SCHENECTADY — Holy Trinity was out of timeouts and the final seconds of the first half were ticking down when quarterback Joe Tortello took a snap and looked to find his running back … and no one was there.
With a quick burst forward, the senior turned that broken play into a 2-yard touchdown run, which kick-started a string of points as the Pride pulled away for an early-season 55-24 win over Cobleskill-Richmondville.
“I turned, and it was, ‘I’ve got to do something here,'” Tortello said. “Last year, I would have got caught in the backfield.”
While passing the ball and game management were Tortello strengths even before he threw for his first varsity touchdown as an eighth-grader, that quick burst forward and the ability to rapidly move left and right when the pressure is on is new to his game.
He’s leaner and more muscular than the junior who made the all-state second team, and much more of a threat now to the opposition.
“He’s always worked hard,” Holy Trinity coach John Barber said. “After the Chatham game, he committed to changing his body.”
Holy Trinity’s 2018 season ended with a 28-18 Section II Class C semifinal loss to Chatham. The Pride earned a return trip to that stage, but at the Class B level, Saturday by beating Broadalbin-Perth 47-13 in a quarterfinal when Tortello showed all of his skills, both the new and the old.
“I had a lot of baby fat. It got to the point where I had to get rid of it,” the just-turned 18-year-old said. “I wanted to have a great year.”
His preparation included a new diet, several miles a day running — “My dad believes in pounding the pavement” — and work with personal trainers Tony Campana and Gary Blond.
“They knew I wanted to shed a lot of weight and get stronger and faster,” Tortello said. “I want to play football at the next level seriously and competitively. I had to reinvent my body.”
Barber said interest from college coaches from the Division III to Football Championship Subdivision levels has picked up since the season started. Dartmouth, Holy Cross, New Hampshire, Stonehill, Assumption, Monmouth, St. John Fisher, Union and RPI are among the many institutions that have reached out.
“He’s is one of the quickest kids on our team now,” Barber said of his 5-foot-11, 175-pound quarterback. “What he’s done is pretty impressive. He’s not just standing in the pocket. He’s moving and keeping plays alive. That’s something we didn’t have.”
Tortello completed 10 of 14 passes Saturday for 186 yards and five touchdowns, boosting his season totals to 1,886 yards and 33 TDs. He also has four touchdown runs this season, doubling his output from the three seasons before.
“It helps the whole team,” Tortello said of his improved mobility. “I was one-dimensional. Now teams have to keep an eye on me.”
Tortello said he drew inspiration from watching quarterback Joseph Girard III from Glens Falls scramble left and right as he guided his team to state Class B titles in 2016 and 2018.
“He could really move,” Tortello said. “When I do it, it helps guys get open.”
Tortello found Nacier Hundley for three touchdowns Saturday, and Todd Williamson twice to increase his Section II career TD record to 106.
“He can throw the ball 70 yards,” Barber said. “He is an honors student. His doors are open.”
Tortello passed Girard III (87) for the Section II career touchdown pass record earlier in the season. Tortello’s 186 yards Saturday gave him 6,788 for his career as he moved past 1989 Johnstown graduate Matt Swedick (6,636) and Girard III (6,715) on the Section II all-time list and climbed to No. 2 behind 2004 Cambridge graduate Zack Luke (7,290).
Tortello’s exploits have helped Holy Trinity win or share three division titles, and as a sophomore, he quarterbacked the Pride to a state runner-up showing. That’s the year he set a Section II record with 39 touchdown passes.
“I just try to take it one game at a time and try to take care of business,” Tortello said.
Tortello thought he’d have a great chance to do that when the Albany resident opted to attend Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons as a seventh-grader. He and his family had also considered CBA, La Salle and Albany Academy as a destination to play school ball.
“Sixth grade going into seventh, coach Barber let me go to one of his camps,” Tortello said. “I could feel something great was going on here. Something great was definitely going to happen.”
Rodney Parker scored on a 4-yard run early in the second quarter to break a 7-7 tie and begin a string of five unanswered touchdowns by Holy Trinity (Reinfurt Division No. 2 seed, 7-1). On the defensive side, Noah Foster intercepted two passes and Tanner Kiser returned a pick for a touchdown.
“Our defense came up clutch,” Tortello said. “In the beginning they were figuring it out and then they started to play physical.”
Ivan Roberts and Travis Burchell scored touchdowns for Broadalbin-Perth (North Division No. 3, 4-4).
