When Jacob Stanko picked up a first down on a fourth-and-one run late in the third quarter of Friday’s state Class A semifinal football game against Somers, it looked like Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake was in business.
The Spartans had scored earlier in the quarter to get within 21-17, and a big gamble had paid off when Stanko’s two-yard burst pushed the ball to their 33.
“We got the wind knocked out of us a bit at the end of the half, and we bounced back,” Burnt Hills coach Matt Shell said. “We had our chance.”
The Spartans did, but after Stanko ran again for four yards, things unraveled. There was an incomplete pass and a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty afterward. A two-yard run by Vincent Daviero and a punt followed on the final play of the period, and Somers proceeded to turn in one of the greatest quarters in the history of the state football tournament.
The Tuskers ran five plays and scored touchdowns on four of them. With 6:30 left in the final quarter the Section I representatives were up 48-17 in a game they won 48-24 to secure their first New York title-game berth. Burnt Hills (10-2) was attempting to get to Week 13 for the fifth time.
“They want to get the ball to 3 [Matt Pires] and 23 [Messiah Horne],” Burnt Hills senior tight end Patrick Hopsicker said at a practice a few days before the game. “Both are good athletes. If we can shut them down, we’ll be okay.”
Horne had next to nothing before the fourth quarter, which he began with an 80-yard touchdown sprint. Vincent DiFilippo intercepted a tipped pass on the first play of the next Burnt Hills drive, and, after Horne raced 52 yards, Pires reached the end zone on a 20-yard run.
“When they got the interception and scored, that was huge,” Burnt Hills senior defensive tackle Jake Warren said.
DiFilippo picked off another pass on the fourth play of the Spartans follow-up drive and Horne turned that turnover into a 38-yard touchdown run. The senior delivered his third touchdown of the quarter and fourth of the game on a 50-yard run right after Spartans’ quarterback Darien LaPietro threw incomplete on a fourth-and-six play.
That last run gave Horne 220 yards on four carries in the fourth quarter — those are Bo Jackson Tecmo Bowl numbers — while over the first three quarters he managed 27 yards on nine carries.
Pires had scored on a 61-yard reception and on a 73-yard end-around in the second quarter. Those scores capped two and three-play drives by the quick-strike Tuskers
“All the moves, everything they do, I taught them everything,” Somers coach Tony DeMatteo said to Journal News reporter John Thomson afterward. “No, it’s just wonderful to have two kids like that. Two great kids who work hard and have great ability. They work at it. I’m really proud of their commitment to this team. They don’t care who scores. And they did it together.”
I never saw a performance quite like it.
The Section II football family recently lost one of its great coaches in Don Boothe, who passed away in Alabama at the age of 90.
A graduate of Ohio Wesleyan and an Army veteran, Boothe led Niskayuna teams from 1959 through 1974 while also serving as a physical education teacher and athletic director at the high school.
“He cared as much about his players off the field as on the field,” said Mike Naumoff, who played center for the Silver Warriors from 1960-62. “He wanted you to be a good citizen. He wanted character. He wanted you to be a good student. When the report cards came out, he was there.”
Boothe got high grades from his fellow Section II coaches, who in 1975 honored him with a plaque that called him “The Coaches Coach” with the quote, “Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, riches take wing. Only one thing endures and that is character.”
Boothe’s teams put together a 78-43-7 overall record and captured five Suburban Council championships. Naumoff played on two of his three undefeated teams in 1960 (8-0) and 1962 (7-0-1).
“He was funny,” Naumoff said. “I was on those unbeaten teams as a sophomore and senior, but my junior year we didn’t have as much, and one game we lost was to Scotia
42-0. On our Christmas cards he wrote ‘Scotia 42, Niskayuna 0’ just as a reminder. The next year we beat them pretty good.”
Boothe also guided an unbeaten team in 1970 (7-0-1), while three of his other teams lost one game.
“It was his system,” Naumoff said. “What we had was cross blocking. It’s easier to take a player to the side instead of straight on.”
Boothe was an assistant under Dr. Rod Snelling in Niskayuna’s first varsity season and 1958, and his first seven teams teams from 1959-65 went 41-10-3 with four league titles. Before his run at Niskayuna, Boothe coached at Bellaire in Michigan and at Mentor and Massillion in his native Ohio.
Boothe was inducted into the Capital Region Football Hall of Fame in the summer of 2015.
Cambridge junior kicker Helen Mooney set a New York football record and then some with her seven extra points Friday as part of the Indians’ 61-6 state Class D semifinal win over Haldane game at Dietz Stadium.
Mooney set the state single-season record for kicking points by a female when she booted her first extra point of the game and 54th of the season after Ryan McLenithan’s 62-yard touchdown run. Linnea D’Acchille of Greenwich had 53 kicking points last season to beat the state record of 39 set by Heather Sue Mercer of Yorktown in 1993.
Mooney, who also plays soccer and basketball, was 7-for-9 Friday and is 60-for-73 on the season.
They’ll take on the top-ranked teams in the state this weekend, and go in with unbeaten records after falling short in 2015 Section II championship games.
That’s Troy, Glens Falls and Cambridge, who go after New York football crowns this weekend at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.
Troy (12-0) and Victor (Section V, 12-0) play for the Class AA title Saturday at 3 p.m., Glens Falls and Chenango Forks (IV, 12-0) meet for the Class B flag Saturday at noon, and Cambridge (12-0) and Maple Grove (Section VI, 12-0) tangle for the Class D prize Friday at noon.
Troy will be making its sixth state title-game appearance and looking for its third win after victories in 1996 and 1998. Glens Falls lost in its only title game in 2012. Cambridge is headed to its fifth state final and in search of its second triumph at the Dome. The Indians won there in 1999.
WHAT THEY’RE DOING
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake graduate Natalie Moore recently finished her volleyball career at Saint Michael’s College with a school-record 1,873 defensive digs, and became just the third player in program history to earn all-league honors twice.
Moore, a libero, was selected to the Northeast-10 Conference third team for the second time after accumulating 444 digs. She is the only player in program annals with four 400-plus dig seasons, and has four of school’s top eight all-time one-season dig marks. Her high was 544 digs as a junior, which is third all-time on the school record list.
In 87 career matches Moore had 20 or more digs 53 times, 30 or more 13 times, and had highes of 41 this season and 42 as a freshman.
Moore was a key contributor on Burnt Hills’ state title-winning teams in 2011 and 2012.
WHERE THEY’RE GOING
Mohonasen basketball star Saeeda Abdul-Aziz will sign her national letter of intent to attend Davidson College today. The Gazette All-Area first-teamer and career 1,000-point scorer will receive a full athletic scholarship.
Queensbury lacrosse players Devin O’Leary (Stony Brook), James Conway (Franklin Pierce), Natasha Rahal (Binghamton), Devon Bolen (Bryant) and Caitlin Bolen (Bryant) signed their letters of intent last Wednesday.
Greenwich field hockey standout Isabelle Kuzmich has made a verbal commitment to Siena College.