Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake moved the football Friday night on the turf at Dietz Stadium.
Punching it into the end zone was another story.
“We just couldn’t sustain drives,” Spartans senior Evan Nusbaum said after a 17-7 state Class A semifinal loss to Harrison. “We’d get down there and stall out.”
Nusbaum produced Burnt Hills’ lone touchdown on a fumble return in the second quarter, yet missed field goal tries before and after his end zone scamper. His second off-line boot came with 14 seconds remaining in the opening half.
The Spartans (11-1) also came up short on fourth-down plays three times in the second half in a frustrating venture that left them out of the state championship game after two consecutive trips.
“We had opportunities,” said Burnt Hills coach Matt Shell. “The things we did well all year, we didn’t do. Give credit to Harrison.”
The Huskies advance to the state championship game Friday at 3 p.m. at the Carrier Dome.
Alex Acompora scored both touchdowns for Harrison (Section I, 10-1), on a 46-yard dash in the third quarter and a 69-yard reception in the fourth, Roberto Bruno kicked a 42-yard field goal with 1:40 left, and Stephen Ricciardi intercepted a pass on the Spartans’ final play to cap a superb defensive effort by the Huskies.
The fewest points Burnt Hills had scored before Friday’s setback was 25 in a season-opening win against Lansingburgh. Burnt Hills had collected 42 points in its two previous playoff games, and 31 and 49 before that.
“Our defense has been strong all year,” said Acompora, a senior halfback and safety. “We stepped up and played hard. We played as one.”
Burnt Hills defeated Cornwall in last year’s semifinal round, 41-16, and rallied past Nyack in 2008, 14-13, both games also contested at Dietz Stadium. Nusbaum provided most of the highlights for BH-BL Friday with his 29-yard touchdown return, 117 rushing yards on 15 carries, three receptions for 29 more, and a touchdown-saving tackle that kept the Spartans ahead in the third quarter, but only briefly, with Acompora scoring soon after.
“Evan did everything he could,” Shell said of the Spartans’ outstanding offensive player for the game. “He’s a warrior, and well miss him. We’ll miss all of our seniors.”
Keaton Flint and Brandon Beatty added 79 and 55 rushing yards, respectively, for the state’s
No. 2-ranked team, and Kyle Olsen recovered a fumble early in the third quarter which led to the first of the three fourth-down plays where the Spartans came up short.
Beatty was halted for a one-yard loss on a fourth-and-one run from the Harrison 11. In the fourth quarter, Flint gained only a yard on a fourth-and-two from the Huskies’ 28. On BH-BL’s next series, Beatty was hit for a three-yard loss on a fourth-and-one at the Spartans 49.
“We didn’t make plays we needed to make,” said Shell. “It wasn’t for lack of effort. The guys gave it everything they had.”
“Everybody fought,” said Nusbaum, a running back and safety. “We just didn’t play our game today. We didn’t play Burnt Hills football today.”
Nusbaum ran 29 yards to the end zone when Harrison quarterback Vinny Nicita fumbled after a seven-yard gain with 5:32 left in the second quarter. The play was part of superb first-half defensive effort by the Spartans, who allowed 35 yards and one first down over the two quarters.
“Our defense kept us in the game as long as they could, but we were on the field so much,” Nusbaum said. “That’s because we couldn’t keep those drives going.”
Nusbaum missed field goals from 42 and 22 yards out, breaking off runs of 22 and 18 yards to set up his second attempt.
Ricciardi had runs of 25 and 15 yards before Acompora’s 48-yard touchdown sprint with 7:52 left in the third quarter. Acompora caught a Nicita pass near midfield and turned it into his 69-yard touchdown with 8:28 remaining in the contest, before Bruno’s clinching field goal for the state’s No. 10-ranked contingent.
Robbie Mulderrig had two sacks on Flint as part of Harrison’s defensive performance.
Burnt Hills was denied a piece of history with the loss. The Spartans were trying to become Section II’s first Classs A team to reach three consecutive state finals after matching the run put together by Queensbury’s 1997 and 1998 teams a year ago.
Burnt Hills lost in state finals in 2009 and 2008, both times against Sweet Home.
Harrison 0 0 7 10 – 17
BH-BL 0 7 0 0 – 7
B — Nusbaum 29 fumble return (Nusbaum kick).
H — Acompora 46 run (Bruno kick).
H — Acompora 69 pass from Nicita
H — Bruno 42 FG.
GAZETTE COVERAGEEnsure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out our subscribe page at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe
More from The Daily Gazette:
Categories: High School Sports