Rivals Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, Lansingburgh meet in Class A final

Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake football coach Matt Shell is glad that his team had an opportunity to play

Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake football coach Matt Shell is glad that his team had an opportunity to play Lansingburgh in the opening week of the season.

His Spartans got more than a win and an early boost of confidence from that 25-15 come-from-behind effort.

“I think it’s good to be familiar with your opponent,” Shell said. “It gives you an idea of the level of intensity you have to play at. It also tells you the type of effort we’ll get from them. We know they’re a talented team, and a tough team that’s not going to back down.”

The Spartans and the Knights, unbeaten since that early defeat, will renew what has become one of Section II’s best rivalries in tonight’s Class A championship game at Shenendehowa’s Steuerwald Stadium.

The 7 p.m. clash will mark the third Class A Super Bowl pitting the area heavyweights, with the Spartans winning in 2006, 37-7, and the Knights prevailing a year later, 28-25.

“They’re a proud program. They wanted to be in this game, and they did everything they had to do to get here,” Shell said of the state’s No. 19-ranked team. “I expect a good game. It’s definitely a good matchup.”

The first go-round saw Burnt Hills (9-0) trail for the only time this season before stringing together 25 unanswered points, including a pair of touchdown runs by Evan Nusbaum. The Spartans haven’t been involved in a close tussle since, with the state’s No. 3-ranked team using postseason wins over Glens Falls and Queensbury as a springboard toward their fifth consecutive championship game.

The Spartans won titles in 2008 and last season against Bishop Maginn and Troy, respectively, and went on to play for a state title each time.

“The guys have some butterflies like any kids would with a big game on the horizon, but a lot of them have been in big games before. That should help us,” said Shell. “In certain spots, we’ve got real good veteran leadership.”

Senior running back Brandon Beatty and senior quarterback Keaton Flint will both be appearing in their fourth Super Bowl for the Spartans, though Flint played wide receiver in the previous three. They both ran for a touchdown in last week’s 31-14 semifinal win against Queensbury, while Nusbaum, another 12th-grader, gained the end zone twice while producing a team-best 171 rushing yards.

“The kids who have been doing it all year long have to do it again. We have to have good games out of our big-time players, but we also need contributions from every position,” Shell said. “We need every kid to give everything they’ve got.”

Linebacker Dylan Wydronkowski and safety Jack Guba will anchor a BH-BL defense that’s sure to be tested by Lansingburg’s big line and backfield trio of Jake Luce, Anthony Fogarty and Marcus Little. From his fullback spot, Luce rambled for 183 yards and three touchdowns in the Knights’ 30-8 semifinal win over Bishop Maginn. The Knights 24-15 quarterfinal win against Gloversville included a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Fogarty, a Cohoes transfer.

“Those three kids are real good players. Their line moves well. Their quarterback [Carlos Grillo] throws a nice ball,” said Shell. “We have to play defense against these guys. We have to play defense if we want to be successful.”

Burnt Hills has been just that in 29 straight games against Section II opponents since that three-point Super Bowl loss to Lansingburgh in 2007.

“Lansingburgh has a heck of a program. They’ve had a lot of success over the years,” said Shell. “This isn’t new to them, either.”

Lansingburgh (8-1) lost to Schalmont in last year’s Section II Class B title game, and tonight, coach Al McNall’s Knights will be making their eighth championship-game appearance since 2002. Their other sectional victories came at the Class B level in 2002, 2003 and 2005.

Categories: High School Sports

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