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June 17, 2013

Stallions stun three-time defending champs, 37-34

The Daily Star

---- — Staff Report

Can you name the only Northeastern Football Alliance team to beat the Troy Fighting Irish?

Before Saturday, that was a trick question.

Oneonta High graduate Noble Champen threw four touchdown passes for the Oneonta City Stallions, who secured a 37-34 NFA victory over Troy when Sidney graduate Jimmy Kazalski kicked a 24-yard field goal at Hartwick College’s Wright Stadium with 11 seconds left.

“I told the team that we’re no longer going to be able to sneak up on people,” said Stallions co-owner Tom Terry, whose fifth-year adult football franchise ruined Troy’s 38-game winning streak against NFA opponents. The three-time defending league champions followed three straight undefeated seasons with a 2-0 start to 2013. “We used to be the hunters. Now we’ll be the hunted.”

Although Champen played quarterback for the majority of the game, it was Stallions newcomer Ahmed Hassanien who set the tone with a 60-yard TD pass to Zach Blocker on the first play from scrimmage.

“He just came out this past week for us,” Terry said of Hassanien, a Binghamton High graduate who served St. John Fisher as a back-up quarterback in 2011 and 2012.

Champen soon took over at quarterback and hit Jake Trotter for a 17-yard TD pass in the second quarter for Oneonta City (2-1), which trailed, 20-13, at halftime.

“We said to the guys (at halftime) that we finally have this team in a dogfight and we’ve got them in our pen,” Terry said.

Champen threw TD passes of 15 yards to Trotter and 11 yards to Mike Tandle in the third quarter, but Troy (2-1) also scored 14 points in the period to take a 34-27 lead into the fourth.

Champen struck again in the final period, connecting with Jason Carnell for a 14-yard TD pass that helped tie the score at 34.

That set up Kazalski for the go-ahead field goal, which left Troy with 6 seconds to make a comeback.

“We kicked off and that was it,” Terry said. “They got smothered on the return and the ballgame was over.”

Champen finished 12-for-22 for 151 passing yards. He also rushed for 57 yards on eight carries for the Stallions, who got four catches from Carnell (30 yards) and three apiece from Blocker (68) and Trotter (45).

Jeremy Polemus made a team-high seven tackles and J.J. Jones had five for Oneonta City’s defense, which held Troy scoreless in the fourth quarter.

“We moved the ball really well this week and we’re only going to get better,” Terry said. “I assumed we’d be very competitive this year. Did I expect to beat Troy? No, because they’ve been a notch above everybody. But we are are younger and faster and more athletic this year, and we have a heck of a head coach in Bobby McKnight.”

All three of the Stallions’ games this season have been decided on the winning team’s final possession.

Oneonta City opened with a 14-7 loss at the Utica Yard Dawgs, who turned a botched field-goal attempt with 15.5 seconds left into the winning touchdown. The Stallions followed with an 18-12 overtime defeat of the visiting Glove Cities Colonials last Saturday, scoring the last points on the first possession of the extra period.

“We’ve had three great games,” Terry said. “We’re the cardiac kids. The last 20 seconds told story in all three of them.”

Terry also said Saturday’s game against Troy marked the Stallions’ biggest money day in program history.

“We actually made a couple hundred bucks,” said Terry, whose Stallions went a franchise-best 5-5 in the NFA last season. “That’s the first time we covered expenses and made a couple hundred after. Those stands were damn near full. There were about 350 or 400 people, so it was a good crowd.”

Troy will get a chance to avenge its first NFA loss in four seasons at 7 p.m. this Saturday, when the Fighting Irish host Oneonta City at Schenectady High.

“I’d much prefer to have a tough team to play right away,” Terry said. “This is the biggest win for the organization, so there’s potential for a letdown. But since we’re playing Troy next, there won’t be any letdown.”

The Stallions, who have never reached the postseason, improved to 13-29 all-time. The Stallions went 0-10 as a Regional American Football League team in their first season, then finished 4-5 in the Empire Football League in 2010. The team played its first season in the NFA in 2011 and went 2-8.