Spartans are focused on the present

Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake and Lansingburgh engaged in one of the most thrilling Section II Super Bow

Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake and Lansingburgh engaged in one of the most thrilling Section II Super Bowls on record last season, with the Knights battling back from a pair of fourth-quarter deficits to prevail, 28-25.

The Class A heavyweights clash again tonight in a non-division game on the Burnt Hills field, renewing their budding rivalry, in which the Spartans hold a 2-1 advantage.

“It was a great accomplishment for us to get there, and we felt good about our showing. We had a chance to win,” BH-BL coach Matt Shell said of the wild Section II final, in which his team let 19-14 and 25-20 leads get away. “But that game is put to rest. That game is behind us. This is a new year and a new opportunity.”

Burnt Hills took full advantage of two previous ones, beating Lansingburgh in the 2006 Super Bowl, 37-7, before beating the Knights again in the 2007 regular season,

35-22. Lansingburgh’s payback victory served as a springboard toward the state title game.

“If we’re looking at last year’s [Section II championship] game and thinking about what could have and what should have been, we’ll be setting ourselves up for failure,” Shell said. “The focus has to be on the game in front of us.”

It’s an important one for each squad. Both the Spartans and the Knights are looking to carry

momentum into their Class A div­ision schedules, which begin next week. The Spartans opened with a 55-0 triumph at Scotia-Glenville, scoring 48 first-half points, while the Knights used a 28-point third-quarter blitz to get past Glens Falls, 45-26.

“It’s a big game. It’s not a do-or-die game because it’s non-div­ision, but you do want to win,” said Lansingburgh coach Pete Porcelli. “It’s turned into a nice rivalry. We have a lot of respect for Burnt Hills, coach Shell and his staff, but we want to come out on top. We want to look good.

“We know it’s going to be a tough test, going to Burnt Hills. The last game we played was tough, and it could have gone either way,” he added. “They’ve changed some kids, but in a way, it’s the same Burnt Hills team we’ve seen a few times before. They’re very disciplined. They run their offense well. Their defense flies to the football.”

The Spartans will have to do that in order to contain Lansingburgh’s double-wing offense, which is

directed by new starting quarterback T.J. McLaughlin, and includes runners Marcus Hepp, Shane Wynn, Quincy Michaels, Kyle Murray and Santell Mauzon. Mike Caro and Daquan Davis, a 6-foot-4,

320-pound senior, anchor the line.

Linebackers Connor Hadcock and Chris Van Alstyne, and safety Tyler Paluba are among BH-BL’s defensive leaders.

“You don’t have a lot of time to prepare for it. The good thing is, we’ve seen it on a fairly regular

basis the last few years,” said Shell of the double-wing. “You have a plan, and if you execute and tackle well, you give yourself a fighting chance.

“They put you in a lot of conflicts. You do the best you can with it. You try to limit the back-breaking plays.”

Hepp has taken over for Kenny Youngs — Section II’s No. 2 all-time rushing and scoring leader — as Lansingburgh’s featured wingback. The 5-6, 185-pound senior ran for 274 yards on 19 carries last week and scored five touchdowns, three of them coming in the 28-point third quarter which erased a 13-10 deficit.

“They change a lot of kids, but he [Hepp] seems to be the constant. He’s been there three years, and he’s a strong runner with agility,” said Shell. “I’m sure he’s going to be a focal point. They’ve always had that dynamic running back, and he fits that bill.”

Burnt Hills has a standout of its own in senior quarterback/kicker Paul Layton, who has guided the Spartans to a 19-3 record and back-to-back division titles as a starter. The 2007 Class A Division I

co-Player of the Year ran for a touchdown last week, threw scoring passes to Keaton Flint and

Jacob Meyers and kicked seven extra points.

“They’re not a one-man show, but he is their triggerman,” Porcelli said. “I don’t think you stop him. You try to slow him down a little bit. We’ve got to be up for it.”

Burnt Hills will come at Lansingburgh with numerous sets and var­ious combinations of running backs, featuring Erik Vuillaume, Nick Henderson, Brandon Beatty, Paluba, Jahi Owens, Mike Matrazzo and Logan Mancari. All but Henderson and Matrazzo scored touchdowns last week.

“I’m sure they’re saying the same thing to their kids. You’ve got to be a playmaker out there,” said Shell. “Whether you’re running the ball, blocking or tackling, you’ve got to make plays.”

Burnt Hills opens its Northwest Division schedule next week at Gloversville before hosting

Amsterdam and South Glens Falls. Lansingburgh begins Southeast Division play at home against


Troy (1-0) and Amsterdam

(0-1) renew their longtime rivalry tonight in a Class A crossover on the Rugged Rams’ turf. The teams last met in 2004, with the Rams earning a 10-7 win.

Schenectady (1-0) plays at Colonie (0-1) tonight in a Class AA Liberty Division game, with the Patriots seeking their first 2-0 start since beating Troy and LaSalle in 2002. Schenectady beat Shenendehowa last week, 36-7, behind Marc Thompson’s three touchdowns.

Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons

(0-1) hosts Whitehall (0-1) Saturday in a Class D game with hopes of ending its 10-game losing streak. The Golden Knights beat Hoosic Valley in Week 8 of 2006, 19-8, ending what was then a 20-game losing streak.

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