SCHENECTADY — The Holy Trinity football team was heading from its fieldhouse to Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons High School Monday afternoon to watch film of John Burke S. Catholic, its opponent Saturday in the state Class C semifinals, when its coach pointed out why the Pride was still practicing for an upcoming game in mid-November.
"We're not here without those guys," Pride coach John Barber said of his all-senior offensive line — Liam Maloney, Sammy Quinones, Sam Lock, Jacob Marrone and Tom Thayer. "We're not doing any of this without them."
Maybe the Pride's most unrecognized group provided Joe Tortello with the protection that allowed him to toss four touchdown passes, and opened holes for Dion Sexton and Nelon Priest to run for scores in Saturday's 41-14 state quarterfinal win over Ogdensburg Free Academy.
"They were the biggest team we've seen," Lock, Holy Trinity's center, said of OFA. "That didn't make them better. I feel we had more experience."
No group among the Pride has seen more game action. Maloney, a Connecticut-bound tackle, has been starting since the eighth grade. Marrone, Thayer and Lock are three-year starters, Quinones a two-year starter.
"We've been in a lot of pressure situations through the years," Lock said.
Four such situations have come in Holy Trinity's history-making playoff run, which began with wins over Voorheesville (42-0), Chatham (44-0) and Stillwater (34-12) before an OFA victory that saw the Pride generate points in each quarter. Prior to this year, Holy Trinity's playoff past was a one-and-done at Hoosic Valley last season.
"We tell them every Friday, 'We're going to win or lose because of you,'" Barber said. "Even in March, when we were doing our weight program, we said, 'It's going to be up to you.'"
Behind the senior line, Tortello has amassed 1,977 passing yards (98-for-159) and 33 touchdowns, and Sexton has rushed for 1,047 yards and 10 touchdowns. Ja-Del Whitfield, Noah Foster and Priest have combined for another 586 rushing yards.
"Joe is very talented and smart, but take away the senior line, and he doesn't have as much," Barber said. "Dion wouldn't have as much. You don't notice them, but they're doing their job."
Tortello has thrown four touchdown passes in every Holy Trinity playoff game.
"Our line was awesome, and my receivers caught the ball," Tortello said after the OFA game.
As the season progressed, Tortello has been changing plays at the line of scrimmage more often, and the line has had to quickly adjust. One of the sophomore's audibles led to Holy Trinity's first touchdown Saturday, when he hit Jordan Mettler with a 7-yard pass.
"When you've all been through it together, it helps," Lock said. "When Joe makes calls, it's been working out. We don't make that many mental mistakes."
Holy Trinity (10-1) has scored no less than 32 points in every game since opening the season with a 13-6 win against Chatham. Senior tight end Jake Cross and reserve senior lineman Carson Marhafer have also been key figures in the blocking mix.
Holy Trinity and Burke Catholic meet Saturday at 11 a.m. at Middletown High School. Burke Catholic (Section IX, 9-1) is coming off a 62-12 state quarterfinal win against Albertus Magnus, and hasn't allowed more than two touchdowns in any of if ts three postseason games.
"We have to play our game and have solid, crisp focus," Lock said. "Do what we have to do. Play with great effort."
Burke Catholic lost to OFA in last year's state semifinal round 39-34.
Section II has five state semifinal teams headed to Middletown including reigning state champions Cambridge, Glens Falls and Troy. On Friday, Cambridge (10-1) plays Millbrook (Section IX, 6-5) in a Class D game at 4 p.m., and Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (10-0) meets Yorktown (Section I, 11-0) in a Class A game at 8 p.m. On Saturday, Glens Falls (11-0) takes on Peasantville (Section I, 10-1) in a Class B game at 3 p.m., and Troy (11-0) goes against Newburgh Free Academy (Section IX, 8-2) in a Class AA game at 7 p.m.