College football's championship game is still more than a month away, and the National Football League's Super Bowl more than two. But the Class A New York state high school football championship has already been played (Friday), and there's no question about which team is best. It's the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Spartans , after a dominating win over nemesis Sweet Home High School of Amherst.
This is no Cinderella story. Going into the season, the Spartans were regarded as an excellent team with a chance to go all the way.
In fact, they had made it to the championship game three times in the previous four years, but all three times had lost -- with two of those losses to Sweet Home. Victory is always sweet, but even sweeter when it follows a series of disappointments and comes at the expense of a major rival.
Burnt Hills' first loss to Sweet Home, in 2008, was close (35-28). The second, in 2009, was a blowout (34-7). And last year was even worse; the team blew a 20-7 halftime lead and wound up losing to Maine-Endwell 27-20.
So the Spartans knew this game was no sure thing. And played like it. The offense, defense and special teams had a near-perfect first half, as Burnt Hills scored four touchdowns and took a 26-0 lead into the locker room. Then it traded touchdowns with Sweet Home in the second half for a 40-20 win.
In pro football, it usually takes good teams a few years of reaching the playoffs to break through -- and some never do. Whatever happens, Burnt Hills will always have this championship. But why not a few more?