Holy Trinity will play its semifinal next Saturday at Glens Falls (North Division No. 1, 8-0). Glens Falls beat Hudson (Reinfurt Division No. 4, 3-5) in its quarterfinal 49-13.
Aalijah Sampson scored three touchdowns in a 28-point, first-quarter outburst for Glens Falls. Griffin Woodell and Jamal Rawlings added two touchdowns apiece for the state’s No. 1 team.
Jason Rodriguez ran for 211 yards and four touchdowns on 16 carries, and also had one of Queensbury’s four interceptions, in the Spartans’ 42-21 Class A quarterfinal win over La Salle.
Rodriguez set single-season Queensbury (Grasso Division No. 1, 8-0) records with 1,531 rushing yards, his fourth 200-yard rushing effort, and 25 rushing TDs. Traydon Lawrence paced La Salle (Capital Division No. 4, 4-4) with 125 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries.
Queensbury will host Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (Grasso Division No. 3, 5-3) next Saturday. Queensbury defeated Burnt Hill in Week 7 28-12 when Rodriguez scored four touchdowns. Burnt Hills is the three-time defending Class A champion, and its last two titles came at Queensbury’s expense.
Defending Section II Class C champion Cambridge/Salem (No. 2, 7-1) defeated Voorheesville (No. 7, 5-3) behind Jacob Ruggles’ touchdown pass and run 36-14. Noah Parker and Joe Tomlin scored touchdowns for the Blackbirds.
Cambridge will host Tamarac (No. 6, 5-2) next Saturday.
HOLY TRINITY 47, BROADALBIN-PERTH 13
Broadalbin-Perth 7 0 0 6 — 13
Holy Trinity 7 14 13 13 — 47
HT — Hundley 70 pass from Tortello (Barber kick)
BR — Roberts 1 run (Marsden kick)
HT — Parker 4 run (Barber kick)
HT — Williamson 9 pass from Tortello (Barber kick)
HT — Hundley 6 pass from Tortello (Barber kick)
HT — Williamson 14 pass from Tortello (kick blocked)
HT — Kiser 29 interception return (Barrett kick)
BP — Burchell 6 pass from Calderone (kick blocked)
HT — Hundley 12 pass from Tortello (kick failed)
GLENS FALLS 49, HUDSON 13
Hudson 0 0 0 13 — 13
Glens Falls 28 14 7 0 — 49
GF — Sampson 64 run (Guillet kick)
GF — Sampson 40 pass from Girard (Guillet kick)
GF — Sampson 22 pass from Girard (Guillet kick)
GF — Woodell 7 run (Guillet kick)
GF — Woodell 1 run (Guillet kick)
GF — Rawlings 19 pass from Girard (Guillet kick)
GF — Rawlings 70 interception return (Guillet kick)
H — Clanton 4 run (kick failed)
H — Z. Bernockie 5 run (Z. Bernockie kick)
QUEENSBURY 42, LA SALLE 21
La Salle 7 0 0 14 — 21
Queensbury 14 14 14 0 — 42
Q — Havern 17 pass from Angell (Roca kick)
L — Fenton 26 pass from Palmer (Rock kick)
Q — Rodriguez 48 run (Roca kick)
Q — Rodriguez 2 run (Roca kick)
Q — Rodriguez 1 run (Roca kick)
Q — Rodriguez 40 run (Roca kick)
Q — Collins 7 run (Roca kick)
L — Lawrence 23 run (Lawrence run)
L — Lawrence 2 run (pass failed)
CAMBRIDGE/SALEM 36, VOORHEESVILLE 14
Voorheesville 0 7 7 0 — 14
Cambridge/Salem 6 8 14 8 — 36
CS — Day 1 run (run failed)
V — Parker 15 pass from Esposito (Jones kick)
CS — Mattson 6 pass from Ruggles (Day run)
CS — Sgambettera 18 run (Mazzucco pass from Ruggles)
V — Tomlin 1 run (Jones kick)
CS — Ogilvie 55 run (pass failed)
CS — Ruggles 2 run (Sgambettera run)
ALBANY 26, NISKAYUNA 16
Niskayuna 7 7 0 2 — 16
Albany 0 12 14 0 — 26
N — O’Brien 27 pass from Behrman (Pendergast kick)
N — Wade 11 run (Pendergast kick)
A — Dickens 38 run (run failed)
A — Dickens 38 run (run failed)
A — Dickens 6 run (Delaney run)
A — Dickens 2 run (run failed)
N — Safety (quarterback tackled in end zone)