Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake finally went the distance.
The Spartans scored on four of their first five drives in a superb opening burst to Friday’s state Class A championship football game, and then traded second-half touchdowns with overmatched Sweet Home in a 40-20 victory at the Syracuse Carrier Dome.
Dan Maynard ran for a pair of first-half touchdowns, Ryan McDonnell threw touchdown passes to Dan Nuzzi and Eric Dillon in between, and Dan Porter and Josh Quesada added to the scoring frenzy in the third period as Burnt Hills captured its first title after coming up short three other times.
So dominant was Burnt Hills (12-1) early on that it put up four touchdowns before Sweet Home (Section VI, 12-1) managed to gain its initial first down.
“In the first half, we came out hard and kept rolling,” said BH-BL junior defensive end Paul Krowel. “The defense played great. The offense played great. The special teams were great. We had the ball in great position. I didn’t expect it to happen that way.”
Maynard delivered the first of his two touchdowns on a three-yard run to cap Burnt Hills’ opening series. The Spartans punted on their next possession, then struck three straight times to go up, 26-0, against their state final nemesis.
Sweet Home had beaten Burnt Hills in the 2008 (35-28) and 2009 (34-7) New York finals, while Maine-Endwell rallied for a 27-20 triumph last year against the Section II representatives, after trailing at the break, 20-7.
“That was the worst feeling in the world last year. The worst I ever had, watching some of my best friends walk off the field like that,” said Porter, a junior running back whose 81-yard touchdown sprint helped BH-BL build its halftime lead in the 2011 game. “It was terrible, and today, I can’t even
describe the feeling. It’s the best.
“All year, we practiced so hard and played our hearts out, and it was totally worth it. What the whole team did was great.”
Maynard rushed for 128 yards on 14 carries and was tabbed the game’s most valuable player, Porter ran for 78 yards on 14 attempts, Krowel recorded two sacks, Logan Ball tipped a pass that was intercepted by David Newell and he recovered a fumble, and Dillon also picked off a pass as part of BH-BL’s 12th straight victory since a season-starting loss to Troy.
Burnt Hills became only the fifth Section II school to secure a New York football championship, and the first since Amsterdam copped the Class A flag in 2005. No Section II team had ever piled up as many title-game points as the Spartans.
“I will always remember that game last year. I will always remember this game, but for a much different reason,” said Dillon, a senior receiver and defensive back. “We’re the first Burnt Hills team to do this. We made history.”
“I told the team before we went out that we had 48 minutes left. ‘These are the last 48 minutes of the season, and the last 48 minutes for the seniors’ careers,’ ” said Burnt Hills coach Matt Shell. “I told them, ‘You can’t take anything back. Make every step count.’ ”
Burnt Hills set the tone with its seven-play, 69-yard march to open the contest, a drive that included a 19-yard run by Maynard and a
24-yard catch by Dillon just before Maynard’s touchdown.
Burnt Hills quickly assumed control of the field position, with its next three scoring drives covering 46, 35 and 44 yards and consisting of six, four and five plays. Sweet Home, on the other hand, never got beyond its own 29-yard line on its first four possessions.
“We executed real well when we had opportunities. We moved the ball when it counted,” said Shell. “And to hold a team like that down, what we did was awesome.”
Nuzzi got behind a defender, caught the ball around the 20 and raced into the end zone to complete a 37-yard scoring play late in the first quarter. Dillon got open on a down-and-out for his 20-yard touchdown reception early in the second quarter. Maynard set up his second three-yard scoring run later in the period with a 35-yard scamper.
“Their offensive line was making holes. They ran hard. They came out with a lot of energy,” said Sweet Home sophomore receiver and linebacker Brad Zaffram. “They caught us on our heels.”
Sweet Home picked up its first first down with 5:54 left in the first half on a 15-yard catch by Zaffram, and got four more first downs in a drive that went from its 18 to the BH-BL three. On first-and-goal, Ball tipped a Michael Torrillo pass and Newell intercepted the ball in the end zone to end the Panthers’ bid.
Jordan Heine returned the second-half kickoff 43 yards to the BH-BL 42, and four plays afterward, Jordan Evert ran six yards for a Sweet Home touchdown. Zaffram intercepted McDonnell six plays into BH-BL’s follow-up drive to give the Panthers another opportunity to reduce their deficit, but Kahlil Humphrey fumbled the ball away on the Panthers’ first play after that, Ball recovered, and Porter padded the Spartans lead soon after with a five-yard scoring run.
Sweet Home countered on a 47-yard touchdown grab by Zaffram, and Quesada went 39 yards for a BH-BL touchdown with 1:15 left in the third quarter.
Sweet Home got its last touchdown when Calvin Martin caught a 37-yard pass with one second left.
“Last year, we got the lead in the first half and lost it,” said Ball, a senior linebacker who led the Spartans with seven tackles. “The talk at the half was, ‘We’ve been in this position before. Let’s not let it get away.’ ”
Burnt Hills added two to its state championship collection this fall, with the football team joining the girls’ volleyball team as New York’s best.
Zaffram caught seven passes for 98 yards, added 26 rushing yards on three attempts, and led the Panthers with eight tackles. Torrillo was 26-for-44 passing for 283 yards.
Burnt Hills 12 14 14 0 — 40
Sweet Home 0 0 14 6 — 20
BH — Maynard 3 run (kick failed).
BH — Nuzzi 37 pass from McDonnell (kick failed).
BH — Dillon 20 pass from McDonnell (McDonnell kick).
BH — Maynard 3 run (McDonnell kick).
SH — Evert 6 run (Huebert kick).
BH — Porter 5 run (McDonnell kick).
SH — Zaffram 47 pass from Torrillo (Hiebert kick).
SH — Martin 37 pass from Torrillo (kick failed).