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Sweet Home denies Burnt Hills again

In the Hollywood version of the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake 2009 football story, the Spartans go to Syracuse's Carrier Dome and, against the same team that denied them a year before, win the state Class A championship to give head coach Matt Shell and his ailing son the best possible present.

Painful reality intervened Saturday night, though, in the form of the Sweet Home Panthers who, with plenty of their own motivation to draw from, made some history.

Sweet Home used big pass plays in the first half to sprint out in front, and the short-handed BH-BL Spartans could not turn it around in a 34-7 defeat last Saturday.

It wasn't for lack of effort on our part," Shell said. "We just didn't make enough plays. And they [Sweet Home] are a high-class team. They're really good."

Running back Brandon Beatty, who scored BH-BL's lone touchdown early in the third quarter, said the Panthers' size advantage at nearly every position took a toll on the Spartans.

"We've got strong guys," Beatty said. "But they [Sweet Home] were both big and strong."

Nothing, at first, seemed stronger than the Spartans' desire to bring home a state title, for reasons that went way beyond on-field pride in the ultimate team accomplishment.

Jacob Shell, the coach's 8-year-old son, is undergoing cancer treatment in a Boston hospital. Despite the illness, he has followed his father's team through Internet streams of the BH-BL games, and Matt has spent large amounts of time with his son in Boston during the week as assistant coaches ran the practices.

Inspired by this family battle, the entire Burnt Hills community seemed to follow the team to the Carrier Dome. All the players and coaches wore orange wristbands with the initials "JS" in black marker, and the massive contingent in maroon far outnumbered the Sweet Home crowd.

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