SARATOGA SPRINGS — Jake Williams hit Christian Kondo on a quick slant pattern to start the scoring last Friday in Saratoga Springs' Section II Class AA semifinal football game at Shenendehowa. Before the Blue Streaks had completed their 34-26 win, Williams threw for a second touchdown, and Kondo intercepted a pass to stuff a late Plainsmen drive.
"We wouldn't be here right now without either of them," Saratoga head coach Terry Jones said of the junior tandem. "We wouldn't have been there in 2015 without those guys."
"Those guys" are the older brothers of Williams and Kondo, Brian and Nick, who as seniors played significant skill-position roles for a Saratoga team that not only beat Shaker in the 2015 Section II Class AA final, but advanced all the way to the state title game.
Saratoga (7-2) and Shaker (9-0) have a Super Bowl rematch Friday night at the University at Albany starting at 7:30 p.m.
"I watched all of their games in 2015," said Jake Williams, who wears the same No. 1 that his brother did while quarterbacking the Blue Streaks. "It was them and Shaker the whole year, and at the end you got to find out who was better."
It was Saratoga in that title game four years ago that secured a 19-14 win when Brian Williams ran for the go-ahead touchdown and saved one by causing a fumble. Nick Kondo made a fourth-down tackle soon after to halt another Shaker threat.
"Watching my brother, I want to do that now," Jake Williams said.
Christian Kondo is eager for a title, too.
"He'll bring that up, that his team was better," Christian Kondo said of his older brother, who plays baseball for the University at Albany. "We just kid around about it."
The older brothers do have one up, though, after last year's Saratoga team lost to Troy 28-6 in the Super Bowl. Williams handled the kicking chores while backing up quarterback Wes Eglintine for that 9-1 edition, and Kondo started at wide receiver and in the defensive secondary.
"We've been teammates ever since modified," Christian Kondo said. "We both got called up as sophomores, and now we're trying to do what my brother and his brother did. It's kind of cool."
Saratoga lost a Week 3 game to Shaker 48-28 when the Blue Bison struck for three quick touchdowns and used big plays throughout to manufacture points. Williams ran for a touchdown and passed for two in a comeback bid.
"He's a lot like his brother," Jones said of Jake Williams. "We ask our quarterbacks to run the ball and throw the ball. It's a pretty challenging position here. I put the pressure on them, and in Jake I see a junior who is evolving as a field general. If I bark at him, he'll bark back. I'm OK with it. I want a quarterback that has that fight."
Jones will lean on his handful of veteran lettermen when Saratoga meets Shaker for the second time this fall and looks to gain its second Super Bowl title in four years.
"We got there last year, and Jake and Christian are two of the guys returning who have a good idea of what it's going to take to win the game," Jones said. "They know it's a difficult challenge."
"Last year, we're using that as motivation," said Jake Williams, anxious to get a start in the area's biggest game. "I remember the seniors saying, 'You guys are going to get back,' and we're back."
The final road back went through Shenendehowa last week, where Saratoga avenged a 35-7 loss from the week before with a multi-pronged effort. In that 34-26 win, Williams also hit Carter Steingraber with a scoring pass, and Steingraber returned a kickoff for a TD. Chris Klimek and Will Bonacio returned interceptions for touchdowns, and Kondo's pick helped seal it.
"Christian and Nick, neither of them are big kids, but they both have tremendous hands," Jones said of the Kondos. "We only had Nick for the one year because he had shoulder surgery the year before. Christian is a second-year guy and we'll have him for another year, which is great for us."
Shaker beat Guilderland 27-15 in the semifinals when Ravion Burt ran for two touchdowns and caught a scoring pass from Connor McHugh. Logan Souza and Joe Toutai are other key members of Shaker's potent running offense.
"We fell behind," Jones said of the earlier game with Shaker. "We gave up too many big plays and it was 20-0. From there it was an even game. We've got to get on the board and get something going for us to have a good shot."
Cambridge/Salem (9-0), ranked No. 1 in the state, will play Chatham (8-1) in the Section II Class C championship game Friday at 7 p.m. at Lansingburgh. Cambridge won back-to-back state Class D titles in 2016 and 2017.