Just a little bit more.
That’s what Albany Academy had on both sides of the football Saturday as the Cadets survived a Section II Class B semifinal battle with Cobleskill-Richmondville.
Conner Hartigan scored touchdowns at the tail end of two time-consuming drives, and the Cadets kept the Bulldogs’ passing attack in check to earn a bruising 14-6 win and advance to their first Super Bowl since 2006.
“Their defense played real well. Every yard was a struggle,” said Hartigan, the Cadets’ senior quarterback and safety. “I don’t think I’ve ever been part of a more physically challenging game.”
Albany Academy (7-2) overcame a 6-0 deficit on Hartigan’s touchdowns in the second and third quarters, missed three opportunities to add on in the fourth and stopped a final Cobleskill-Richmondville (5-4) bid to keep its season alive.
Albany Academy and Schalmont (9-0) will meet Saturday at 3 p.m. at Shenendehowa’s Steuerwald Stadium for the Class B title that the Sabres won the last two years and the Cadets captured in 2006.
“All of our work has paid off,” said Albany Academy senior tackle and defensive end Mike Paparian. “We won our division championship, and now we’re going to the Super Bowl. This feeling is awesome.”
“One of our top goals was to make it to the Super Bowl. It’s a dream come true,” Hartigan said after running 31 times for 127 yards in the Cadets’ fourth straight win. “Schalmont is a really good team, but I think we’ll have enough to take them down.”
Cobleskill-Richmondville took Saturday’s game to the limit with a drive from its 20 to the Cadets’ 38 before Mitchell Wrighter’s fourth-down pass fell incomplete with 37 seconds left. The Bulldogs moved from their 20 to the Cadets’ 28 on their preceeding possession, with that effort also ending on an incompletion.
“They bent but didn’t break,” Bulldogs coach Ed Hantho said of the Cadets. “They did a good job when they had to make plays. They made plays that made a difference.”
Wrighter was 16-for-30 passing for 156 yards with two interceptions and a 23-yard, second-quarter touchdown strike to Dillon Greene. Greene had nine catches for 116 yards, including 33 and 13-yard grabs on the Bulldogs’ final drive.
“We needed to put pressure on their quarterback, shut down their running game, and our secondary had to come up big. We did all of those things,” said Paparian. “When we were in the huddle we talked about how we all had to step up.”
Hartigan and Paparian had the interceptions, while Alex Buchanan, Tristan Hyde and Paparien recorded sacks as the Cadets held the Bulldogs to a season low in points and limited their second playoff opponent to six. The Bulldogs managed only 21 rushing yards.
“It started with our defensive line and linebackers, and our secondary made plays,” said Albany Academy coach Tony Fruscio.
“They had a big defensive line, and it was tough for us to handle,” said Hantho. “They gave us fits all day.”
The Cadets fell behind early last week before stiffening, and ralled for a 27-6 quarterfinal win against Hudson Falls. They followed the same script against the Bulldogs.
Darien White went 40 yards with a kickoff return, and the Cadets took 14 running plays to cover 43 yards in a span of 7:44, with Hartigan capping the series on three-yard touchdown. The Cadets twice coverted on third down and twice on fourth down, including Hartigan’s TD dash when he ran right and dove into the end zone.
“We had to control the ball,” said Hartigan. “We didn’t break a lot of big plays, but we had a solid attack. You need those drives to eat clock and get through games like this.”
Hartigan scored from one yard out for his Section II-leading 26th touchdown late in the third period. Albany Academy ran 15 plays during the drive that started at the C-R 28 and took 6:56 off the clock. The Cadets overcame illegal formation and blocking in the back penalties that negated two long pass plays. The biggest play was a 35-yard reception by Justin Brock, and a pass interference penalty came after that to push the Cadets to the Bulldogs’ 22.
“They [Cobleskill-Richmondville] are a quick-strike offense,” said Fruscio. “With a team like them, you want to have the ball as much as you can.”
Albany Academy had a chance to increase its lead when Paparian went 40 yards for a touchdown after his interception on the first play of the fourth quarter. Paparian, though, was called for excesive celebration — he raised the football high above his head at the three — and the TD was waved off. The ball was moved to the 18 and Jordan Newton eventually missed a 33-yard field goal, and Newton missed a 36-yard attempt on the Cadets’ last possession.
Newton had made extra point kicks after Hartigan’s touchdowns.
“It was a big play,” Fruscio said of Paparian’s negated TD. “That was adversity there, but we stuck together and got a few first down and made some defensive stops.”
Cobleksill-Richmond. 0 6 0 0 — 6
Albany Academy 0 7 7 0 — 14
CR — Greene 23 pass from Wrighter (kick failed).
AA — Hartigan 3 run (Newton kick).
AA — Hartigan 1 run (Newton kick).