Croton-Harmon avenged last year's state semifinal loss to Schalmont.
The Tigers scored the go-ahead touchdown with 3:34 left in the fourth quarter to nip the Sabres 15-12 in Saturday's Class B football semifinal at Kingston's Dietz Stadium.
Croton-Harmon (12-0) engineered a 70-yard scoring drive that ate up nearly six minutes of the final period and added a two-point conversion to put Schalmont (11-1) in a hole. The Sabres mounted a late drive that got them to Croton-Harmon's 40-yard line, but they couldn't convert on fourth down and turned the ball over to the Tigers.
"We couldn't get the last defensive stand, and we couldn't get that last drive," said Schalmont coach Joe Whipple. "But, our kids played their hearts out."
Croton-Harmon took a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter on quarterback Jesse Mainiero's 4-yard touchdown run. Schalmont got within a point when Alex Hildebrand took off on a 67-yard touchdown run with 2:30 left in the second quarter, but Niko Nicoletti's extra-point kick fell short.
Croton-Harmon had an opportunity to extend its lead later in the second quarter when it drove to Schalmont's 5-yard line. Mainiero threw a fourth-down pass into the end zone, but Nick Gallo batted the ball away to keep the Sabres close.
The score remained 7-6 until the first minute of the fourth quarter. That's when Schalmont tailback Devon Willis took off on a 48-yard touchdown run to give the Sabres a 12-7 lead.
Nicoletti turned in a big defensive play for Schalmont a short time later when he intercepted a Mainiero pass that bounced off a Croton-Harmon receiver and ran it back to the Tigers' 39-yard line. The Sabres got as far as the Tigers' 30-yard line before being turned away on fourth-and-one.
Croton-Harmon kept the ball on the ground for its next offensive series, and it paid off. The Tigers steadily moved the ball through Schalmont's defense, and Trevor Wolstencroft completed the series with a 1-yard touchdown run to put Croton-Harmon back in front. Mainiero added a two-point conversion pass to Nick Grous to make the score4 15-12.
"They came out, they executed their offense really well and they maintained their poise," said Whipple of Croton-Harmon. "We had guys in position [to make tackles], but they wanted it more."
Other than the long touchdown runs by Hildebrand and Willis, Schalmont's offense struggled against a fast and aggressive Croton-Harmon defense.
"They dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball," said Whipple.