SYRACUSE — When Joseph Girard III sees his first homecourt action for the Syracuse University basketball team less than a year from now, he will be looking to add to his Carrier Dome credentials that gained considerable weight Saturday afternoon.
The two-sport senior playmaker generated points with his arm and his legs after the Glens Falls football team got off to a slow start, leading the Indians to a 55-32 victory over Batavia in the state Class B championship game.
“That kid has faced every scenario imaginable,” Glens Falls coach Pat Lilac said of his three-year starting quarterback and safety. “He gets up for big situations.”
Girard III ran for two touchdowns, threw for two touchdowns and intercepted a pass, just like he did as a sophomore when Glens Falls knocked off Chenango Forks 47-39 on Ernie Davis Legends Field for New York’s top Class B prize.
“Two and oh at the Dome,” Girard III said after engineering a win over the state’s No. 1-ranked team. “Got some more magic to make here.”
He made plenty Saturday after Glens Falls (11-2) fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter. Glens Falls managed just three plays in that opening stanza and saw Batavia (Section V, 12-1) recover an onside kick.
“We hit adversity all year,” Girard III said. “Injuries, suspensions, lost a few games. When we get down, guys at Glens Falls don’t quit.”
Girard III helped swing momentum with an interception on the first play of the second quarter, and even more so with his third-and-10, 60-yard bomb to David Barclay after starting that drive at his own seven with a pair of incomplete passes.
“That was a huge play,” said Barclay. “I saw Joe scrambling. He was rolling out. He can really sling it, and he dropped a dime right in there.”
“We kind of exhaled after that long pass and played football,” Lilac said.
Girard III scored on a 4-yard run to begin a touchdown binge for Glens Falls that included four unanswered as the Section II representatives — ranked No. 2 in the state — built a 42-20 advantage.
By the time Glens Falls was through, Girard III had completed 10 of 18 passes for 314 yards with scoring strikes to Barclay and his cousin, Trent Girard, to go with his TD runs. Trenton Girard had seven catches for 183 yards and a TD, and Aalijah Sampson ran 23 times for 135 yards and four touchdowns.
Ray Leach paced Batavia with 410 rushing yards on 30 carries and scored four touchdowns. Leach surpassed 400 yards for the third game in a row..
“I was hoping to be a state champion, and to do it here at the Carrier Dome is special,” said Girard III, the game’s most valuable player. “It’s a fairy tale ending.”
Batavia scored the first two times it had the football, on a 28-yard reception by Leach and on a 46-yard pass from Leach to Taiyo Iburi-Bethel. Before he raced to the end zone, Iburi-Bethel hauled in a tipped pass on the first play after Batavia quarterback Ethan Biscaro went out with a knee injury, and Leach threw deep out of a wildcat formation.
In the second quarter, after his long pass to Barclay, Girard III scored his first touchdown after scrambling about 50 yards to his right and then left and, on the Indians’ next drive, Sampson scored on a 1-yard surge one play after Girard III zipped for 43 yards.
“When we were here the first time, when I was a sophomore, we had seniors who led us,” Girard III said. “I knew this year I had to be more of a leader.”
Leach broke off an 83-yard scoring run to put Batavia up 20-14 in the second quarter, but the lead didn’t last long, with Glens Falls answering on a 2-yard TD run by Sampson and a 2-point run by the sophomore back. A 38-yard catch by Trent Girard set the stage for those points.
“The tipped ball and onside kick, it couldn’t have gone much worse for us, and we had a one-point lead,” Lilac said. “At the half, I told the guys we were in good shape.”
Barclay capped Glens Falls’ opening drive of the third quarter with a 33-yard scoring reception, and Girard III finished off the next with a 3-yard scoring run, that set up on a 63-yard grab by Trent Girard.
Trent Girard scored on a 55-yard pass play three plays into the fourth quarter, when Sampson gained the end zone twice on bolts of 24 and 16 yards. That last TD was set up on an interception by Kyle Vachon.
“We knew we could turn on the offensive switch,” said Barclay.
Leach scored fourth-quarter touchdowns on runs covering 19 and 80 yards. The senior set state football tournament records with 417 rushing yards and eight touchdowns in a 56-28 quarterfinal win over Cheektowaga, and broke his rushing mark with 474 yards and had eight more TDs in a 54-49 semifinal win against Skaneateles.
Glens Falls 0 21 14 20 — 55
Batavia 14 6 0 12 — 32
B — Leach 28 pass from Biscaro (kick failed)
B — Iburi-Bethel 46 pass from Leach (Leach run)
GF — J. Girard III 4 run (kick failed)
GF — Sampson 1 run (Sampson run)
B — Leach 83 run (run failed)
GF — Sampson 2 run (Hogan kick)
GF — Barclay 33 pass from J. Girard III (Hogan kick)
GF — J. Girard III 3 run (Hogan kick)
GF — T. Girard 55 pass from J. Girard III (Hogan kick)
B — Leach 19 run (run failed)
GF — Sampson 24 run (kick failed)
GF — Sampson 16 run (Hogan kick)
B — Leach 80 run (run failed)