Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake turned in another state semifinal gem Friday night at Cornwall’s expense.
The Spartans scored early and late, and their defense matched their offense with a bunch of big plays in a 28-13 Class A victory at Dietz Stadium.
Ryan McDonnell ran for a touchdown and passed for another to stake Burnt Hills to a quick 14-0 lead, Josh Quesada and Danny Maynard added scoring runs after Cornwall made it close and the Spartans threw a second-half shutout against a Section IX team known for putting up gaudy numbers.
“The big thing all week was limiting the big play,” said Burnt Hills senior Eric Dillon, who had the first of his team’s three interceptions. “They’ve got a heck of a quarterback with a great arm. We tried to stick in there and hang with them all night.”
Mike Danz ended a threat by the Dragons early in the third quarter with an interception at the one-yard line. Shomari Ingram picked off a Mike White pass in the fourth quarter, and Danz capped BH-BL’s defensive effort with a pass knockdown in the end zone with 66 seconds left.
“Defensively, the kids were awesome,” said Burnt Hills coach Matt Shell, after his team improved to 4-1 in state semifinal games, with three of those wins coming against Cornwall. “To hold a team like that to 13 points, it’s great. The kids played great. I couldn’t be prouder of their effort.”
Burnt Hills (11-1) will take on Sweet Home (Section VI, 11-0) in next Friday’s 3 p.m. state championship game at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. Burnt Hills lost to Sweet Home in 2008 (35-28) and 2009 (34-7) state finals, and bowed to Maine-Endwell a year ago at the Dome, 27-20.
“Hopefully, we’ll find a way to win one of these,” said Shell. “All we can ask is for the kids to put in a great effort.”
Shell certainy received that against a Cornwall team that had piled up 34 points or more in nine consecutive games.
The Dragons struck twice in the second quarter on a four-yard run by Jeff Grygiel and a 10-yard burst by Luke Zsido, but were blanked the rest of the way by the fast and aggressive Spartans.
“That’s the most dynamic offense we’ve seen,” said Maynard, BH-BL’s only sophomore. “We haven’t seen anything like it. Our defense played great.”
Burnt Hills’ offense had its moments, as well, including Maynard’s 60-yard run that helped set up Quesada’s 10-yard third-quarter touchdown. That 99-yard drive after Danz’s interception was followed by a 97-yard march which Maynard finished off with a three-yard scoring surge in the final quarter. Dillon made a 24-yard reception during the drive, and Maynard ripped off a 34-yard run before that.
“We went on two drives of 90-plus yards,” said Shell. “That says a lot about the execution by the kids. It’s a tough thing to sustain.”
Quesada’s 33-yard punt return set the stage for McDonnell’s one-yard quarterback sneak into the end zone, and a Dillon interception and his diving 25-yard grab set up Matt Paltier 12-yard scoring catch early in the second period.
“We kept the pace going,” said Maynard, who ran for 152 yards on 15 carries. “We could see them getting a little tired, but like I’ve said over and over, it was the line that got the job done. They were so outstanding.”
Burnt Hills pounded for 276 rushig yards as part of its 11th straight win, while the Spartans continually harrassed White when the Dragons had the ball. The junior quarterback, who came in with 2,491 passing yards, was 12-for-30 for 186 yards and the three interceptions. He threw for 435 with three touchdowns in a 34-13 regional win over Somers.
“Our kids kept making big play after big play,” said Shell. “On both sides.”
Burnt Hills built a three-touchdown lead at the half in beating Cornwall last year, 35-14, and also topped the Dragons in a 2009 semifinal, 41-16. The Spartans edged Nyack by a point in a 2008 semifinal and lost to Harrison on this stage in 2010.
Shaker (10-0) will make its first state tournament appearance tonight at 7 against New Rochelle (Section I, 9-1) in a Class AA contest at Dietz Stadium. New Rochelle has lost only to North Bergen of New Jersey, 21-20, and has allowed 20 points in its other nine games against New York competition. The Huguenots slugged Pine Bush in their state quarterfinal, 39-7, and the Blue Bison had a bye after taking down Shenendehowa, 14-0, in the Section II final.
Hoosick Falls (11-0) and James I. O’Neill (Section IX, 9-2) tangle in a Class C semifinal at 11 this morning, and Glens Falls (10-1) goes against Marlboro (Section IX, 11-0) in a Class B semifinal at 3. Glens Falls will bring a 10-game winning streak into its first semifinal since a 1993 loss to Yorktown.
Burnt Hills 7 7 7 7 — 28
Cornwall 0 13 0 0 — 13
BH — McDonnell 1 run (McDonnell kick).
BH — Peltier 12 pass from McDonnell (McDonnell kick).
C — Grygiel 2 run (Neil kick).
C — Zsido 10 run (kick failed).
BH — Quesada 10 run (McDonnell kick).
BH — Maynard 3 run (McDonnell kick).