MIDDLETOWN — Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake senior running back DJ Lashley thought for all the world that this was going to be the year the Spartans returned to the Carrier Dome for next week’s Class A state football championship after losing two straight years in the East semifinals.
But following a heartbreaking 21-20 loss to Cornwall Friday night at Faller Field, Lashley found it hard to explain how this one got away.
“This was definitely the year we could have made it to the Dome,” Lashley said. “It’s very frustrating. We’ve been here three years in a row and we lost the game to go to the Dome.”
Following the crushing defeat, many Burnt Hills players were fighting back tears as they watched No. 2-ranked Cornwall (11-0) of Section IX accept the championship trophy.
Star running back Vincent Daviero, who was named Burnt Hills’ offensive player of the game after rushing for 196 yards on 32 carries and scoring a pair of touchdowns, had trouble fighting back tears.
“It’s really hard,” Daviero said. “Credit to them, they’re a great team. They got it done. All the hard work we put in and we came up short again. But we just have to move forward. All the juniors and sophomores that will return, I wish them all the best next year.”
Section II’s Burnt Hills (9-2) fell behind 21-14 when Cornwall star running back Amin Woods, who had 155 yards rushing and two TDs, scored on a 5-yard TD run midway through the third quarter.
But Burnt Hills rallied to pull within 21-20 when quarterback Darien LaPietro hit Rece Gobel with a 14-yard TD toss with 6:01 remaining. But Shane O’Dea blocked Ghaith Shahin’s conversion try, and the Spartans never got the ball back.
“I was ready to go back in on offense, but we couldn’t stop them,” Daviero said.
It was an entertaining first half that ended in a 14-14 tie.
After LaPietro was intercepted in the Cornwall end zone to end a promising opening drive, Woods ended a long scoring drive with a 5-yard run for a 7-0 lead.
Burnt Hills came right back to tie it at 7-7 on Daviero’s 3-yard TD run with 1:47 left in the first quarter.
Spartans junior safety Ryan Salisbury came up with a huge interception in the right corner of the end zone to thwart a long Cornwall drive midway through the second quarter.
On the ensuing drive, Lashley ripped off a 35-yard scamper inside the Cornwall red zone. On the next play, Daviero bolted straight up the middle for a 13-yard scoring run that gave Burnt Hills its first lead at 14-7 with 3:46 remaining before the half.
But behind the short passes of freshman quarterback Aidan Semo and the elusive running of Woods, the Dragons marched right back to tie it at 14-14 on Semo’s 9-yard TD pass to O’Dea with 50.3 seconds left in the half.
Burnt Hills was making its third straight trip to the state semifinals. The Spartans lost to Section I representatives Yorktown in 2017 and Somers in 2016.
Lashley said this probably stung more because it was his final chance to go to the championship game.
“Plus, we could have played better,” he said. “We made too many mistakes. But it is what it is.”
Cornwall will face Section VI’s West Seneca East (11-1) in the Class A title game next Friday at 3 p.m. at the Carrier Dome.
Cornwall 7 7 7 0 — 21
Burnt Hills 7 7 0 6 — 20
C — Woods 5 run (DiMedio kick)
BH — Daviero 3 run (Shahin kick)
BH — Daviero 13 run (Shahin kick)
C — O’Dea 8 pass from Semo (DeMedio kick)
C — Woods 5 run (DeMedio kick)
BH — Gobel 14 pass from LaPietro (kick blocked)