Schalmont coach Joe Whipple said back in August that playing Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake would be a beneficial experience, even if his football team lost.
Turns out, the Sabres did, and it turns out, he was right.
“We hadn’t had that kind of game in a long time. We needed it,” Whipple said of that 37-0 Week 2 setback at Burnt Hills. “It was good for us. It was a reminder that you can’t just go out on the field and win games.
“It was a springboard to what we’re doing now.”
Schalmont has never built up so much momentum heading into a Section II championship game, with seven straight wins and at least 48 points scored in five of them.
The Sabres (8-1) take on Glens Falls (8-1) in the Class B final today at 3 p.m. at Shenendehowa’s Steuerwald Stadium in search of their fourth consecutive crown.
“These guys are very confident. They are clicking,” said Whipple. “They’ve worked very hard and watched a lot of film. I think that’s been a big key. That’s enabled them to see mistakes, and they haven’t made those mistakes again.”
Burnt Hills capitalized on several miscues when it dealt Schalmont its first area defeat since early in the 2009 season.
“That game helped us a lot,” Whipple said. “They needed to see good competition. They needed to know that they had to step up and play all the time.”
Schalmont held off Schuylerville in Week 3, 27-24, before hitting full stride and climbing to No. 5 in the state Class B rankings.
“That’s another game that helped us,” said Whipple. “We did not play well, defensively. We faced adversity, and the kids responded. I liked the way they pulled together and got it done.”
Whipple and his staff made some defensive adjustments after the Schuylerville game, and on the flip side, moved tailback/wingback Nick Gallo to quarterback, and shifted Devon Willis from quarterback to the tailback spot from where he earned all-state honors as a sophomore. Willis ran for 173 yards and five touchdowns in a 51-7 Week 4 win over Broadalbin-Perth, and behind their leader, the Sabres followed with league victories over Cobleskill-Richmondville (62-0), Johnstown (by forfeit) and Hudson Falls (64-13), and playoff triumphs against Ichabod Crane (55-9) and Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk (48-0).
Only once before in Schalmont’s Super Bowl era had it scored over 50 points in consecutive games, that coming early in the 2010 season.
“The difference with this team and some of our others is we put teams away. Take nothing away from our other teams. They all did some great things, but these guys are special in their own way,” said Whipple. “They have a killer instinct about them. They won’t let up. They’re very relentless.”
Willis and Gallo both scored three touchdowns against Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk, and Willis generated 197 yards behind a Jesse Roth-led offensive line. Tackle Mike Famolaro and linebacker Kevin Paskevich were among the defensive standouts, with Paskevich returning a fumble for a touchdown to cap a 29-point, second-quarter outburst.
The semifinal win was Schalmont’s 36th consecutively against Section II Class B competition.
“Our guys are hungry. They’re playing with a big edge which is nice to see,” said Whipple. “They want an opportunity to get to the state championship.”
Schalmont earned that chance last season when it got past Albany Academy, 36-35, when Willis ran for the winning two-point conversion. Schalmont beat Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk (48-13) and Lansingburgh (35-20) in the two title games before.
“We’ve got to go out and play 48 minutes. We’ve got to execute our game plan,” said Whipple. “If there’s adversity, we’ve got to believe in each other like we have, and we’ll be fine.”
Schalmont beat Glens Falls in Week 1, 41-16, when Willis rushed for 352 yards and four touchdowns. Glens Falls’ eight-game winning streak includes a 36-0 quarterfinal shutout of Albany Academy and last week’s 41-22 semifinal victory over Schuylerville. Mike LaNoir excelled for the Indians in that contest with four touchdowns, two coming on receptions and another on a 69-yard interception return.
“A lot of things played into our opener. They had a couple guys out. They had the long ride. They were seeing our offense for the first time and that can be difficult,” said Whipple. “They didn’t play their best, but they’ve played a lot of good football since then. They’re a good team. The path they’ve taken is similar to one we’ve taken.”
