GLENS FALLS — Not all games live up to expectations.
This one did.
In a thriller, Holy Trinity prevailed Saturday against defending state champion Glens Falls in a Section II Class B football semifinal. Holy Trinity, playing its first season at the Class B level, advanced to next weekend’s area championship game with a 37-35 victory that saw senior kicker Connor Barber deliver the game-winning 30-yard field goal with 1:44 to go.
“We were built for this. We practiced for this all week,” said Holy Trinity senior Noah Foster, the receiver on each of senior quarterback Joe Tortello’s four touchdown passes. “You can’t let the emotions get to you. You have to stay focused. You have to believe in yourself, and believe in your teammates.”
Glens Falls (North Division No. 1, 8-1) led Holy Trinity (Reinfurt Division No. 2, 8-1) for the majority of Saturday’s contest, but Holy Trinity started the fourth quarter with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Tortello to Foster to go ahead for the first time. Glens Falls answered with the last of sophomore Griffin Woodell’s five touchdowns on the afternoon to retake the lead, but Holy Trinity pulled back ahead with Barber’s first career field goal.
“I just had to stay calm. Do what I do,” Barber said. “We had a great snap, a great hold and I just tried to put it right through.”
From there, Glens Falls advanced into Holy Trinity territory, but its final play from the 32-yard line never had the chance to develop as juniors Rodney Parker and Todd Williamson pressured Glens Falls junior quarterback Noah Girard, with Parker bringing Girard to the ground for a game-ending sack.
“We thought this might be the sectional final, but, either way, it’s two good teams going at it,” Glens Falls head coach Pat Lilac said. “We thought it was going to come down to the wire and it did — and, unfortunately, we came up on the short end.”
Glens Falls and Holy Trinity ended up playing in the semifinals after Holy Trinity lost its Week 7 game at Schalmont, a defeat that cost the Pride a No. 1 seed for the postseason. Since that defeat, though, Holy Trinity has rallied back with two wins to send itself to an area championship game for the second time in three years. In 2017, Holy Trinity advanced all the way to the Class C state championship game, and the team’s roster still includes a number of stars from that run to the Carrier Dome.
“We were built for this. That’s all four years of this [coming together],” said senior Nacier Hundley of a Holy Trinity program that played its first playoff game in 2016. “That’s everybody being a family, coming to practice every day and doing what we have to do. That’s Holy Trinity football. We know who the best team in the state is.”
Hundley scored Holy Trinity’s first touchdown with an 89-yard kickoff return in the first quarter, but made his biggest plays on defense in the second half. Late in the third quarter, as Woodell appeared headed for a long touchdown run, Hundley tracked him down yards before the end zone and stripped the Glens Falls sophomore of the ball. The score would have given Glens Falls a two-possession lead, but instead, Hundley forced the ball loose and senior Anthony Farina recovered the fumble in the end zone for a touchback.
“I ran, grabbed his left arm and punched [the ball] out with my right,” Hundley said. “It’s do or die right there. If they would have scored right there, they would have won. Couldn’t let that happen.”
Holy Trinity head coach John Barber said he remembered Hundley making a similar play combining hustle and smarts as a freshman.
“Those small things that our kids do are huge,” Barber said. “That’s what makes us champions.”
Not long after that missed opportunity for Glens Falls, Holy Trinity scored with a pass from Tortello to Foster to go ahead 34-29. Glens Falls answered with a touchdown run from Woodell, but Hundley stopped Woodell on the ensuing 2-point attempt to keep Glens Falls’ lead at 35-34. After an 11-play drive, Connor Barber made his kick to send Holy Trinity ahead for good.
Glens Falls led 8-7 after one quarter, 22-20 at halftime and 29-27 after three quarters. In all, Holy Trinity led for only 6:08 of Saturday’s 48 minutes of action. Holy Trinity, though, expected to need to make plays in Saturday’s second half to keep its season alive.
“We knew there was going to time in this game where we were going to have to play from behind,” Tortello said. “We just had to stay calm, cool and collected.”
For the contest, Tortello was 11 of 18 passing for 238 yards. As part of his four-touchdown receiving performance, Foster had six receptions for 166 yards. Parker led Holy Trinity in rushing with 84 yards on 16 carries.
For Glens Falls, Woodell rushed for 239 yards and four touchdowns on 31 carries, plus caught a touchdown pass from Girard who was 14 of 24 passing for 204 yards.
After topping the state’s top-ranked team, Tortello said Holy Trinity knows it still has work ahead of it. Schuylerville, an 8-1 squad, hasn’t lost since it played Glens Falls in Week 2 and beat Schalmont in its semifinal.
“We know we can’t go into this championship game with a big head,” Tortello said. “We’ve got to stay focused.”
Holy Trinity 7 13 7 10 — 37
Glens Falls 8 14 7 8 — 35
GF — Woodell 39 pass from Girard (Woodell from Girard)
HT — Hundley 89 kick return (Barber kick)
GF — Woodell 11 run (Guillet kick)
HT — Foster 29 pass from Tortello (Barber kick)
GF — Woodell 8 run (Guillet kick)
HT — Foster 28 pass from Tortello (conversion failed)
GF — Woodell 5 run (Guillet kick)
HT — Foster 45 pass from Tortello (Barber kick)
HT — Foster 25 pass from Tortello (Barber kick)
GF — Woodell 16 run (conversion failed)
HT — Barber 30 field goal