BURNT HILLS — Cooper Harvey came through for the Niskayuna football team time and time again Friday night in its Week 8 showdown with Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake.
The senior kicker booted three field goals including a 37-yarder as the final seconds ticked off the clock to lift the Silver Warriors over the Spartans 9-6 in a game that decided the Section II Class A Grasso Division championship.
Harvey closed the first half with a successful 34-yard field goal before repeating the effort from a little farther away after his teammates drove to the Spartans’ 20 with a hurry up offense.
“I was definitely confident,” Harvey said after his third field goal capped an unbeaten division showing by the Silver Warriors. “I knew my snapper [Daniel Miller], and holder [James Soule] and the line were going to do the job. I had to do mine.”
Harvey had kicked one field goal earlier in the season against South Glens Falls before his 3-for-3 performance that started with a 24 yarder in the second quarter. All of his kicks were no-doubters, sailing high and through the uprights.
“Watching him in practice, he’s out there all the time working on his kicks and his form. He works on different angles,” Niskayuna coach Brian Grastorf said. “We kept saying it’s going to pay off at some time.”
Niskayuna (5-0, 7-2) won its sixth straight game and earned the No. 1 seed from the Grasso Division, and with that a home playoff game next week against Capital Division runner-up La Salle (3-2, 5-4).
Niskayuna’s campus field has been under construction throughout the season, and Grastorf said Schenectady will likely be the site of the team’s playoff contest.
“We’ve got some things going our way right now,” Grastorf said. “The guys have been consistent. They’ve come to work every day. The young guys are growing up and the older guys have been great leaders. We’ve got some confidence going.”
Niskayuna had its offense going in the final two minutes when it drove from its own 48 to the Burnt Hills 20 on eight plays. Niskayuna quarterback Ethan Gilson got out of bounds on a key five-yard run on first-and-10 from the 28, and after he found DeAngelo McGlothlan for a 3-yard gain, the Silver Warriors let the clock run down before calling a timeout with 4.3 seconds to go.
Burnt Hills called a time out after that in an attempt to ice the 5-foot-5, 125-pound Cooper, but to no avail.
“We trust Ethan and the line did a great job. We made some huge plays,” Harvey said of the last drive in which Gilson went 3-for-4 including an eight-yarder to Dahvion Wimberly and a seven-yarder to McGlothlan. “We believed in ourselves.”
“We knew he was a good kicker,” Burnt Hills coach Matt Shell said. “We tried to get a rush on.”
Burnt Hills (4-1, 6-2) saw its win streak halted at six games, and will go to Capital Division champ Averill Park (5-0, 6-3) next week to begin play in the Section II tournament it won a year ago.
“We have a chance next week,” said Shell, whose Spartans entered Friday’s game with a No. 8 state rank while Niskayuna is among New York’s Class A honorable mentions. “We have a good team.”
Burnt Hills tied the game at 6 when Luke Zoller ran 53 yards for a touchdown to cap his team’s first drive of the third quarter. The extra-point attempt was unsuccessful, so the game was tied at 6.
Burnt Hills’ second drive of the third quarter reached the Niskayuna 22 before an incomplete pass on fourth down.
In the fourth quarter, Niskayuna had a drive reach the Spartans’ 18 before Ryan Lussier intercepted a pass in the end zone.
“We did some good things,” Shell said. “They did more. They played well and physical. They played better than us.”
Niskayuna pitched a first-half defensive gem, limiting Burnt Hills to one first down and 16 plays
from scrimmage. On one of those plays, on a fourth-and-one from its own 20, Burnt Hills gambled with a quarterback sneak and Myles Yannuzi went nowhere after bobbling the snap, and that led to Harvey’s first field goal.
“Our defense has done a great job all year, except for the La Salle game,” Grastorf said. “Our defensive coach [Peter Furey] has done some great work with our guys.”
Cameron Grasso made an 18-yard catch and McGlothlan made a 12-yard grab, to help set up Harvey’s 34-yarder as time expired to end the first half.
Zoller was the game’s big yardage maker with 133 on 26 carries, but in the first half the senior was limited to 15 rushing yards on seven attempts.
Niskayuna 0 6 0 3 — 9
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake 0 0 6 0 — 6
N — Harvey 24 field goal
N — Harvey 34 field goal
BH — Zoller 53 run (Kick failed)
N — Harvey 37 field goal
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