A brilliant special teams performance set the tone. Don Maynard’s breakaway runs kept the momentum going, and a dominant defensive effort finally shut the door.
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake captured its fifth straight Section II Class A championship and sixth in the last seven years with a convincing 48-6 victory over Amsterdam Saturday night at Brent T. Steuerwald Stadium.
The game was a far cry from a 32-22 Spartans’ decision over the Rugged Rams earlier this season, and it was nothing like last year’s final, when Burnt Hills also beat Amsterdam, 26-23.
Burnt Hills (9-1), ranked sixth in the state, earned another trip to regional play with a one-sided triumph that was decided in the first half.
Special teams made an immediate impact when the Spartans recovered a Dal Orengo fumble at the Amsterdam 10-yard line on the opening kickoff to set up Dan Porter’s 18th touchdown of the season just two plays later.
Although Amsterdam (6-4) responded with a solid drive of its own to tie the score on a Geo Rodriguez one-yard run, Shomari Ingram’s 93-yard return on the ensuing kickoff put the Spartans in front for good, and the rout was on.
Ingram took a handoff from Mike Dantz and reversed his momentum to the opposite side of the field. A wedge of blockers developed, and Ingram was racing down the sidelines untouched to give Burnt Hills a 13-6 advantage.
For all intents and purposes, the game was over right there against an Amsterdam team that once ruled Burnt Hills’ sectional division with six championships in seven years before the Spartans began their domination in 2006.
“Our special teams gave us a big lift. They were great tonight,” said Burnt Hills head coach Matt Shell. “The special teams might only be involved with eight plays a game, but they are very important. We’ve done a great job on special teams all year, and they really played well tonight.”
Shell said Ingram’s kickoff return was a prepared play.
“We worked on the kickoff return in practice, but you just hope the guys are going to execute it,” Shell said.
Shell also enjoyed his team’s early momentum, even though it didn’t last long.
“Scoring early off that turnover got us going, but then Amsterdam came right back, and I thought it was going to be one of those games,” he said.
“Amsterdam is a big-play team, and we knew they had a lot of weapons. They are very explosive.”
Shell was asked how he kept the Rams’ breakaway threats, like Rodriguez and tailback Brett Stanavich, in check.
“You tackle them,” he said.
The Spartans increased their lead to 20-6 with 4:29 left in the opening period when Maynard scored his first touchdown of the game, a 48-yard burst up the middle.
Then, after a quick three-and-out series by the Rams, Burnt Hills scored in just four plays, despite two big holding penalties. Quarterback Ryan McDonnell faked a handoff inside and burst up the middle for a 40-yard run that stretched his team’s margin to 27-6 with 2:21 left in the opening period.
One of the few mistakes the Spartans made in the first half came on their next series, when McDonnell was intercepted by Rodriguez, but Amsterdam failed to capitalize when the Rams couldn’t get a first down on a fourth-and-four from the BH 43.
That’s when the Spartans padded their lead to 34-6 on Josh Quesada’s 32-yard run down the far sidelines.
Maynard’s electrifying 44-yard touchdown run the next time the Spartans had the ball was perhaps the most exciting run of the night. He started off tackle, reversed direction, and skirted up the sidelines before diving over the pylon to push the Spartans’ lead to 41-6 with 3:54 still remaining in the explosive first half.
Two BH turnovers slowed down their big-play attack in the second half. On their first possession after the intermission, they drove all the way to the Amsterdam one-yard line, but Eric Dillon fumbled. Lucas Dorr recovered for the Rams to keep the Spartans off the board.
But Dantz intercepted Rodriguez a few minutes later to set up Maynard’s third TD of the night, a one-yard run up the middle to cap the scoring with 4:10 left in the third period.
Burnt Hills substituted freely in the final quarter. The Spartans fumbled on the Amsterdam 37-yard line about halfway through the final period to halt what appeared to be another scoring drive.
“We’ve got great chemistry on this team,” said Maynard, who ran for 142 yards. “We’ve worked so hard for this all season. Our offensive line was phenomenal, and those guys were responsible for all of my yards tonight.”
Shell refused to compare any of his Super Bowl teams to this one.
“They are all pretty special,” he said. “I’ve got a great group of kids this year, and I’m very proud of them. Now, we’re in the regionals, and it’s a situation of survive and advance.”
Amsterdam 6 0 0 0 — 6
Burnt Hills 27 14 7 0 — 48
BH — Porter 2 run (kick failed).
A — Rodriguez 1 run (kick blocked).l
BH — Ingram 93 kickoff return (McDonnell kick).
BH — Maynard 48 run (McDonnell kick).
BH — McDonnell 40 run (McDonnell kick).
BH — Quesada 32 run (McDonnell kick).
BH — Maynard 44 run (McDonnell kick).
BH — McDonnell 1 run (McDonnell kick).