Schalmont built an insurmountable lead early, and rallied from a big deficit in winning its last two football games to advance to the state Class B semifinal round.
Joe Whipple isn’t sure how Saturday’s game with unbeaten Nanuet is going to play out, but the Sabres’ first-year coach has got a gut feeling things will ultimately fall his team’s way again.
“For some reason, I think it’s our time,” said Whipple. “After scoring 27 points in a row and winning like we did last week, I just think it’s Schalmont’s time. I’m hoping so. It’s been a great ride so far, and we don’t want it to end.”
The Sabres will be looking to add another first to their historic season when they take on the Golden Knights of Section I at 4 p.m. at Dietz Stadium in Kingston. Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake will play there tonight, and Saturday, Hoosick Falls and Saratoga Springs will compete before and after the surging Sabres, who rallied from a two-touchdown deficit to derail unbeaten Beekmantown in the regionals, 34-20, and extend their win streak to nine games.
No previous Schalmont team has ever won more than seven games, or prevailed in a postseason contest.
“Last week speaks volumes about the kids,” said Whipple. “They know they can win. Up or down, the kids are going to play 48 minutes of football, and they’re going to play hard.”
Schalmont (9-2) jumped on Lansingburgh with touchdowns on its first four drives and rolled to a 35-20 victory in the Section II final, after rolling past Cohoes and Albany Academy in playoff games.
“What we want to try to do is show the same kind of tenacity that we had in the first quarter against Lansingburgh,” said Whipple. “We’re going to do everything possible to get up on them quick. We want to put them in a position they’re not used to being in. It’s easier said than done, but we’re going to try.”
Nanuet (10-0) hasn’t allowed more than one touchdown in a game since late September, when it defeated Sleepy Hollow, 28-14. The Golden Knights’ seven wins since include Section I playoff triumphs over Kennedy Catholic (21-7) and Sleepy Hollow (29-6), and a 35-0 regional rout of James I. O’Neill last week, which moved them up to No. 4 in the state rankings.
That game, which saw Gabe Ostrow rush for 144 yards and three touchdowns, vaulted Nanuet into its second state semifinal. The first came in 1994, when the Golden Knights lost a Class C battle with Hudson, 14-6.
“We’ve looked at the stats,” Whipple said. “They’ve got some rushing yards, and they haven’t allowed a lot of points. They want to establish the run and stop their opponent from running it, and they’ve done both well.”
Schalmont has been scoring in bunches, with the Beekmantown game its sixth straight with over 30 points. Quarterback Vince Gallo rushed for 238 yards and four touchdowns in the win, boosting his school-record totals to 2,323 yards with 30 TDs.
“We’ve got to stay focused, but be loose at the same time,” Whipple said. “That’s been our way all along. We play our best football that way.”
Nanuet bested O’Neill behind its stingy defense, Ostrow, who scored all of his touchdowns in a put-away second half, and quarterback Tom Hanney, who ran for 95 yards and a touchdown while also tossing a scoring pass to Chris Klass.
“They have two very talented kids in their quarterback and running back,” said Whipple. “They’re big, strong kids, and their line is pretty good, too.”
Schalmont has been getting strong defensive play from Gallo, who has been in on 212 tackles, as well as J.J. Murphy, Jean Gomez, Alex Hildebrand, DaShawn Banks, Jaren Ramundo and Alberto Beltran.
“Down, 20-7, last week, it would have been easy to fold, but our kids stepped up on defense and we got the offense rolling,” said Whipple.
Westhill (Section III, 11-0) and Hornell (Section V, 10-0) meet in the other state Class B semifinal Saturday in Rochester. The state final is one week from Sunday at the Carrier Dome.
“I’m glad we’re still playing football,” said Whipple, whose team has climbed to a No. 6 state ranking. “Hopefully, we’ll still be playing after this weekend. The ultimate goal is to get to that game in Syracuse.”
Section II had at least one team reach Syracuse for a title game appearance in each of the last four seasons.
Spartans play tonight
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (11-0) makes its second straight Class A semifinal appearance tonight at 8 against Cornwall (Section IX, 8-2), while Saratoga Springs (9-1) meets New Rochelle (Section I, 10-0) Saturday at 8 in a Class AA contest and Hoosick Falls (11-0) goes against Bronxville (Section I, 10-0) Saturday at noon in a Class C tilt.
Burnt Hills pounded Franklin Academy in last week’s regional round, 54-13, behind Brandon Beatty’s four touchdown runs, Phil Neumann’s two scoring passes and Tyler Paluba’s two interceptions. Tyree Smallwood scored three touchdowns, two of them on runs of 65 and 82 yards, in Cornwall’s 31-21 regional win over Roosevelt-Yonkers.
Burnt Hills edged Nyack in its 2008 semifinal, 14-13, before a 35-28 title-game loss to Sweet Home. The Spartans are ranked No. 2 in the state behind Sweet Home (Section VI, 11-0), which brings a 24-game winning streak into its semifinal tonight against Whitesboro (Section III, 10-1) in Rochester.
Saratoga received a regional bye and goes up against a New Rochelle team that posted a 21-14 regional win against Monroe-Woodbury, a state finalist in each of the last four years. That win vaulted New Rochelle to No. 1 in the state ranking, with the Blue Streaks No. 10.
Luke Fauler ran for a touchdown and passed to Joey Moore and Jon Noonan for two more in Saratoga’s 31-7 Section II championship-game win over Ballston Spa. That win elevated the Streaks into state play for the first time since 2004 and for the fifth time overall, though they’ve never tasted victory.
Hoosick Falls is in its second state semifinal by virtue of its 51-6 win over Ogdensburg Free Academy, while Bronxville knocked off Ellenville, 34-6, last week. Hoosick Falls won its 2003 state semifinal against Dobbs Ferry before losing to Caledonia-Mumford at the Carrier Dome.