Jack Burger didn’t want to nitpick. Sure, his Troy High School football team could have played better, but beating Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, last year’s Class A state runner-up, is a pretty exciting way to open the season.
“Offensively, we sputtered, but we did enough right to win,” said Burger, whose Flying Horses scored three times in the second half to post a 17-7 win over the Spartans Friday night at Troy. “We played a great football team, and we were going to use this as a barometer to see how good a football team we can be. We’ve got to get better, but anytime you beat Burnt Hills you’ll take it. I don’t care what the score is or how you did it.”
Senior quarterback Pat Chamberlain, starting his first varsity game, led Troy to a touchdown on its first possession of the second half to give his club a 7-0 lead, and then engineered a 13-play, 54-yard drive that ate up more than seven minutes to give the Horses a 14-0 lead. The touchdown came on a nice throw from Chamberlain to wide receiver Jordan Nelson that covered 21 yards, Nelson making a fine catch in the corner of the end zone.
“Pat Chamberlain helped us pick up some key first downs in the second half,” said Burger. “That was his first varsity game and he came through us. He threw a real nice pass, but it was an even better catch by Jordan. He hadn’t played any football. We got him to go out for track last spring, but now he’s a football player.”
Both teams played sloppy offense through a scoreless first half, but Burnt Hills seemed like the better team, posting eight first downs to just two for Troy, and picking up 89 rushing yards to just 49 for the hosts. In three previous wins over Troy, Burnt Hills had completely dominated the second half, breaking open close games. However, that wasn’t the case Friday night.
“You’re never in control unless you have the lead,” said BH-BL coach Matt Shell. “We made some mental mistakes and that was my fault. I have to do a better job of coaching them.”
The Spartans had the ball in Troy territory four times in the first half, and with just 4.7 seconds left on the clock, senior quarterback Ryan McDonnell broke through two tackles and scrambled to his right to throw a 55-yard touchdown pass to Shomari Ingram. The referees, however, ruled that McDonnell had just been over the line of scrimmage, nullifying the Spartan score.
Burnt Hills also opened the second half on a bad note, fumbling the ball away on its second play from scrimmage to give Troy possession on the Spartan 36. Six plays later Jones broke free for his 20-yard touchdown run.
Burnt Hills moved the ball well on its second possession of the third period, but on second-and-12 from the Troy 39, linebacker Nick Valenti stepped in front of a McDonnell pass and returned it 15 yards to the Troy 46. Valenti’s interception set up Troy’s long scoring drive for its second touchdown with 9:38 left in the game, and then Rafik Mekhaldi made it 17-0 with 4:40 left by kicking a 33-yard field goal.
The Spartans finally got on the scoreboard with 3:36 left in the game on McDonnell’s 17-yard touchdown to Josh Quesada.
“It’s a long season, and we’re not going to let one loss in week one ruin our season,” said Shell. “If we do it’s going to be an even longer season. I told the kids they’re going to have to come ready to play next week. We have to get better.”
Burnt Hills got a fine defensive effort from junior linebacker
David Newell, while Troy’s defense was led by senior linebacker Nick Mariano.
BH-Ballston Lake 0 0 0 7 — 7
Troy 0 0 7 10 — 17
T — Jones 21 run (Mekhaldi kick).
T — Nelson 21 pass from Chamberlain (Mekhaldi kick).
T — Mekhaldi 33 field goal.
BH — Quesada 17 pass from McDonnell (McDonnell kick).