Tyler Dehmer picked the right time to score his first varsity touchdown.
The senior cornerback and backup quarterback, in only his second appearance on special teams, returned a kickoff 82 yards with 14 seconds remaining to give Shenendehowa a wild 45-41 victory over Ballston Spa in the Empire Division Friday night.
Neither team led by more than a touchdown, and the Scotties had gone ahead moments earlier,
41-38, on William Huyben’s fourth touchdown of the game, a four-yard run.
Shen (5-1 division, 5-2 overall) enters next week’s Section II Class AA playoffs as the division’s No. 2 seed. The Plainsmen technically locked up the spot by virtue of its edge in quarter points with a 31-28 lead after three quarters, coach Brent Steuerwald said. Shenendehowa will host the Liberty Division’s
No. 3 seed, Niskayuna (3-2, 5-2).
Ballston Spa (3-3 division, 4-3
overall) heads to the playoffs seeded No. 4 in the Empire, and will travel to face Liberty Division champ Schenectady (4-1, 6-1).
Friday’s game saw eight lead changes, four in the fourth quarter, including the final one that left Shen celebrating.
Scotties quarterback Mark Seager ran 23 times for 180 yards and one touchdown and was 5-for-6 passing for 100 yards with no interceptions. Huyben ran for 60 yards on 15 carries to go with his four TDs.
Suhayb Banks led the Plainsmen with 166 yards on 22 carries and added a 70-yard touchdown reception. Bronson Greene ran for 156 yards on 19 carries. Andrew Kalish was 2-for-6 passing for 81 yards and no interceptions.
On kickoffs, Ballston Spa employs speedy defenders and a squib-style kick by Nick Tubolino that produces confusing bounces and kept Shen guessing about the ball’s course throughout the game. “We’ve been pinning teams with that squib kick down on their 30-, 35-yard line,” Scotties coach John Bowen said.
On the scoring kickoff, the ball again bounced around before Dehmer scooped it up and ran.
“It took a weird hop,” Dehmer said. “I thought I was going to get one-hopped and it came up short on me, so I had to go get it. I guess that gave me momentum to get through the hole.”
“Once he broke that second level,” Steuerwald said, “it was all over, because no one was going to catch him, I could’ve guaranteed you that.”
Dehmer had a busy week. Because of his speed, Steuerwald used him in practice to portray the role of Seager, the opposing quarterback.
“He actually is the fastest kid on our team,” Steuerwald said. “That kid [Seager] is so fast, we really wanted to put a fast kid [at quarterback in practice], so we had to adapt during the week. And he still had a hell of a game. He’s a great athlete, that little fella.”
Dehmer was on the return team because Banks left in the third quarter with a sore ankle (Steuerwald expects him to return next week).
Along with momentum shifts and lead changes, the game saw big plays for touchdowns — Greene opened the scoring with a 63-yard TD run on the game’s second play for a 6-0 lead (Shen missed the extra-point kick). Seager sprinted for a 51-yard touchdown midway through the second quarter to tie it at 14-14. And Banks turned and caught a pass from Andrew Kalish near the Scotties’ 40-yard line and raced in for a 70-yard receiving TD to tie it at 21-21 with 1:51 remaining in the first half.
Ballston Spa took a 28-21 halftime lead on a one-yard run by Huyben as time expired.
The Plainsmen led, 38-34, with 3:35 remaining on Greene’s second touchdown of the game, a nine-yard run that capped an 82-yard drive across 5:17. But the Scotties responded with a 63-yard drive to take a 41-38 lead on Huyben’s four-yard TD run.
“There was never in any point in time any question about the heart of this football team,” Bowen said. “These guys have bounced back all season long . . . We ran out of time.”
“That was a very exciting game, and each team deserved a lot of credit for their poise under pressure like that,” Steuerwald said. “To be able to come back in that last minute and do that, I’m very proud of our kids.”
“We feel on top of the world right now,” Dehmer said. “It’s unreal.”
Ballston Spa 7 21 0 13 — 41
Shenendehowa 14 7 10 14 — 45
S — Greene 63 run (kick failed)
BS — Huyben 9 run (Lachance kick)
S — Banks 3 run (Kalish run)
BS — Seager 51 run (Lachance kick)
BS — Lachance 5 run (Lachance kick)
S — Banks 70 pass from Kalish (Millington kick)
BS — Huyben 1 run (Lachance kick)
S — Banks 10 run (Millington kick)
S — FG Millington 25
BS — Huyben 10 run (kick wide)
S — Greene 9 run (Millington kick)
BS — Huyben 4 run (Lachance kick)
S — Dehmer 82 kickoff return (Millington kick)