A wild finish for Spartans (with photo gallery)

With a clutch kick and an even bigger grab, Amsterdam and Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake combined for a s

With a clutch kick and an even bigger grab, Amsterdam and Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake combined for a super finish to Saturday night’s Section II Class A Super Bowl.

Ryan McDonnell fired a 23-yard touchdown pass to Eric Dillon with 23 seconds left after a field goal had given the Rugged Rams the lead, and the Spartans prevailed for their fourth straight championship, 26-23, at Shenendehowa’s Steuerwald Stadium.

The dramatic win gave Burnt Hills (9-1) its fifth title in six years, and denied Amsterdam (9-1) its first crown since 2005 in the final game for retiring coach Pat Liverio.

“A few years back, people were saying how great our Super Bowl with Lansingburgh was. That doesn’t come close to this Super Bowl,” said Burnt Hills coach Matt Shell. “It was wacky. It was a great game. The best game I’ve been involved in.”

In the first title game between the teams, they were tied at 7-7, 13-13 and 20-20 before the final frantic 90 seconds that included Tyler Rouse’s 33-yard field goal for the Rugged Rams and the Spartans’ response in the form of a 65-yard drive, capped by Dillon’s game-winning reception.

“To have the type of season we’ve had and have it end like that, it’s tough,” said Liverio, whose team’s 9-0 mark coming in included a 23-7 Week 2 win over BH-BL. “You’re feeling great and a minute later . . . it’s tough.”

Dillon intercepted a Vinny Sob­kowich pass to end the game, recovered two fumbles and caught the first of his two touchdown passes in a wild second quarter that saw the teams combine for 33 points.

Tom Ruppel ran for 157 yards and BH-BL’s other two touchdowns, his second end-zone effort coming in the third quarter as the Spartans pulled even in the televised contest that matched state-ranked contingents.

“It was awesome to be out there tonight. Both teams played their hearts out and kept at it,” said McDonnell. “Championship games should be this way.”

Matt White scored on an 85-yard kickoff return, and Sobkowich threw a touchdown pass to Chris Carbone and ran for another in Amsterdam’s bid for a 10th sectional title, and seventh under Liverio.

“People got their money’s worth,” said Liverio, who concluded his career with a 130-34-1 record. “A lot of times, games like this don’t turn out like they’re supposed to be. This game was everything it was billed as.”

Trailing, 23-20, Burnt Hills took over at its 35 after Amsterdam’s kickoff went out of bounds. McDonnell threw a 10-yard pass to Dan Porter, and a pass interference penalty afterward pushed the ball to the Rams’ 40.

“When they hit the first pass, I thought we were all right,” said Liv­erio. “When they got the interference call, I started to get nervous.”

Ruppel ran for 17 yards and then was held for no gain, and after McDonnell threw incomplete, he found Dillion wide open in the end zone with a high, arching pass.

“Coach made the play up on the fly. He said line up and go across the field,” said Dillon, who caught his touchdown on a left-to-right pattern. “I knew I was going to be open because everything was going in the opposite direction. I came back across, and I was wide open.”

“I was thinking, ‘Don’t overthrow him,’ ” said McDonnell. “I was thinking, ‘Composure, composure.’ ”

“I told Dillon to run to the end zone and go across, and he was open,” said Shell. “Ryan hung in there and delivered a great ball.”

Rouse’s field goal was the 12th play in a drive that began at the Rams’ 27. The drive featured a 17-yard run by Brett Stanavich, a 14-yard run by Geo Rodriguez and a 12-yard reception by Rodriguez.

“There was still enough time [after the field goal],” Liverio said. “Burnt Hills knows what it takes. They’ve been in a lot of big games. A lot of other teams would have folded up.”

Dillon scored on a 28-yard reception on the first play of the second quarter, and White brought back the ensuing kickoff. Ruppel countered with a three-yard touchdown run, and Amsterdam got quick touchdowns late in the period on Carbone’s 25-yard reception and Sobkowich’s one-yard surge.

A fumble recovery and 35-yard return by Nathan Farley set up that touchdown for a 20-13 Amsterdam lead.

Ruppel ran for 36 yards on the first play of the third quarter, and Porter had a 14-yard run and 17-yard reception to help set up Ruppel’s five-yard touchdown scamper.

Burnt Hills will return to Shenendehowa next Saturday for a regional game against the Section VII/X winner.

BH-BL 0 13 7 6 — 26

Amsterdam 0 20 0 3 — 23

B — Dillon 28 pass from McDonnell (McDonnell kick).

A — White 85 kickoff return (Rouse kick).

B — Ruppel 3 run (kick failed).

A — Carbone 25 pass from Sobkowich (run failed).

A — Sobkowiwh 1 run (Rouse kick).

B — Ruppel 5 run (McDonnell kick).

A — Rouse 33 FG.

B — Dillon 23 pass from McDonnell (kick failed).

Categories: High School Sports

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