Sometimes, you have to hit back.
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake took Queensbury’s best shot Friday night, then took control in the second half for a 36-20 victory to earn a chance to win a fifth straight Section II, Class A football championship.
Ryan McDonnell capped a 4-for-6 passing effort on a scoring drive late in the first half that gave the four-time defending champs the lead for good, then successfully pooched the second-half kickoff, which his team recovered and turned into a touchdown.
The Spartans will face Amsterdam in next Saturday’s 7 p.m. championship game at Shenendehowa. The Rugged Rams beat Troy, 40-21, in the other Class A semifinal.
“It was like, all right, time to answer,” said senior two-way lineman, Nick Marchesiello who spent the evening in the middle of a very physical battle along the line of scrimmage against a big Queensbury front. “We’ve got to get back on the horse. We can’t let them get the momentum. That was a real tough team, but we have some tough guys, too.”
“They just run it right at you every play,” said senior spit end/defensive back Eric Dillon, who caught the go-ahead TD pass. “They try to run you over. It gets tough in there. We only have so many big defensive linemen we can get in there to try to get a push every play. I give props to our defensive line. They held their own all night.
“Guys made tackles and made big plays all night. The offense scored when it needed to. It was just a great night, and a great way to go out in our final game on our home field.”
“You’re putting like 12 guys up there on the line of scrimmage and going at it,” said McDonnell of the battle up front. “It’s who wants it more. It comes down to who’s more physical.”
After both teams stalled on their first two possessions. Queensbury turned a Burnt Hills fumble into a score when Alton Moses went 49 yards.
Burnt Hills answered, with junior David Newell capping a seven-play, 70-yard drive with a seven-yard touchdown run.
Queensbury’s straight ahead double-wing offfense got another lead, as Eric Wettersten went 30 yards for a score.
Again, Burnt Hills responded, with McDonnell’s last two throws of the half going to Dillon, the first for 40 yards to the Queensbury 11, the second resulting in a TD.
Nick Roberts fell on the the Queensbury fumble on McDonnell’s short kickoff to open the second half, and Vincent Dowdle was in the end zone two plays later.
“Once that momentum shifts, you’ve got to try and get it back,” said Burnt Hills coach Matt Shell. “Momentum shifts are crazy in this sport. Moreso in a game like this. It happens so fast.”
Which led to the second-half kickoff.
“Ryan’s got a great leg, but he’s also a good directional kicker,” Shell said. “We thought we could hit a soft spot and maybe limit their return. We were able to recover. Again, it was a momentum swing.”
“We were trying to pop it up around the 25-yard line and make something happen,” said McDonnell. “We were trying to get a chance to get the ball. Whoever scored first in that half had a good chance of winning the game.”
Newell, pressed into more work in the backfield when Danny Porter left the game with an injury in the second quarter, set up a Josh Quesada TD with a 60-yard run, and after Wettersten scored again for Queensbury, Newell finished a 130-yard night with an eight-yard score.
“Thankfully, we have some depth at the running back position,” said Shell. “He’s a great runner, and we’ve known that. But he’s also a starting linebacker.”
“The work is definitely not finished,” said Marchesiello of Burnt Hills’ drive for five. “We’ve got work to do. It’s great to get back. I’m happy for all the guys, because this really means something to us.”
Queensbury 0 14 6 0 — 20
Burnt Hills 0 15 14 7 — 36
Q — Moses 49 run (Moses pass from Switzer).
BH — Newell 7 run (Quesada pass from Roberts).
Q — Wettersten 30 run (run failed).
BH — Dillon 11 pass from McDonnell (McDonnell kick).
BH — Dowdle 5 run (McDonnell kick).
BH — Quesada 4 run (McDonnell kick).
Q — Wettersten 8 run (oass failed).
BH — Newell 8 run (McDonnell kick).
AMSTERDAM 40, TROY 21
TROY — Brett Stanovich scored four touchdowns to help the Rugged Rams earn a trip to play Burnt Hills in the championship game next week.
Stanovich scored on runs of five, two and five yards. He also hauled in a 57-yard pass form Geo Rodriguez, who had two TD passes on the night to go along with a 35-yard interception return.
Rayshawn Johnson (35-yard run), Pat Chamberlain (45-yard interception return) and Maurice Jones (one-yard run) scored for the Flying Horses.
Amsterdam 0 14 20 6 — 40
Troy 14 0 7 0 — 21
T — Johnson 35 run (Mekhaldi kick).
T — Chamberlain 45 interception return (Mekhaldi kick).
A — Stanovich 5 run (Pritchard kick).
A — Gallop 36 pass from Rodriguez (Pritchard kick).
A — Stanovich 57 pass from Rodriguez (Pritchard kick).
A — Stanovich 64 run (Pritchard kick).
T — Jones 1 run (Mekhaldi kick).
A — Rodriguez 35 interception return (run failed).