Every football team faces adversity.
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake was confronted with it early in a Section II Class A semifinal game Friday night, when Troy put together a marathon touchdown drive that included a pair of fourth-down conversions.
“Their defense is so good, so for us to drive the field and score after that, mentally, it’s what we needed. And then we scored another,” Spartans coach Matt Shell said after his team forged a 24-19 victory. “It was a big positive.”
John Clayton threw a pair of touchdown passes to start a string of 24 points, and Burnt Hills held off a late comeback bid by Troy to secure its 17th consecutive Section II tournament win.
Clayton padded the Spartans’ lead with his first varsity field goal, Danny Maynard followed with a long touchdown run and Josh Quesada had the last of three BH-BL takeaways in the closing seconds to go with a scoring grab.
“In the locker room coach said, ‘Come out and do Spartans football,’ ” said Clayton, a sophomore. “When they scored, we got huddled up and said, ‘We got this,’ and it went on from there.”
Burnt Hills (Northwest No. 2 seed, 8-1) qualified for its eighth straight Super Bowl and will go after its sixth title in a row a week from tonight at Shenendehowa’s Steuerwald Stadium.
The reigning state champs will square off against the winner of today’s Class A semifinal between Amsterdam (Northwest No. 3, 5-3) and Qeensbury (Northwest No. 1, 8-0).
“Our kids have stepped up in big games. They understand what it takes to be good in big games,” said Shell, after his Spartans beat the Flying Horses for the second time this season. “Hopefully, we can do it again next week. If we play four quarters, we’ll have a chance.”
Troy (Southeast No. 1, 6-3) came on late in the fourth quarter Friday and sliced into Burnt Hills’ 24-6 lead on touchdown passes from Joe Germinerio to Alex Little covering 13 and 25 yards. Troy’s final possession ended when Quesada picked off a tipped pass.
“They were playing for their life,” said Maynard, a junior, after his 22-carry, 182-yard rushing effort. “Teams like Troy, Amsterdam, Queensbury, they don’t lay down. They keep battling.”
Maurice Jones gave Troy the lead when he scored on a three-yard run to cap a 70-yard, 17-play game-starting series that took 7:21 off the clock. The drive included a 14-yard reception by Isaiah Thomas on a fourth-and-nine from the Spartans’ 29, and a three-yard run by Jones on a fourth-and-three from the eight.
“Our defense stepped up and played tough after that first drive,” said Clayton. “They were determined to stop Troy.”
David Nusbaum recovered a fumble, Max Charlton intercepted a pass with a sideline stretch and Burnt Hills successfully defended a pair of fourth-down passes before Troy scored its final two touchdowns.
“Our line blocked. Danny Maynard ran extremely hard. Our defense hung in there and hung in there,” said Shell. “If we play football like that, I’ll always be proud of our kids.”
Clayton found Quesada with a 10-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter, and connected with Packy Brown for a 39-yard score late in the quarter. A 37-yard run by Quesada on the Spartans’ first play from scrimmage set the stage for the initial touchdown, and Nusbaum’s fumble recovery, a 10-yard pass to Tyler Dowdle and an 11-yard run by Maynard preceeded the second.
“I knew up front would be fine. I’ve got talented guys who can catch the ball,” said Clayton, who was 7-for-12 covering 116 yards. “I put it up, and they did the rest.”
Maynard made an over-the-shoulder catch covering 34 yards and Brown hauled in a 14-yarder before Clayton nailed a 24-yard field goal to finish BH-BL’s opening drive of the third quarter. Two plays into the Spartans next series, Maynard raced 57 yards to the end zone, and Clayton’s third PAT made it 24-6.
Little had a superb game for the Flying Horses with eight receptions for 135 yards. Germinerio was 17-for-31 for 239 yards with his TD tosses and two interceptions, and Rayshawn Johnson scampered for 86 yards on 16 carries.
Maynard picked up two key first downs after Little’s second touchdown with 2:38 left, on a 10-yard run and a one-yard effort with a 15-yard facemask penalty added on. His well-placed 30-yard punt later on put Troy at its 14 with 20 seconds left.
Germinerio threw incomplete before Quesada’s interception.
“We made a big play at the end,” said Shell. “We put pressure on the quarterback and our guy was in the right spot.”
Burnt Hills also won at Troy in Week 2 in four overtimes, 18-12, with Quesada providing the winning touchdown. Troy brought a six-game win streak into Friday’s contest which matched state-ranked teams.
BH-BL 0 14 10 0 — 24
Troy 6 0 0 13 — 19
T — Jones 3 run (kick failed).
B — Quesada 10 pass from Clayton (Clayton kick).
B — Brown 39 pass from Clayton (Clayton kick).
B — Clayton 24 FG.
B — Maynard 57 run (Clayton kick).
T — Little 13 pass from Germinerio (run failed).
T — Little 25 pass from Germinerio (Bush kick).