Neighboring Blue Streaks, Scotties square off tonight in Class AA Super Bowl

Ballston Spa and Saratoga Springs are run-first, pass-second rivals meeting for the second time in f
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Are you ready for some football? Some old-time, rock em’, sock em’ football?

Coach John Bowen is certain tonight’s all-Saratoga County Super Bowl will offer plenty. His Ballston Spa team and Saratoga Springs are run-first, pass-second rivals meeting for the second time in four weeks.

“For those who watched football in the ’70s, they’ll be familiar with this kind of fight. This type of game will probably do Woody Hayes proud,” Bowen said of the 7 p.m. televised Section Class AA final at Colonie. “There won’t be a lot of tricks. That’s the type of football it’s going to be. They’ll revert back to what’s been successful for them, we’ll do the same, and let’s get at it.”

With their stacked backfields, Ballston Spa (8-1) and Saratoga (8-1) took turns moving the ball with success in their initial meeting four weeks ago, an Empire Division scuffle in which the Blue Streaks prevailed, 17-14, as part of their eight-game winning streak.

“In the first half, we didn’t have the ball. They were able to chew the clock and gain yards, and we didn’t maximize on our chances,” said Bowen, whose team fell behind, 17-7. “We played the second half like they played the first half. We just couldn’t get our last possession rolling.”

Ballston Spa was the last team to give Saratoga a serious second-half challenge.

“Their only loss is by three points to us. They’re four points away from being undefeated,” said Saratoga coach Terry Jones. “That’s why they’re here. They’re a good football team, and we’re going to have to play better than the last time. We didn’t play very well in the second half.”

The Blue Streaks have been on a roll ever since, racing to big halftime leads in victories over Shenendehowa, Colonie and Schenectady. Ballston Spa rebounded from its only loss by beating Guilderland, Bethlehem and Guilderland again.

“Our kids are excited to have this opportunity, especially the seniors,” said Jones, whose 2008 team saw a 26-0 lead evaporate in a 41-39 semifinal loss to LaSalle. “A lot of kids felt we let an opportunity slip away, and they’ve been pretty determined all year to get to this game.”

Saratoga pounced on Schenec­tady with 20 first-quarter points in last week’s 32-0 semifinal win. Tony DeLoatch ran 50 yards for a touchdown on Saratoga’s second play, after the Blue Streaks pinned the Pats deep on a Mike Daley kickoff and forced a punt to gain field position.

“One thing Saratoga does extremely well is tilt the field. They tipped it on us,” Bowman said. “Our kids took a lot of punches in the first half. I’m proud of the kids the way they hung in there and bounced back.”

Ballston Spa got a late one-yard touchdown run by quarterback Mark Seager to put the pressure on Saratoga, while Alex Nicol broke loose for a 66-yard scoring run in the first half.

“Our thing is to limit big plays. We did that on all but one play in the last game with them,” Jones said. “What we want to do is force them to put drives together. In high school football, a lot of things can happen when a team has to go 80 yards.”

Bowen believes his quick, athletic line and backfield cast that includes Nick Tubolino, Josh Fabian, Matt Clark and Kyle Warmt can cover the field.

“We’ll have to play from the 20-yard line. We’ve prepared our kids mentally that that’s what we’re going to have to do,” Bowen said. “We know we have to sustain 80-yard drives because of their kicker. There will be times when he pins us deep.”

Tubolino and Clark both scored two touchdowns in last week’s 42-9 win over Guilderland, and Seager had a touchdown, along with 149 of Ballston Spa’s 321 rushing yards.

Seager’s touchdown covered 50 yards and gave Ballston Spa a 27-9 lead in what would be its first-ever semifinal win.

“I don’t think you’ll see home run after home run,” Bowen said. “We want to eliminate the big play. They want to eliminate the big play. It’s going to be more about the team that’s able to assert its will on offense and defense.”

Saratoga did that often in its surge to the title game, using its defense and special teams to set up good field position for its quick-strike offense. The Blue Streaks caught fire with 17 second-quarter points against Ballston Spa, with DeLoatch running for a touchdown, Ford Plowman scoring on a pass from Luke Fauler and Daley kicking a field goal.

“Ever since our last game with Ballston Spa, we’ve been scoring points kind of in bunches. We went up on Shenendehowa, 30-0, at the half and got up, 20-0, on Schenectady,” Jones said. “When your defense and special teams are playing well, it helps.”

Ballston Spa can help itself with some early success. Nicol’s long touchdown run was the last first-half score allowed by Saratoga.

“We have to be ready to work early on,” said Bowman. “We want to try to get field position. We can’t let them do what they like to do.”

DeLoatch ran for two touchdowns and 170 of Saratoga’s 391 yards last week, while Tyler Bates gained 101 yards. Bates and Plowman also had touchdowns, and Daley booted his sixth field goal. On the flip side, Saratoga held Schen­ectady to 109 yards of offense.

“Our goal is to play better than last week,” said Jones. “We’re always looking for a better performance.”

Saratoga is making its 10th championship game appearance and seeking its fifth win, with its most recent coming in 2004 at Shenendehowa’s expense in the last all-Sar­atoga County Super Bowl. The Blue Streaks made it to the large-school final in 2005, and lost to LaSalle.

Ballston Spa can tie a school record with a ninth victory. In 1978, the Scotties finished 9-1 after losing to Johnstown in the Section II Class B title game. The Scotties didn’t win their first postseason game until 2006, against Queensbury, in the Class AA quarterfinals.

Saturday hopefuls

Schalmont and Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake will be among the eight teams going after Section II championships Saturday. The Sabres (7-2) take on Lansingburgh (8-1) in the Class B final at 2 at Schenectady, and the Spartans (9-0) meet Troy (9-0) in the Class A title game at 7 at Shenendehowa. Greenwich (7-2) and Rensselaer (8-1) tangle for Class D honors at 2 at Shenendehowa, and Chatham (9-0) and Hoosick Falls (9-0) vie for Class C laurels at 7 at Stillwater.

Schalmont had never won a playoff game before beating Albany Academy and Cohoes as part of its seven-game win streak. The streak started after a 42-29 loss to Lansingburgh, and the seven wins tied a school record. The Knights played in six straight sectional finals from 2002-07 at the Class A and B levels and won four times, and earned another opportunity by knocking off Hudson Falls and Broadalbin-Perth the last two weeks.

Burnt Hills will be making its fourth consecutive title-game appearance and is in search of its third championship after prevailing in 2006 and last year. Burnt Hills and Troy last met in the 2008 sectional semifinals, with the Spartans coming out on top, 35-20, before a 19-0 blanking of Bishop Maginn.

Burnt Hills owns sectional wins over Niskayuna and Averill Park, while Troy has eliminated Gloversville and Glens Falls.

Categories: High School Sports

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