Goal-line turnovers fuel opportunistic Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake’s Class A football win over Amsterdam

Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake's Ryan Lussier runs against the Amsterdam defense Saturday
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake's Ryan Lussier runs against the Amsterdam defense Saturday

BURNT HILLS — The Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake football team was backed up close to its own end zone plenty of times during Saturday afternoon’s Class A football matchup against Amsterdam, but senior defensive back Ryan Lussier and the Spartans never panicked.

“All I know is, everyone from Burnt Hills knows adversity,” Lussier said. “We just fight to the end and never stop. Any yard line, we don’t ever stop.”

Burnt Hills forced three turnovers inside its own 5-yard line, including both an interception and a fumble recovery by Lussier, saving points and giving extra opportunities to an offense that got 185 rushing yards and three scores from Luke Zoller in a 29-8 victory.

“Playing against offenses that have a lot of talent, you need that sometimes,” Burnt Hills coach Matt Shell said of his team’s takeaways. “This Amsterdam offense is like that. They did a nice job. We were just opportunistic, and that’s the game sometimes. You give up a big play, and then you make one.”

Images: Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake football takes on Amsterdam (11 photos)

The biggest sequence for the Spartans (4-1 overall) came early in the second half. Leading 22-8, Burnt Hills had its offense stopped by Amsterdam’s defense for the first time all day, and Myles Yannuzzi’s punt was blocked by Amsterdam’s Kyan Hollingsworth, setting the Rams (4-1 overall) up inside the red zone.

A pass from Jhai Vellon to Marc Schultz got the ball to the Spartans’ 1, but on the next play, Vellon lost the ball as he extended it toward the goal line and Lussier recovered in the end zone for a touchback.

“He was trying to drive his feet, I was trying to push him back,” Lussier said. “Once I saw the ball come out, I knew I had to pick it up.”

The Rams thought that Vellon had been able to break the plane of the goal line with the ball before it came out.

“The turnovers did come back to beat us a little bit,” Amsterdam coach John Homich said. “But looking at the film during the game, there was one that was very questionable that really could’ve turned the game around.”

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Amsterdam’s defense responded by forcing a turnover on downs and were quickly inside the 5 again, but a mishandled handoff resulted in another fumble that the Spartans’ Jake Paulsey recovered.

This time, Burnt Hills’ offense responded with a 97-yard touchdown drive, most of which came on Zoller’s 72-yard touchdown run off left tackle on third-and-11.

“My linemen are great,” Zoller said. “See a hole, hit it.”

Amsterdam, which came into the game shorthanded after injuries to starters Jo’el Baker, Matthew Miller and Talon Hollingsworth in last week’s 50-42 win over Columbia, lost another key player when leading receiver Ceasar Thompson was injured catching a 2-point conversion pass on the final play of the first half — a play that saw the Spartans flagged for an illegal blow to the head.

After Burnt Hills went up 29-8, Amsterdam opted to rest star quarterback Vellon — who finished 12 of 23 passing for 175 yards with a touchdown and an interception — for the remainder of the game in anticipation of a difficult three-week stretch of Class A Capital Division games upcoming against Averill Park, Troy and La Salle Institute.

“We’ve got a tough stretch ahead of us,” Homich said. “Troy, Averill Park, La Salle — all three are crucial games that will determine whether or not we make the playoffs.”

Some tempers flared at the end of the game, with a somewhat tense conversation between Homich and Shell, pausing the handshake line as Homich passed on accusations of derogatory conduct from Burnt Hills players, but the situation was ultimately dispersed without further incident.

“It got a little chippy,” Homich said. “We had to do our best to hold our composure.”

The rivalry has seen problems before, as a 2013 game in Burnt Hills saw Shell get on the public address system to ask the Spartans’ student section to stop a derogatory chant directed toward Amsterdam and threatened to end the game if the chants continued.

On Saturday, Shell vehemently defended his program.

“We don’t do that,” he said.

Images: Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake football takes on Amsterdam (11 photos)

  • Amsterdam 0 8 0 0 — 8
  • Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake 0 22 7 0 — 29
  • BH-BL — Zoller 6 run (Zoller run)
  • BH-BL — Paulsey 46 run (Yannuzzi kick)
  • BH-BL — Zoller 3 run (Yannuzzi kick)
  • A — Gonzalez 5 pass from Vellon (Thompson pass from Vellon)
  • BH-BL — Zoller 72 run (Yannuzzi kick)

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