Schalmont’s quest for another Section II championship was halted Saturday by a Glens Falls football team that took advantage of mistakes and never lost faith.
The Indians turned a pair of turnovers into touchdowns late in the first half, and Cam Girard hit Mike LaNoir with a tie-breaking scoring pass late in the third quarter as Glens Falls pulled off a stunning 21-14 Class B title-game victory at Steuerwald Stadium.
Schalmont had captured the last three Section II flags, and brought a 36-game winning streak against area Class B teams and a No. 5 state ranking into the final. The streak included a 41-16 triumph over Glens Falls to open the season.
“We knew in the beginning of the season, if we worked on being better and believed in ourselves, we could do this,” said Girard, just before he dodged a water bucket intended for Glens Falls coach Pat Lilac. “We did it.”
Glens Falls (9-1) had momentum at the break after Schalmont turned the ball over three times in the final five minutes, and the Indians got touchdowns by Joe McMahon and Jake Dailey. Devon Willis raced 66 yards up the middle on the first play of the third quarter for his 28th touchdown, and the junior added a two-point run as Schalmont drew even at 14-14.
“We talked about making a stop to start the third quarter. They score and they take back all the momentum we had,” said Lilac. “Even with that, the kids believed the whole game.”
Schalmont (8-2) came into the game on a serious offensive roll. The Sabres roughed up Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk in last week’s semifinals, 48-0, beat Ichabod Crane in the quarters, 55-9, and ended the regular season with a 64-13 thumping of Hudson Falls.
“Our offense didn’t do what they usually — and can — do. They were staying with our guys,” said Schalmont coach Joe Whipple. “We didn’t make plays in a big game. They did.”
One of the biggest Glens Falls plays was Girard’s third-and-goal, 21-yard touchdown pass to LaNoir with 41 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Indians were looking at a third-and-goal from the seven when a holding penalty set them back, and on the next play, LaNoir made a difficult over-the-shoulder grab in the left corner of the end zone.
“At that point, you go with your horses,” said Lilac. “It was, ‘Let’s put it in Cam’s hands and see if he and Mike can make a play.’ ”
“We can thank coach for that,” said Girard. “Coach instilled in us that you have to have heart and pride when things get tough.”
Glens Falls forced a punt after LaNoir’s touchdown and went on a 13-play drive that consumed much of the fourth-quarter clock as it methodically marched from its 20 to the Schalmont 27. The Sabres took over with 3:26 left after a fourth-down stop, and reached the Indians’ 39 on their last drive, which ended on four incomplete passes.
“That drive must have taken, six, seven minutes off the clock. It was big for us,” said Lilac. “It was a good time to drive it.”
Schalmont went 37 yards on five plays for its first touchdown, that coming on a 15-yard run by Kyle Strube early in the second quarter. Chas Higgins set up the score with the first of his two interceptions and a 43-yard return.
McMahon scored on a six-yard fumble return later in the quarter, picking the ball up and producing a touchdown after Schalmont quarterback Nick Gallo missed Higgins with a pitch.
Four plays into Schamont’s next drive, Gallo failed to handle a high snap in shotgun formation and Matt Girard jumped on the ball at the Sabres’ 15. On fourth-and-three, Cam Girard found Dailey for an eight-yard touchdown pass.
Dailey intercepted Gallo soon after.
“Coach tells us whoever wins the turnover battle usually wins the game,” said Cam Girard. “We came up with two critical turovers in the red zone.”
“We were able to cash in on turnovers,” said Lilac. “In big games, turnovers are the biggest stat.”
Glens Falls took over at the Schalmont 23 in the third quarter after Marcus Ramundo was forced to punt into the wind from his end zone, and LaNoir scored his go-ahead touchdown six plays later.
“That’s typical Glens Falls football,” said Whipple. “They take advantage of field position, and they take advantage of mistakes by the other team.”
Schalmont’s last loss to a Section II Class B team came in the second week of the 2009 season, against Lansingburgh, 42-29. The Sabres won their first Super Bowl that year by beating Lansingburgh (35-20), and topped Ravena (48-13) and Albany Academy (36-25 overtime) in the last two title games.
“They just played better than us — special teams, offense, defense. They wanted it more than we did,” said Whipple. “We need to take this one and chew on it a little bit. We want it to be a learning experience for our younger kids.”
Willis ran for 104 yards on 15 carries. In the season opener, the all-state performer ran for a school-record 352 yards and four TDs. McMahon had 70 yards on 18 attempts in Glens Falls’ first Super Bowl win since 1993 (against Scotta-Glenville), and Girard hit nine of 17 passes for 76 yards. McMahon had runs of nine and seven yards before LaNoir’s touchdown, and picked up three first downs during the Indians’ fourth-quarter march, on runs of five and six yards and a catch that went for 12.
Glens Falls 0 14 7 0 — 21
Schalmont 0 6 8 0 — 14
S — Strube 1 run (kick failed).
GF — McMahon 6 fumble return (Armstrong kick).
GF — Dailey 8 pass from C. Girard (Armstrong kick).
S — Willis 66 run (Willis run).
GF — LaNoir 21 pass from C. Girard (Armstrong kick).