Amsterdam ended Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake’s 31-game area winning streak two weeks into the season with a 23-7 victory that could have been even more one-sided. It’s the only blot on the Spartans’ record heading into tonight’s rematch.
“That was us in Week 2. We were a good team then, not great,” Burnt Hills coach Matt Shell said. “Since then, we’ve gone with the same base plan, but we’ve moved some kids around, tweaked a few things, and we’ve improved.”
Seven straight victories including playoff routs against Mohonasen and Troy have propelled the Spartans into tonight’s second-go-round with the Rugged Rams. The Section II Class A championship game at Shenendehowa’s Steuerwald Stadium starts at 7 and pits teams that have captured a combined 10 titles since 1999, yet have never met this far into the season.
“I think we’ve grown since that first game. They’re better, too. They’ve evolved,” said Amsterdam coach Pat Liverio. “They have more depth now, and their quarterback is a better all-around player.”
Burnt Hills signal caller Ryan McDonnell threw three interceptions, and the Spartans turned the ball over seven times in all in that early-season loss that ultimately cost them the Class A Northwest Division title.
“It’s a lesson the kids had to understand, and we’ve been a lot better, plus, our defense has forced some,” said Shell of the turnovers. “We told them, ‘There’s still a lot of football left. Do what you need to do to improve, and we’ll have a shot.’ Credit to the kids. We put ourselves in a championship situation.”
Burnt Hills (8-1) has won three straight Class A championships and earned its first under Shell in 2006. Amsterdam (9-0) has won nine sectional crowns and six of them under Liverio, in 1999 and from 2001-05. Liverio will retire as the school’s all-time wins leader when Amsterdam’s season ends.
“It’s more about the kids and them trying to win the game, but it would be a nice exclamation point,” Liverio said. “It would be a good way to finish up.”
Chris Carbone made certain Liverio would win his last home game when he returned an interception 76 yards for a late touchdown in a 21-6 semifinal victory over Queensbury. Vinny Sobkowich threw a touchdown pass to Matt White and ran for a score earlier in the game.
“They have a great running game. Their quarterback is a good passer. Their receivers can make plays,” said Shell. “There are a lot of things they do, and they make you play great team defense. They have athletes all over. That puts a lot of pressure on you. We’ve got to be good everywhere.”
Amsterdam beat Lansingburgh, 54-12, in the quarterfinals, when Sobkowich threw six touchdown passes and the Rams allowed one defensive touchdown. Their defense has given up two touchdowns only once in a 44-14 win over Colonie.
“We’ve been steady all year, and we’ll have to be again,” said Liverio. “We have options on offense, and they do, too. Our defense has to be rock solid.”
Dan Porter was a key offensive figure for BH-BL last week in a 38-7 win over then-unbeaten Troy with a pair of touchdown runs and a scoring reception. Tom Ruppel ran for four touchdowns, including 60 and 52-yard bursts, in a 47-6 quarterfinal win against Mohonasen.
“The kids played well. They played at a high level, and that was a big confidence builder for us,” Shell said of the Troy game, in which Porter and Ruppel both ran for over 100 yards. “You need confidence when you play a quality opponent, and that’s Amsterdam.”
Schalmont (9-0) will be striving for its third straight Class B championship and 28th consecutive win against Section II competition when it takes on Albany Academy (7-2) today at 3 at Shenendehowa.
The Sabres used victories over the Cadets in the 2009 quarterfinals and 2010 semifinals as steppingstones toward their titles, with last year’s squad advancing to the state final.
“We’ve had kids rise to the occasion. Our kids have answered the bell in big games. I think they’ll do the same this week,” said Schalmont coach Joe Whipple. “We feel good about this game.”
Schalmont is far from overconfident, though. Led by quarterback Conner Hartigan, the Reinfurt Division champs have won six of their last seven games with only a one-point setback against Beekmantown mixed in. Hartigan ran for an Academy-record 385 yards and five of his 26 touchdowns in that setback.
“They’re good, no doubt,” said Whipple. “They’ve fought through adversity and found ways to win. That shows how much want they have in them. When a team has want, they’ll be tough.”
Hartigan has been sensational since taking over at quarterback for injured Hunter McCarthy early in the season. The senior has rushed for over 100 yards eight times, netting 127 with both touchdowns in a 14-6 semifinal win over Cobleskill-Richmondville.
“All of Section II knows he’s the focal point of their attack, but no one has been too successful against him,” said Whipple. “He’s a very good athlete and he finds holes. Plus, they have just enough talent around him to keep you honest, and they pass just enough to keep you honest.”
Schalmont had to rally last week to get back to the title game, with Alex Hildebrand, Devon Willis and Niko Nicoletti delivering touchdowns in a 19-14 win over Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk. Willis ran for 147 yards, the sophomore’s eight game with over 100. The West Division champs slugged Hudson before that, 47-0.
“We need to get rolling early,” said Whipple. “We need some kind of spark to get momentum and get the kids feeling like it’s their game.”
Academy won its last Section II title in 2006 behind Dion Lewis and made it to the state final.
Fonda-Fultonville (8-0) goes after its first banner since 1999 in tonight’s 7:30 Class C title game against Hoosick Falls (9-0) on the turf at Stillwater.
Hoosick Falls is the two-time defending champion, beating Fonda-Fultonville in the 2010 semifinals, 46-13, before overwhelming Chatham, 61-28. The Panthers have continued pour on the points this year by scoring over 50 seven times.
Fonda-Fultonville has put up big points, as well, with last week’s 37-14 win over Chatham marking the Braves seventh outing with over 30. Two-time 1,000-yard back Wally Kowalkski ran for 171 and produced three touchdowns in that semifinal, and Kody Shaw added a pair of touchdown passes.
Hoosick Falls beat Watervliet last week, 34-8, for its 29th straight Section II victory.
Cambridge (9-0) and Rensselaer (8-1) meet in a Class D title-game rematch today at 1 at Schuylerville. The Indians beat the Rams in the 2010 final, 35-0, and own a 48-19 win againt them this season. Like Hoosick Falls, Cambridge has often piled up big points, topping 50 five times with freshman quarterback Ethan English running the show.
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Categories: High School Sports