Once again, the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake football team met with bitter disappointment on the brink of a state Class A championship.
This time, it was Maine-Endwell on the other side of the equation, rallying from a 13-point first-half deficit to claim this battle of Spartan sides 27-20 in Friday’s state final at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.
“Our kids played hard and had a shot at it,” said BH-BL head coach Matt Shell. They (Maine-Endwell) made more plays than we did.”
Everyone in maroon and white knew the recent history. BH-BL had reached the Dome in 2008 and 2009, both times losing the state final to Sweet Home, and were bent on a different ending the third time around.
But another group of Spartans from Maine-Endwell stood in the way. M-E, based in the suburbs of Binghamton (and owners of a state championship earned in 2004), had mostly relied on a stellar defense to reach the Dome, especially in the 19-16 upset of defending state champion Rochester Aquinas in the state semifinals the week before.
And M-E would get an immediate gift. On the game’s first play, Tom Ruppel, responsible for 865 rushing yards in the playoffs so far, fumbled, and M-E’s David Zieliwicz picked it up near midfield.
M-E would capitalize on the fumble. Kyle Gallagher threw a 35-yard pass to Marshall Tallon. Two plays later, Luis Uceta, later to be named the game’s MVP, scored on a five-yard sweep, and BH-BL was behind 7-0.
Late in the period, BH-BL responded with the first of three long gains against that vaunted M-E defense. From his own 30, Eric Dillon took Ryan McDonnell’s short completion and beat M-E defenders on a 64-yard jaunt to the opponent’s six-yard line.
Three plays later, McDonell went back to Dillon in the corner of the end zone for a four-yard TD strike, and the extra point tied it 7-7.