SECTION II – This is my 15th season covering Section II football, and during that time, I’ve developed a few tried-and-true strategies that make sorting out the overall picture of where things stand in the area a little easier.
Among my favorite and most time-tested of these concepts is something I’ve long called “The Prove It Game.”
Reading into results, especially early in the season, can often be difficult. There are often a lot of flashy final scores and surprising wins or losses in the first few weeks of the season, but on their own they’re often tough to analyze.
Luckily, the Prove It Game pops up in the schedule to make decoding things a little easier.
Think your team is off to a good start? Well, soon enough, a game’s going to come up that gives you the opportunity to prove whether that’s truth or mirage.
A prime example came up Friday night for the Saratoga Springs Blue Streaks, who got the chance to prove not only that they’d turned things around after a couple of rough seasons, but that there might actually be a fifth team with a chance to make some noise as we approach the Class AA postseason.
For a few years, the largest classification has been a strict four-team race with Shaker, Christian Brothers Academy, Guilderland and Shenendehowa in the top tier and Saratoga Springs, Schenectady, Colonie and Bethlehem trying to punch their way back toward the top.
Friday night at home against Guilderland, coach Terry Jones’ Blue Streaks had the chance to prove their 2-1 start — a loss to Ballston Spa, followed by wins over Niskayuna and Bethlehem — was a sign of better things to come.
And, you know what? That’s exactly what Saratoga Springs did.
In a gutsy effort, the Blue Streaks trailed Guilderland 14-6 in the fourth quarter after a blocked kick returned for a score had the Dutchmen in command, but Saratoga Springs quarterback Rodell Evans found Gordon Murray for two touchdowns in the final minutes of regulation — a 60-yarder that made it 14-12, then a game-winning 28-yarder on the final play of the game — to give the Streaks a thrilling 18-14 win.
They proved it, and Class AA’s playoff race just got a lot more interesting.
And that wasn’t Friday night’s only Prove It moment.
Chatham got its chance to prove it’s a Class D contender against a Voorheesville team that was a week removed from pushing defending champion Greenwich to its limit, and the Panthers responded with a 41-12 win to throw their hat in the ring as a team with a chance to give undefeated Cambridge/Salem a run for its money.
Troy got a shot to prove it’s on the comeback trail from a rough 2021 season and came very close to knocking off crosstown rival La Salle Institute for the Collar City Cup, though a failed 2-point conversion in overtime set the stage for La Salle to pull out a 28-27 win after Matt Bott’s fourth touchdown run of the game and a successful extra point. Of course, the Class A Capital Division would probably be better named the Chaos Division, so there’ll be plenty more Prove It Games for the likes of Troy, Averill Park, La Salle, Columbia and Amsterdam before we’re done.
So, as the Section II season winds toward October and the stretch run, keep your eyes on the Prove It Games to come.
This Friday’s clash between Scotia-Glenville and Schalmont? The winner proves they’re likely to join Glens Falls, Gloversville and Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk as the fourth Class B playoff team.
Warrensburg/Lake George/North Warren’s Week 4 trip to Stillwater? A major Prove It spot for a newly-merged team that’s outscored its opposition — buckle up before you read this — 245 to 6.
Ballston Spa has probably done enough to prove they’re a true playoff team this year, but the Scotties will have to wait until their Oct. 21 home game against Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake for their biggest Prove It Game of the year, where they can stamp themselves as a major Class A championship contender.
Broadalbin-Perth’s powered through the opening portion of its schedule, but the Patriots will get a big chance to prove themselves Oct. 21 against Fonda-Fultonville, a game that could very likely see both teams enter undefeated with the Class C South Division title in the balance.
There’s a lot of Section II football to be played over the next month-plus before we get to the postseason.
So, you think you’re a contender?
When you get your chance, Prove It.