SECTION II – When the Section II football season comes to an end, Friday night’s result between Christian Brothers Academy and Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake will be little more than a footnote.
That the defending Section II Class AA champion Brothers beat the defending Class A champion Spartans 23-6 won’t factor at all into division title races or playoff seeding.
But, both head coaches said after Friday night’s matchup that the difficult environment the teams faced at Centennial Field will be immeasurably helpful as both programs look to repeat as champions.
“It’s a challenge, that’s for darn sure,” Burnt Hills coach Matt Shell said. “But, when you can go out there and compete for four quarters, it gives you some things to work on, but a lot of positives that came out of this game.
“It’s only going to help us going forward. It’s not going to hurt us.”
For Burnt Hills, Friday’s game was the season opener for a team that had plenty of voids to fill from last year’s Section II Class A title team.
Gone to graduation were mainstays at skill positions like quarterback Tyler Manning, running back Michael Frattarola, tight end Justin Gray and receivers Rocco Mareno and Kevin Carney.
With a bevy of new faces — many of them up from a junior varsity team that went undefeated in 2021 — the clash with CBA was going to be an immediate test.
And, early on, the Spartans looked like just getting through that test was going to be difficult. The retooled offense took more than a quarter to gain a single first down, and the team’s longest play from scrimmage in the entire first half was a pass by new starting quarterback Myles Yannuzzi that was tipped into the air by a CBA lineman and fell into the hands of Spartans center Shane McClernan, who headily picked up 10 yards.
But, after the Spartans surrendered an easy touchdown drive and CBA’s Sam Smith turned an interception of Yannuzzi into another score, Shell’s team showed the guts and effort he’d been impressed with throughout the preseason.
“I told our kids when the season started that they had a special quality that I liked about the way they approached the effort and how they work,” he said. “They have a special quality like that. They just play harder, they don’t give up.”
After falling down 14-0, Burnt Hills’ defense tightened up considerably, with CBA’s only other points coming on a safety that resulted from a botched punt snap and a late touchdown set up by a short field following that safety.
The Spartans’ offense still struggled against a stout CBA defense, but hard running from Santino Mareno and Luke Zoller will have Shell confident that the Spartans can produce points once they get back into Class A competition next week.
“CBA is going to be as good in AA as there is,” Shell said. “To play that type of football, that physical football against a team that’s well-coached with very good athletes and physical up front … obviously, you want to win, but we’re very proud of the effort they put forward. Let’s put it that way.”
As for CBA?
Well, the Brothers had already played a Week 0 game and looked spectacular in a 55-0 rout of their archrival La Salle Institute.
That the Brothers then faced some adversity after going up 14-0 early against Burnt Hills and still managed to tough out the win was exactly what CBA coach Bobby Burns wanted to see from a matchup with the Spartans.
“I think after last week, our guys kind of thought that things are just going to come easy,” Burns said. “I tried to instill in them that coach Shell is as good as it gets. I respect him more than anybody in this section. I knew he’d have a plan. I knew his kids would play hard.”
In the grand scheme of things, was Friday’s game important?
But, was it meaningful?
“Good teams find ways to win,” Burns said. “It’s a hostile environment, it was a great atmosphere here, and we’re happy to get out with the win, even though it was a little bit ugly.”