Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake running back Thomas Ruppel finds an opening during the Class A regional game against Franklin Academy Nov. 12 at Shenendehowa High School.
Photo by John McIntyre.
Shenendehowa and Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake took different paths to this weekend's state football semifinals in Kingston.
Shen (11-0) needed overtime to defeat North Rockland 13-10 in last Saturday's Class AA regional in Kingston, while BH-BL (10-1) rolled past Franklin Academy of Malone 63-20 in the Class A regional in Clifton Park.
Both teams face stern tests in this weekend's state semifinals. BH-BL faces Section I champion Cornwall Friday night at Dietz Stadium, and Shen plays Newburgh Free Academy Saturday. Both games start at 7 p.m.
"It's a really tough match-up," said BH-BL coach Matt Shell of Cornwall, which rolled past Poughkeepsie 44-19 last weekend in its regional. "They have a very good quarterback, a very good running back and a very good receiver, and they're very big up front."
"They have good size up front," Shen coach Brent Steuerwald said of Newburgh Free Academy, which hasn't played since winning the Section IX title two weeks ago. "They don't run a complex offense, but what they do run they do very well."
The Plainsmen are bracing for another physical battle following last weekend's confrontation with North Rockland. The two teams gave little ground to each other in regulation and continued that trend in overtime.
"I knew they were a very strong defensive team, and I told my guys that they would be very physical," said Steuerwald.
North Rockland came close to ending Shen's season and Steuerwald's coaching career when Paul Prendergast kicked a 35-yard field goal in overtime to give his team a 10-7 lead. But the Plainsmen got a key first down on their final OT possession, and tailback Tony Fusco capped the drive with a 9-yard touchdown run to send Shen into the semifinals.
"I thought my kids kept their poise, and they did what they had to do to win the game," said Steuerwald, who will be retiring when the season ends.