When his team needed him most, in its biggest game of the season to this point, Dakota Harvey delivered.
The sophomore ran for 221 yards, scored a touchdown and made a terrific catch on a fourth-and-20 to set up Saratoga Springs’ final touchdown in a 31-18 win Friday night at Guilderland. The victory gave the Blue Streaks a final record of 5-1 and the No. 2 seed in the Class AA Empire League, and a home game against LaSalle or Colonie in next weekend’s first round of sectionals.
Guilderland, which scored 185 points in winning its first five games, fell to third place in the Empire Division, and will be on the road next weekend, coming off a pair of stinging losses.
“The line has been working hard and getting better all year. I just followed them, and everything opened up,” said Harvey, who saved his best work midway through the fourth quarter, making a diving catch on a fourth-and 20 that led to the Blue Streaks final score after the Dutchmen had cut a 24-0 deficit in half.
Both Harvey and quarterback Jake Eglintine adjusted on the fly on the big play, Eglintine rolling left to buy time until Harvey got open on the sideline.
“I told Jake when he came off that he better have competeted it, because I wanted to run the ball,” said Saratoga coach Terry Jones. “He made a great adjustment, So did Dakota,
“Jake had to scramble a little bit, and Dakota saw it, broke off his route and got back to the area where we should have had a receiver to begin with, They both improvised and made a great play. If we don’t get that first down, I think it’s a different game.”
“All I was thinking about was catching that ball,” said Harvey. “I knew if we got inside there, we were most likely going to score. I just made sure I made the catch.”
Jones was beginning to worry because Guilderland’s offense had come to life in the second half, as senior quarterback Frank Gallo had shaken off a miserable first half that saw him throw three interceptions, two by Hal Hagen.
“Credit their kids, they came out and played hard and forced us into some mistakes in the first half,” said Guilderland coach Dan Penna. “In the second half, we turned it into a football game for a while.
“The kids decided to play harder the second half. They knew the reason we were struggling in the first half is that we were making mistakes.”
Gallo finished 16-for-26 for 165 yards and three touchdowns, but the combination of a banged up passing hand and Saratoga’s defense was too much to overcome.
“We didn’t want to get beat over the top,” said Hagen. “I was just sitting in my zone, reading his eyes. The ball came right to me.
“This game had a lot of momentum siwngs, and I felt like the interceptions shifted the momentum towards us.”
“Hal played a phenomenal game,” Jones said. “It helped us get up, 24-0, but we knew they weren’t going to quit. It wasn’t pretty in the second half, but we held on.”
Penna has to get his team, which also played without standout two-way lineman D’Angelo Livingston, out of its two-week funk that has resulted in only 18 points.
“I’m confident we can take some momentum into the playoffs,” he said. “We’re a good football team, and we have to get back to playing good football. We have to look at ourselves and say, “How do we get better individually, man for man?’ ”
Saratoga Springs 3 21 0 7 — 31
Guilderland 0 0 12 6 — 18
S — Redcross 33 FG.
S — Harvey 20 run (Redcross kick).
S — Eglintine 2 run (Redcross kick).
S — Eglintine 16 run (Redcross kick).
G — Smith 52 pass from Gallo (pass failed).
G — Smith 6 pass from Gallo (run failed).
S — Eglintine 2 run (Redcross kick).
G — Smith 13 pass from Gallo (run failed).