If the game had been played on a sandlot, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake football coach Matt Shell would have used a stick in the dirt to design the Section II Class A championship game’s winning play.
On a hunch, Shell called for wide receiver Eric Dillon to cross over to the right while the flow of play moved to the left. Quarterback Ryan McDonnell would then throw the ball to Dillon, who Shell hoped would be wide open in the end zone.
Everything worked out as Shell designed it. Dillon got behind the Amsterdam defense, and McDonnell delivered a perfect ball for the winning touchdown as BH-BL defeated the Rugged Rams 26-23 in Saturday’s Class A final at Shenendehowa’s Steuerwald Stadium.
“We just made it up on the fly,” said Dillon, who scored his second -- and most important -- touchdown of the night with 23.4 seconds left in the fourth quarter. “I knew I would be wide open because the flow was going the opposite direction of the play.”
One minute earlier, Amsterdam (9-1) took a 23-20 lead on Tyler Rouse’s 33-yard field goal, but a pair of Rugged Rams miscues turned the tide in BH-BL’s favor. First Rouse’s kickoff bounced out of bounds, giving the Spartans the ball at their own 35-yard line with no time coming off the clock. Then, a pass interference penalty against Amsterdam moved BH-BL into Rugged Rams’ territory.
Four plays later, McDonnell connected with Dillon on the 23-yard touchdown pass that gave the Spartans their first lead since late in the second quarter.
“He [McDonnell] had two touchdown passes tonight, and the last one was unbelievable,” said Shell.
Early on, it appeared that the game would be a defensive struggle between the top two teams from the Northwest Division. That changed on the final play of the first quarter when BH-BL tailback Thomas Ruppel broke free for a 37-yard gain that placed the ball on Amsterdam’s 28-yard line. On the first play of the second quarter, McDonnell connected with Dillon on a 28-yard touchdown pass to put the Spartans ahead 7-0.