HIGH SCHOOLS – During his interview for the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake boys’ lacrosse head coaching position back in 2010, Tom Schwan was asked how long he intended to stay with what at that time was a fledgling program in its fourth year.
“I spent seven years at Guilderland and five at CBA,” Schwan explained. “I said I wanted to see a group of kindergartners go through to their senior year and try to build it up. That was my goal.”
This is that 13th year for the retiring Schwan, and those seniors he spoke of have already made his send-off campaign a special one by leading the way for the program’s first outright Suburban Council title (11-1) and its best regular season record (14-2).
The Spartans added another notch with a 21-7 Section II Class C semifinal win over Averill Park on Friday.
“Coach retiring? Since we came into the season it’s been in the back of our minds,” Burnt Hills senior Kevin Carney said after scoring seven goals against Averill Park. “It’s in the back of our heads and we’d really like to do well for him, but when it’s time to play, of course that becomes the focus.”
Burnt Hills will play South Glens Falls for the Class C title Tuesday at 5 p.m. in the first of two Section II finals at Shaker High School. Niskayuna and Ballston Spa will determine the Class B championship at 7:30 p.m.
Schwan’s Burnt Hills teams began a near-annual run to the Section II finals beginning in his inaugural season in 2010, and his 2011 edition was the school’s first to win an area championship. Overall his Burnt Hills teams are 3-5 in finals including a Class B victory over Ballston Spa in 2021. Schwan also led Guilderland to an area flag in 1998 and had three other Dutchmen squads that placed second in the Section II tournament.
His five-year run at CBA included five Big 10 championships.
“To be a part of building a program with the other coaches, and get it to the level we got it to, it’s a cool thing,” said Schwan of his successful stint at Burnt Hills. “It’s very gratifying.”
This final season for the retired elementary school phys ed teacher has seen the Spartans achieve a new level of success with wins against traditional power teams West Genesee and Duxbury (Mass.), a split with Niskayuna, and a No. 4 Class C ranking on the state sportswriter’s poll.
“We have 12 seniors,” said Schwan, whose team is captained by 12th-graders Carney, Rocco Mareno, Jack Scalise and Tyler Manning. “They were 5 and 6 years old when we started this. It’s really cool to coach them as 17- and 18-year-old young men.”
Tuesday’s game with South Glens Falls (15-0) brings together 2021 champs, with the Bulldogs taking the Class C crown a year ago by beating La Salle. South High’s 2022 credentials include a Foothills Council title, an 18-6 semifinal win over Glens Falls and No. 12 state rank, and the Spartans expect a tussle from the Bulldogs.
“That’s our mindset right there, one game at a time. No looking ahead,” said Carney, who, in 2021, was the BH-BL program’s first US All-American. “We want to play our game. Focus on what we’ve been doing great all year..”
Friday’s semifinal at Centennial Field featured an 11-0, first-quarter run by Burnt Hills, and goal scoring from seven Spartans.
“I was aware that was the last time I would coach at home,” said Schwan, who, along with assistant Jim Townsend, were the last to leave the field Friday afternoon. “It’s not about me. It’s about our goals.”
MORE LAX FINALS
Niskayuna (13-4) is in search of its Section II-record 18th Section II title after last year’s upset loss to Shaker in the Class A semis denied the Silver Warriors that opportunity. Niskayuna edged Ballston Spa 13-11 earlier in the season and both were impressive in semifinals to set up the rematch. Niskayuna’s 21-11 semifinal win over La Salle featured a 10-goal, 12-point performance from Greyson Vorgang.
Ballston Spa (12-5), an 18-6 semifinal winner against Queensbury, will be making its fourth straight title-game appearance and won titles in 2018 and 2019.
On Wednesday at Shaker, Guilderland (14-4) and Shenendehowa (14-3) will play for the Class A championship at 7:30 p.m., and Schuylerville (13-4) and Stillwater/Mechanicville (17-1) will play for the Class D title at 5 p.m.
Guilderland scored four unanswered goals to clip Shaker in its semifinal 10-9, and earn a shot at its second straight title. The Dutchmen also beat Shaker in the 2021 Class A final. Though Guilderland and Shenendehowa lacrosse history is dotted with numerous title-game appearances, they haven’t met in a final since Shenendehowa’s 13-8 win in 2002.
Stillwater/Mechanicville’s second varsity season includes a Colonial Council championship and first Section II final. Schuylerville is in search of its third title in four seasons.