BURNT HILLS — There was a time when Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake was not only a fixture in the state football semifinals, but a successful one at that with five straight appearances and four victories in that five-year stretch.
The last of those semifinal wins back in 2012 was followed by the Spartans' lone state championship in Syracuse, and they've been striving to get back to the Carrier Dome ever since.
A win against Cornwall Friday night at Middletown High School will accomplish that. The Class A East semifinal game is set for 8 p.m.
"We're happy to have another opportunity," Burnt Hills coach Matt Shell said Wednesday before his team watched film of unbeaten Cornwall. "For our seniors, it's their last chance to play for a championship. The opportunity is right in front of them. We've had a good week and we're motivated."
The motivation, Shell said, stems from semifinal defeats in 2016 and 2017, and the loss of Spartan Deacon Martucci, a popular multi-sport playing junior who died in an auto accident during the preseason.
"They think about Deacon all the time, and that motivates them all the time," Shell said. "They've been through a lot and handled it as good as you can handle it. In that regard I have a lot of respect for them. They know more about themselves now."
They also know they are capable of winning against elite competition, having knocked off then-unbeaten Queensbury 21-16 for their third straight Section II title and ninth in 13 seasons. Queensbury had defeated Burnt Hills in a Week 7 showdown for the Grasso Division top spot 42-21.
"That showed the kids you can play with the best teams," Shell said. "Queensbury is one of the best teams in the state. Mentally they know they can overcome adversity and make plays at this time of the year. It was good in that respect. Now we play Cornwall and have to try to do it again."
While Burnt Hills (9-1) had a playoff bye last weekend, Cornwall (Section IX, 10-0) advanced with a 35-14 regional win over John Jay of Cross River. Amin Woods ran for 281 yards and three touchdowns, those coming on jaunts of 85, 81 and 65 yards. Aidan Semo threw a touchdown pass and returned a fumble for another.
"We went down and watched them," Shell said. "They've got a good player in Woods. A good quarterback. They have good speed and an aggressive defense. They've beaten some good teams. Well coached. What I've seen is good."
Shell said the Spartans didn't play so well in a 34-19 state semifinal loss to Yorktown last year. In 2016, Somers pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 48-24 semifinal victory over the Spartans.
"Two years ago, we played a good three quarters against Somers. They had two Division I studs, and they were good up front, and their speed and power eventually got the best of us," Shell said. "We didn't play great against Yorktown. We didn't do the little things well and we had no consistency on offense. You lose games when you play like that."
Running back/linebacker Vincent Daviero and quarterback Darien LaPietro will be playing in their third semifinal games for Burnt Hills. Daviero ran for two touchdowns and 168 yards in the Super Bowl, and Jakai Townsend had a touchdown run and a key tackle for a loss to help quell Queensbury's last drive.
Burnt Hills' last semifinal win in 2012 came against Cornwall 28-13 and was followed by a 40-20 state title-game win against Sweet Home. The Spartans also beat Cornwall in 2011 (35-14) and 2009 (41-16) semifinals.
The state Class A championship is Nov. 23 at 3 p.m. Indian River (Section III, 11-0) and West Seneca East (Section VI, 10-1) are the Class A West semifinalists and play at Union-Endicott High School.
Glens Falls and Shaker playing Saturday
On Saturday at Middletown, Glens Falls (9-2) and Marlboro (Section IX, 10-1) meet in a Class B semifinal at 3 p.m., and Shaker (10-0) and New Rochelle (Section I, 10-1) meet in a Class AA semifinal at 7 p.m.
Glens Falls will make its third consecutive semifinal appearance after beating Beekmantown 21-7 in a regional game that saw Joseph Girard III pass for 286 yards and two touchdowns. Aalijah Sampson ran for 102 yards and a TD. Marlboro beat Ardley in its regional 27-19 when Amer Williams ran for 181 yards and a TD, and Sam Mongelli ran for 114 yards and had a TD run and pass.
Glens Falls lost in the semifinals in 2017 and won in 2016 before claiming the state title.
Shaker received a regional bye after beating Saratoga Springs 28-14 in the Section II large-school final. Shane Lavender's 89-yard interception return for a TD clinched the win after Logan Souza ran for two TDs earlier, including a 14-14 tie-breaker. New Rochelle beat Newburgh Free Academy in its regional 42-7 when Mac Coughlin passed for three TDs.
New Rochelle beat Shaker in a 2012 state semifinal 28-21.
The other West semifinals pit Aquinas (Section V, 10-1) against Cicero-North Syracuse (Section III, 11-0) in Class AA, and Batavia (Section V) against Skaneateles (Section III, 11-0) in Class B. Skaneateles is the team that beat Holy Trinity in the 2017 state Class C final.