Spotlight on Schools: Spartans took their best shot

Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake had its moments in Saturday night’s state Class A championship football ga

Brandon Beatty ran for a touchdown and game-high 110 yards. Evan Nusbaum intercepted a pass. Dylan Wydronkowski blocked an extra-point attempt and made nine tackles, while Jahi Owens was in on eight tackles, two of them resulting in losses.

All good stuff, but not enough. Not against Buffalo football powerhouse Sweet Home.

Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake had its moments in Saturday night’s state Class A championship game, but the Panthers had so many more in their 34-7 victory at the Carrier Dome.

“We couldn’t do enough things,” Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake coach Matt Shell said afterward. “We had ourselves in a lot of very good positions, but they have a lot of great athletes and they made a lot of great plays.”

Sweet Home got the job done with the football and without it, using its big-play offense to generate points and its quick, swarming defense to keep Burnt Hills out of the end zone in its 26th consec­utive triumph, and second straight title-game win at the Spartans’ expense.

“They had a fast defense,” said BH-BL senior quarterback Phil Neumann, who did not play in the second half after sustaining a broken collarbone late in the second quarter. “They had a fast everything.”

Sweet Home senior D.J. Nettles stung Burnt Hills from beginning to end with his athleticism and speed, and supplied the crushing blow when he took a screen pass 54 yards for a touchdown to give his team a 19-0 lead with 70 seconds left in the opening half.

The 6-foot-3, 187-pound Nettles intercepted two passes in the third quarter as part of his most valuable player performance, and Ralph Neasman ran for his second and third touchdowns in the final frame to cap a three-game championship sweep for Section VI schools that day.

“They’re a championship team for a reason,” Shell said. “The proof is in the game.”

Burnt Hills had a chance to cut into Sweet Home’s first-half lead, but Nusbaum missed a 30-yard field-goal attempt on the final play. The Spartans made a defensive stop to begin the third quarter, Beatty ran 63 yards for a touchdown and Nusbaum intercepted Patrick McMahon after Owens tackled the Sweet Home quarterback for an eight-yard loss.

Momentum swung back toward Sweet Home when Nettles picked off a pass by Keaton Flint three plays into Burnt Hills’ ensuing drive, and the Spartans never got it back.

“I’m really proud of all the guys the way we can back in the second half,” said Neumann. “I wish we could have kept it going . . . It was a tough way to end it.”

McMahon completed 13 of 20 passes for 297 yards, 91 of them coming on a scoring strike to Jahaan Williams in middle of a three-touchdown second quarter for the Panthers.

“It wasn’t for lack of effort on our part,” said Shell, who had guided BH-BL to its third Section II title in four years, and second straight

regional and state semifinal wins before Saturday’s outcome. “They’re good.”

Section V wins four

Section VI (Buffalo area) football teams won four of the five New York State Public High School Athletic Association championship games over the weekend, with Southwestern defending its Class C crown and Randolph prevailing in the Class D final Saturday, and North Tonawanda securing the Class AA banner Sunday.

Section VI schools also won four state championships last season.

Southwestern (13-0) beat Bronxville (Section I, 11-1) behind Zack Sopac’s four touchdown passes, 40-14, Randolph (12-1) posted a 41-0 shutout against Moriah (Section VII, 9-3), and North Tonawan­da (13-0) edged New Rochelle (Section I, 11-1) for large-school honors, 14-7. Hornell (Section V, 13-0) captured Sunday’s Class B title game, 16-14, over Nanuet (Section I, 11-1).

For a friend

The players on Mohonasen’s varsity basketball team dedicated their season-opening game Tuesday night to Kyle Gagnon, who passed away shortly after the Mighty Warriors’ run to the Section II Class A final four last season. Gagnon was a popular junior on that team.

Mohonasen won the game at Guilderland, 41-38, after rallying from a 16-3 second-quarter deficit. Ben Dalton hit what proved to be the game-winning shot, making it 39-38 on a three-pointer with 28 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

“We had a good meeting before the game, and we talked about Kyle,” Dalton, a junior, said afterward. “He made that shot go in.”

“I would say he had a touch on that ball,” added Mohonasen coach Ken Dagostino.

Earlier Tuesday, Dagostino received an e-mail from one of his former players, Anthony Robustiano, that read in part, “There’s no doubt in my mind Kyle would love to be out there, and he will be looking down on you.”

Mohonasen won the game with an all-underclassmen starting lineup that included Dalton, Garrett Sisson, Billy Manikas, Josh Schaninger and Killian Tallman. Manikas scored a game-high 12 points, and Dalton netted nine.

“They were all close to him,”

Dagostino said of Gagnon. “They’re carrying on for him.”

Loudis on leave

Joe Loudis is taking a leave as Mechanicville’s varsity boys’ basketball coach due to health concerns.

The 67-year-old multi hall of fame coach was diagnosed with treatable bladder cancer in Feb­ruary of 2008 before guiding his Red Raiders to the state Class C championship game.

Mechanicville won 21 games that season, and six more last season to give Loudis 428 in a career that began in 1967 with Cohoes.

“I feel alright, but at this stage, I’ve got to take care of me first,” said the Schenectady native and Cohoes resident Wednesday night. “I’ve had surgeries, and I’m doing treatments right now. When I think about it, I should have taken last year off, too.”

Loudis won the Section II Class B championship while at Cohoes in 1973. His 1995 and 1996 Mechanicville teams also won sectional titles, with the 1995 edition reaching the state Class C semifinals and the 1996 group making it to the state Class C final.

Rian Richardson, who excelled for those teams and is Mechanicville’s career scoring leader, has taken over for Loudis. Richardson previously coached the Averill Park freshman girls and was a varsity boys’ assistant at Colonie under Doug Kilmer.

Loudis missed Mechanicville’s 2004-05 season due to heart bypass surgery, and his availability for the 2007-08 season was in jeopardy due to a bout with pneumonia, in which he suffered lung and kidney failure.

“I miss it. I miss the practices,” he said. “If all goes well, I’ll be back.”

Categories: High School Sports


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