SCHUYLERVILLE — It wasn't supposed to be Schuylerville's year.
On Sunday, it could end with a Class B state football championship.
"It's been really like nothing I've ever seen," Schuylerville coach John Bowen said of his team's march to the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. "We've got a group with a next-man-up mentality that has amazed us coaches, and we've got guys on the staff that have been doing this for a long time."
Schuylerville has overcome injuries to key players and defeated higher-ranked teams to earn its place alongside Chenango Forks in Sunday's noon title game. Schuylerville will be the seventh area Class B team to play for a New York crown in the last eight years, but certainly the most unlikely of them.
The Black Horses weren't even projected to get out of Section II after finishing second behind Glens Falls in the Class B North Division.
"It's our drive and want, and our belief in the coaching staff," senior running back and defensive back Charles Luzadis said. "We want to do well for ourselves and our community."
Schuylerville (11-1) has strung together 10 victories — five of them in the playoffs — to get a second crack at a state championship. The school's 2015 edition reached Syracuse with a 12-0 mark before losing to Cazenovia 22-19 when its final drive fizzled out.
"Being there is going to be cool, but we can't get caught up in all of that," sophomore quarterback Owen Sherman said. "Our ultimate goal is to win the game."
Section II has had nine state champions in the last 10 years, and none of them won a true road postseason game in doing so. Schuylerville will be looking to break that trend, as it prevailed on Schalmont's field 14-6 in the Section II semifinals.
"We're not just going for the experience," Luzadis said. "We're so close. We win, we'll be the No. 1 team."
That distinction currently belongs to Chenango Forks (Section IV, 12-0) in the New York State Sportswriters Association poll, while Schuylerville is ranked No. 6. Chenango Forks posted a 41-20 semifinal win over Western New York Maritime/Health Science to get a shot at its sixth state championship. Its last came in 2015 at the Class C level.
"We've never talked about going to Knox Field for the experience or Putt LaMay Field for the experience. We're going there [Carrier Dome] with a purpose, and that is to win a football game," Bowen said. "It is a business trip for us."
Schuylerville took care of business in the state semifinals by beating Port Jervis 8-7.
"Not one of our cleanest games," Luzadis said. "We grinded it out."
Schuylerville's defense broke only once, when Nico Rodriguez raced 60 yards for a second-quarter touchdown, and Liam Tomasi booted the point after. The Black Horses answered later in the quarter when Sherman hit Evan Jeffords with a 42-yard scoring pass and Jacob Vanderhoof ran for a 2-point conversion.
Vanderhoof had missed the six previous weeks with a knee injury. Fellow running back Jack Dwyer also returned after missing two weeks with an ankle injury.
"At one time, we were down three running backs," Bowen said.
"Different kids have stepped up each week," Luzadis said.
Luzadis made a huge catch for a first down on a third-and-15 play in the Section II championship game when Schuylerville was driving for its tie-breaking touchdown against Holy Trinity. Kyle Burnham had three touchdown runs in that contest, his last as time expired, in the 28-22 win. Sam McGarrahan scored three times in a 28-8 regional win over Potsdam that followed.
"We have had a lot of opportunities to tank it, and opted not to take advantage of a single one of them," Bowen said, referring to Schuylerville's rash of injuries. "We put it in the rearview mirror and move on."
Schuylerville is looking to bring a second straight Class B title back to Section II after Glens Falls won in 2018.
"We have to play cleaner than in our last game," Sherman said. "On offense, we have to get our running game back, and on defense we have to rally to the football and play like we never have. They've got a big fullback and a big line, and we've got to get multiple guys there."
Luzadis was a member of the Schuylerville baseball team that last spring reached the state Class B title game, but fell short.
"That brings back a little sour taste. That's part of the reason I want this so bad," Luzadis said. "I don't want to lose two in a row. It's a game we believe we can win."