run high on emotion. I think anytime you get punched and pushed around, so to speak, you want your team to respond. But definitely, I think our guys got a little motivated after that.”
Peru’s offense, which entered Week 4 of the season averaging 409 yards per game, sputtered in the early going. The Indians could only muster 31 yards on 17 plays from scrimmage in the first half.
“It was the week of practice, really,” Peru wide receiver Zane Bazzano said. “It all comes down to focusing all five days leading up to the game. Monday, we were missing a couple guys. We’ve got to have a better week of practice from here on out.”
Bazzano opened the game’s scoring with 3:49 gone in the first quarter, taking a punt return 85 yards to the end zone. The point after touchdown failed.
Stevens helped Beekmantown respond with a 71-yard scamper down the Indians’ sideline with 2:52 remaining in the first quarter.
The Eagles held on to their 7-6 lead into halftime.
After the altercation occurred with 8:23 remaining in the third quarter, the two teams exchanged three consecutive touchdowns during a four-play span.
Bazzano took a direct snap and scored on a six-yard run, his second end zone appearance of the game at 2:02. On the very next play, Beekmantown’s Cameron Garceau returned a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown.
Altizer concluded third-quarter scoring, hitting Anthony Gallo for the first of his three touchdown receptions at 11:02.
“At halftime, coach just told us to keep our heads and keep focused,” Gallo said. “We made some mistakes, and I dropped some passes in the first half. I’m glad we were able to pull it out.”
Gallo helped Peru extend its lead to 22 points with back-to-back touchdown catches from Jordan Guay and Altizer.
Before Stevens was ejected, the junior registered 118 yards on five carries and a touchdown. The Eagles recorded just 53 yards of offense without him in the final 20:23 of play.
Indians running back and linebacker Dustin Landon was also tossed from the game.
“Landon had the best run of the game for us,” Damiani said. “Stevens had the best run of the game for them. We both lost the two guys that were carrying the ball for us successfully. That hurt both of us. So we both had to make adjustments.”
Altizer was 7-for-14 with 87 passing yards and two touchdowns, while Beekmantown’s Jacob Remchuk finished with 32 yards on four completions, including two interceptions.
Gallo was the biggest offensive contributor for the Indians, catching six passes for 120 yards and three touchdowns.
With Plattsburgh High disbanding due to a low number of athletes, the two rivals will meet again in the Section VII Class B championship game. The sectional championships will be held at AuSable Valley with the Class B game scheduled for 11 a.m. Nov. 2.
“We wanted to be able to come out and execute our game and get better against a good team that we knew we’d face again,” Damiani said. “It’s always good confidence-wise. We see they pushed us in certain areas that we’ve got to get better. We’ve got to be able to put together the Saranac game plan and execute against Saranac next Saturday.”
Peru 36, Beekmantown 14
Peru 6 0 15 15 — 36
Beekmantown 7 0 7 0 — 14
P- Bazzano 85 punt return (kick failed), 3:49.
B- Stevens 71 run (Remchuk kick), 9:08.
P- Bazzano 6 run (Lovely from Altizer), 9:58.
B- Garceau 90 punt return (Remchuk kick), 10:12.
P- Gallo from Altizer (Guay kick), 11:02.
P- Gallo from Guay (P. LaRocque from Alitzer), 0:46.
P- Gallo from Altizer (Guay kick), 6:57.
P- Hendrick 8-46; M. LaRocque 9-37; Landon 1-28; Bazzano 8-18, TD; Wyckoff 3-14; Gallo 1-6; Mason 1-3; Altizer 3-(-19). Totals: 34-133, TD.
B- Stevens 5-118, TD; Myers 3-29; Newman 3-18; Fessette 6-15; Pepper 1-7; Peryea 1-3; Remchuk 7-1; Dupigny 2-0. Totals: 28-191, TD.
P- Altizer 7-14-0-87, 2TD. Guay 1-2-0-42, TD. Totals: 8-16-0-129, 3TD.
B- Remchuk 4-16-2-32. Pepper 0-1-0. Totals: 4-17-2-32.
P- Gallo 6-120, 3TD; P. LaRocque 1-5; Hendricks 1-4.
B- Garceau 2-28; Fessette 2-4.
P- Guay, 2.