Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake shakes off slow start, wins football opener

'We've got a lot of pride. We say it every time we get in the huddle'
Jake Stanko of BH-BL heads to the end zone past Michael Guido of Queensbury during Saturday's game.
Jake Stanko of BH-BL heads to the end zone past Michael Guido of Queensbury during Saturday's game.

QUEENSBURY — Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake displayed both its will and an ability to make the big play in its 31-20 season-opening win Saturday at Class A rival Queensbury.

Jake Stanko converted a fourth-down play before scoring the go-ahead touchdown late in the third quarter, and Darien LaPietro threw his second scoring pass late in the fourth to seal another physical win for Burnt Hills on Queensbury’s field.

“We’ve got a lot of pride,” said Stanko, a senior halfback, after his two-touchdown, 131-yard rushing effort. “We say it every time we get in the huddle.”

Saturday’s game was a rematch from the 2016 Class A semifinals that Burnt Hills won 42-24 on the way to the Section II championship and state final four. Like last year, Queensbury scored on an 80-yard run on its first play from scrimmage, and soon after Brendan’s Scott’s long scamper, Liam O’Mara went 47 yards for another touchdown out of the Spartans’  packed-in double-wing offense.

Burnt Hills strung 17 points from there, fell behind again, and then rallied again.

“Queensbury stepped up and made some plays,” BH-BL coach Matt Shell said. “We stepped up and made some plays. We outscored them 31-6 the rest of the way.”

Burnt Hills halted Queensbury three times on fourth-down plays from scrimmage and DJ Lashley picked off a pass. LaPietro threw touchdown passes to Mike LeVan and Vincent Daviero, Evan Price blocked a punt to set up LeVan’s grab, and Jonathan Kenyon kicked a field goal. 

“We absolutely needed a physical game like this,” Shell said. “Now it’s, ‘We can do this.'”

Late in the third quarter with his team trailing by three, Shell knew what Stanko could do if he got open space, and Stanko got the call on a pitch right with Burnt Hills facing a fourth-and-one at the Queensbury 39. Stanko gained 18 yards after BH-BL eliminated a defender with motion to the left, and four plays later, the senior scored from the three. Kenyon’s PAT made it 24-20 with 21 seconds left in the third frame.

“The toss sweep to Jake, it’s a play that worked for us last year here,” Shell said. “Their defense is super pressure, and if you can get a kid in space, you can make a play.

“We were able to turn that into a touchdown. It’s not easy to score touchdowns up here.”

Patrick Conway scored for Queensbury on a six-yard run earlier in the third as the hosts retook the lead at 20-17. A 31-yard run by Nico Mattia aided that scoring drive.

“I knew it was going to be a fight,” BH-BL senior two-way lineman Joe Petroski said. “The whole team knew.”

Looking to pad BH-BL’s lead with just over three minutes left, Daviero fumbled the ball away at the Queensbury one-yard line and Liam Smith recovered. After Burnt Hills halted Queensbury on downs, LaPietro found Daviero with a seven-yard touchdown pass.

“We need to get better at starting games,” Stanko said.

Scott broke three tackles as part of his 80-yard, game-starting touchdown run. Queensbury drove 72 yards to scored again after a three-and-out by Burnt Hills.

“We always fight,” Petroski said. “Momentum shifted a bit when we got a touchdown, and by the half we were up by three.”

Stanko went 37 yards to get BH-BL on the board in the first quarter, part of his 20-carry performance, and Kenyon kicked the first of his four PATs. In the second quarter, Kenyon kicked a 20-yard field goal, and LeVan caught a 16-yard scoring pass from LaPietro on the first play after Price’s blocked punt.

“Momentum is a crazy thing,” first-year Queensbury coach Matt Crossman said. “You have it, lose it and get it back in this game.”

Daviero ran 18 times for 100 yards, and LaPietro was 7-for-12 passing for 77 yards. Scott led Queensbury with 99 rushing yards on four carries, and Mattia had 81 yards on 11 carries. Queensbury had seven different ball carriers.

“It’s always a difficult offense to go up against,” Petroski said.

Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake 7 10 7 7 – 31

Queensbury 14 0 6 0 – 20

Q – Scott 80 run (kick blocked)

Q – O’Mara 47 run (Fara pass from Angell)

B – Stanko 37 run (Kenyon kick)

B – Kenyon 20 FG

B – LeVan 16 pas from LaPietro (Kenyon kick)

Q – Conway 6 run (run failed)

B – Stanko  3 run (Kenyon kick)

B – Daviero 7 pass from LaPietro (Kenyon kick)

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Jim Schiltz at 518-395-3143, [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.

Categories: High School Sports, Sports

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