Glens Falls won its last sectional flag in 1993 (Class B) against
Scotia-Glenville. The Indians have lost in four finals since, including back-to-back in 2002 and 2003 (Class A) against Amsterdam.
Familiar foes in ‘A’
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake and Amsterdam meet for the fourth time in two seasons in tonight’s Class A championship game at 7 at Steuerwald Stadium.
“You know what type of team you’re going to get when you play Amsterdam,” said Spartans coach Matt Shell. “They play hard-nosed football. They pride themselves on playing defense, and on offense, they find a way to get their playmakers the football. They do a great job of it.”
Amsterdam (6-3) excelled on both sides after staking Troy to a 14-0 lead last week, and roared to a 40-21 semifinal victory. Burnt Hills (8-1) also came from behind last week to beat Queensbury, 36-20, setting up a Super Bowl rematch.
Burnt Hills edged Amsterdam in last year’s final, 26-23, when the Spartans answered a Rugged Rams’ field goal with a 23-yard Ryan McDonnell-to-Eric Dillon touchdown pass in the final seconds. That
dramatic win gave Burnt Hills its fourth straight sectional title and fifth in six years.
“You can never rest easy when you play Amsterdam,” said Shell. “They always have that big-play ability, and it’s nerve-racking. Before the snap you’re thinking of 400 things they can do, and all of them are bad.”
Amsterdam came back from a 19-0 deficit to make it a 25-22 game, only to lose, 32-22, in a Week 6 clash with Burnt Hills. The Rams roughed up South Glens Falls (62-12) after that before posting playoff wins against Averill Park (58-14) and Troy. Brett Stanovich ran for three touchdowns and caught a scoring pass from Geo Rodriguez in the Troy game, and Rodriguez sealed the win with a fourth-quarter interception return for a TD.
“They’ve got real good skill kids. They’ve got a good line. They’re well coached,” said Shell. “They’re in this game for a reason. They’re a really good team. I’m not surprised that they’re in this situation.”
Amsterdam is the only team that stayed with Burnt Hills since the Spartans opened the season with a 17-7 loss at Troy. The Spartans scored over 60 points for the third time in their 68-6 quarterfinal win against Mohonasen, but needed a mid-game burst to overcome a 14-8 deficit last week.
McDonnell hit Dillon with a touchdown pass to begin BH-BL’s comeback, and Vince Dowdle and Josh Quesada followed with scoring runs.
“Queensbury is one of the most physical teams you’re going to play,” said Shell. “It definitely got us ready for what’s ahead. The physicality prepared us.”
Dan Porter, Burnt Hills’ touchdown leader with 17, sustained an ankle injury in the Queensbury game and his status will be a game-time decision. Porter scored three of those touchdowns in BH-BL’s 10-point win against Amsterdam on Oct. 5. David Newell, a standout linebacker, scored BH-BL’s first and last touchdowns against Queensbury as a fill-in for Porter.
“Our kids have had an excellent year, and I hope for them it continues,” said Shell, whose Spartans are ranked No. 6 in the state. “They’ll have to be sharp. They’ll have to be at their best.”
Amsterdam won six Section II titles in seven years before Burnt Hills began its championship era in 2006.
Amsterdam’s last win over BH-BL came in Week 2 of the 2011 season, 23-7.
Rensselaer (8-1) and surprise Class D finalist Salem (5-4) meet at Schuylerville today at 1.
The Rams rolled past Whitehall (52-28) in the semifinals, while the Generals upset Cambridge (27-26), and in the process ended the Indians’ 27-game win streak inside Section II.
Rensselaer is making its fifth straight title-game appearance with wins in 2008 and 2009. Salem has lost three times in finals since its 2002 victory over Warrensburg.
Rensselaer beat Salem in Week 3, 36-20, behind Seth Butler’s three touchdown runs. Butler also had three touchdowns against Whitehall. Isaac Isom scored two touchdowns in Salem’s win against Cambridge, including the deciding points that made it 27-20. The Generals sealed the upset with a late two-point conversion stop after a Cambridge TD, and onside kick recovery afterward.