Schalmont struck early and late before Maine-Endwell did what it’s been doing for years.
The Spartans found a way after falling behind twice, and denied the Sabres a state football championship with a dramatic close Sunday at the Carrier Dome.
“I’m so proud of our guys. We fought to the end,” Schalmont coach Joe Whipple said after Maine-Endwell’s 22-21 victory in the state Class B final. “There’s a reason they won two championships coming in, and we hung with them. It will probably go down as one of the best games in New York history.”
The end was sensational. Trevon Perez-Tucker returned a punt 58 yards to break a fourth-quarter deadlock, and Maine-Endwell clawed within one soon after on a lengthy march and four-yard scoring pass from Kyle Gallagher to Jake Sinicki.
Gallagher then lofted a two-point pass to Darnell Woolfolk with four seconds left, and after the Spartans (Section IV, 13-0) defended one last play, they had their third straight crown and a 38-game winnine streak.
“This is absolutey amazing,” said Gallagher, M-E’s senior quarterback. “It’s always better when you have to battle back. Really fight for it. We haven’t been down since 2011 against Burnt Hills.”
Maine-Endwell erased a 20-7 halftime deficit when it overhauled Burnt Hills in the Class A title game two years ago, 27-20, and topped Glens Falls last November in the Class B final, 42-12.
“The big thing about all three teams is no matter what happened, we kept pushing,” said Gallagher.
Schalmont (12-1) did some serious shoving of its own on the state’s biggest stage for scholastic football, forcing three first-half fumbles and four in all. Perez-Tucker pounced on two of them, and made a touchdown-saving tackle on Woolfolk to go with his sensational return, when the senior broke two tackles and eluded another Spartan before breaking away.
Paul Mattick’s extra point after Perez-Tucker’s dash with 1:28 remaining made it 21-14.
“They’ve been here before. They knew what they were doing,” said Perez-Tucker, who led the Sabres with eight solo tackles and was involved in two more. “They were confident, and they got it done.”
Maine-Endwell drove 75 yards on nine plays, capped by Gallagher’s four-yard scoring strike to Sinicki as he ran left to right in the end zone.
Sinicki started the drive with a 15-yard catch, and Alec Wisniewski had a 19-yard sideline grab between two defenders afterward. Woolfolk ran 14 yards on the next play, and a nine-yard catch by Sinicki and Woolfolk’s 12-yard reception put the ball at the six.
“Our defense didn’t give up more than eight points all year,” said Schalmont quarterback and linebacker Nick Gallo. “They’re a great football team.”
Gallagher rolled left on Maine-Endwell’s two-point conversion bid, scrambled a bit, and tossed a soft pass to Woolfolk after the senior fullback had released out of the backfield and ran into an open space in the right flat at the two.
“I was looking to run,” said Gallagher. “I saw him out of the corner of my eye.”
“I was supposed to block,” said Woolfolk. “Our A back picked up 44 [Evan Della Villa], so I was open, and [Gallagher] dumped it off to me.”
Maine-Endwell set up in point-after position, but after Schalmont called a timeout, the Spartans decided to go for two points.
“Give them all the credit in the world for going for two,” said Whipple. “I thought they’d throw the ball. Go to the right. One of our kids got caught up in traffic.”
A defensive stop would have given Section II two state titles in three days after Queensbury’s Class A triumph over Williamsville North Friday.
“That was our goal. It will be our goal against next year,” said Whipple, whose 2010 edition lost to Hornell in the state final. “We’ve got a lot of juniors, a lot of sophomores and some freshmen. This one stings a little, and it will leave a little chip on our shoulder for next year.”
Gallo scored on runs of one and two yards in the second quarter following fumble recoveries by Kevin Paskevich and Perez-Tucker. The junior’s one-yard sneak ended a
10-play, 44-yard series that included a 17-yard run by Devon Willis, and Gallo’s two-yard surge finished a seven-play, 36-yard drive that
included an 11-yard catch by Willis.
Gallo ran for 80 yards on 27 carries and led Schalmont with 13 total tackles to go with a forced fumble.
Gallo was tabbed the game’s most valuable offensive back, and Sabres senior Marcus Ramundo was named the game’s most valuable offensive lineman.
Gallagher ran 17 yards for a third-quarter touchdown after connecting with Trevor Garbelman on a 45-yard pass play, and an interception by Mike Palmer led to Garbelman’s one-yard scoring effort in the fourth frame.
Maine-Endwell’s first touchdown drive took five plays and convered 66 yards, and its second scoring drive took three plays and went 14 yards.
Woolfolk, the game MVP, ran for 177 yards on 24 carries, made 11 tackles and forced a fumble. Woolfolk broke off an 88-yard run in the fourth quarter to put the ball at the eight. Perez-Tucker’s diving tackle kept the fullback from scoring, and the Sabres made a defensive stand to keep their advantage at 14-7.
“It was a tough loss,” said Gallo. “We fought all the way. ’Til the end.”
Schalmont’s superb season included six shutouts, a program-
tying 12 wins and a No. 2 state ranking heading into the title game. Maine-Endwell came in ranked No. 1 in the state.
Maine-Endwell 0 0 7 15 — 22
Schalmont 0 14 0 7 — 21
S — Gallo 1 run (kick blocked).
S — Gallo 2 run (Willis pass from Gallo).
ME — K. Gallagher 17 run (Pham kick).
ME — Garbelman 1 run (Pham kick).
S — Perez-Tucker 58 punt return (Mattick kick).
ME — Sinicki 4 pass from K. Gallagher (Woolfolk pass from K. Gallagher).