TROY — Experience and focus gave two-time defending Section II Class A champion Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake a big advantage against host Troy in their semifinal playoff game Friday night.
The 8-1 Spartans not only ran effectively with numerous experienced running backs all evening, but they also neutralized the Flying Horses’ big–play attack until extremely late in the fourth quarter during a dominating 35-12 win.
Burnt Hills goes after another title next week against Queensbury, which defeated Averill Park in the other semifinal. Troy, which won back-to-back Section II Class AA titles before dropping down to Class A this year, finishes the season at 7-2.
Both D’Andre Lashley and Vincent Daviero ran for more than 100 yards, with Lashley providing the breakaway speed and Daviero the power between the tackles. Jakai Townsend also added some running depth and had a 64-yard TD run to start the third quarter.
“I was happy with how things went,” Burnt Hills head coach Matt Shell said. “We knew darn well it wouldn’t be easy. We expected nothing but a big-time challenge.
They’ve [the Flying Horses] got tough kids, and they are a good football team. We did some good things and scored that touchdown before the half. Then we made some good adjustments at halftime. Our kids ran hard and did a lot of the little things very well.”
Shell was also pleased how his defense kept the Flying Horses bottled up until the fourth quarter. “We harped on that all week, and our kids did a great job of tackling in space,” Shell said. “We also kept the pressure on their quarterback. Troy is not only one of the top teams in our area, but in the state. We weren’t looking ahead.”
The Spartans drove deep into Troy territory on their first possession, but Lashley fumbled, and Xavier Ward recovered on the Troy
Neither team could get much offense going until Burnt Hills capped a 65-yard drive with an 11-yard Lashley sweep into the end zone with 3:16 left in the half. Ghaith Shahin tacked on the first of his five PATs for a 7-0 lead.
Troy sophomore quarterback Alex Wolfe suffered a hyper-extended knee injury late in the second quarter, and his replacement, Mike Fazio, was intercepted by Jared Slovic, one of two picks the senior defensive back made in the game.
Townsend’s burst up the near sidelines for a 64-yard TD stretched the Spartans’ lead to 14-0 early in the third quarter before Lashley scored his second touchdown of the game on a 10-yard run with 6:08 left in the period. Following a Troy fumble, Daviero scored on a 3-yard run to push the Burnt Hills advantage to 28-0.
Wolfe continued to play for Troy despite his injury, but he wasn’t at 100 percent and threw his second interception at the end of the third quarter. Lashley then scored his third TD of the game from 4 yards out to give Burnt Hills a comfortable 35-0 lead.
Troy scored on a 5-yard run by Tyell Penalba and a 63-yard run by Ari Holmes in the final seven minutes of the game.
“We played a good, disciplined game today,” Daviero said. “We had a lot of film on Troy, and we knew what they did. We figured it out and executed. As far as our running is concerned, give all the credit to our offensive line.”
“We definitely have a deep rushing attack,” Lashley said. “We stay focused. It doesn’t matter what different styles a team plays. Troy didn’t show us anything we haven’t seen before. We will be prepared mentally and physically to take on Queensbury.”
Troy coach Bob Burns hoped his team would have been a little more competitive against the Spartans, especially after the solid first half his Flying Horses played against them.
“We kind of got worn down, but we also had some mental breakdowns,” Burns said. “I knew we wouldn’t be able to sustain holding them to just seven points for the entire game. We couldn’t move the ball and get first downs.
“They are a tremendous coaching staff. He [Shell] made some adjustments based on what we were doing. We have a lot of young kids and spunk. Hopefully, they are going to progress and get back to where we are used to being.”
Burnt Hills 0 7 21 7 — 35
Troy 0 0 0 12 — 12
BH — Lashley 21 run (Shahin kick).
BH — Townsend 64 run (Shahin kick).
BH — Lashley 10 run (Shahin kick).
BH — Daviero 3 run (Shahin kick).
BH — Lashley 4 run (Shahin kick).
T — Penalbon 5 run (kick failed).
T — Holmes 63 run (pass failed).