ALBANY — Shaker came close in recent years but on Friday, Nov. 2, they became the Section II, Class AA champs by beating Saratoga 28-14 in a steady rain at UAlbany.
The Bison are a perfect 10-0, and have a bye next week. On Nov. 17, they will play either the Section 1 or Section 9 champ at Middleton High School.
Saratoga (7-3) scored first on a two-yard run by Jake Williams and Logan Souza tied it up on a six yarder of his own. Ashton Capone broke one for 58 yards to give Saratoga a 14-7 lead until Connor McHugh hit Ravion Burt for a seven yard touchdown to tie it up heading into the fourth quarter.
And then Shaker took over.
Souza scored his second of the game on a 60-yard scamper with 11:30 left.
And then senior Shane Lavender made the biggest play of his career by returning an interception 88 yards for a touchdown.
“It’s the greatest feeling in the world,” Lavender said. “It was cover II and I was coming into the flats and the QB didn’t read it quick enough and I brought it to the house. Right now the win means everything to the team and the community.
“We were motivated, we had a great week in practice and we pulled it out.”
Part of that motivation was the 29-22 loss to Saratoga last year, and there was considerable chatter about the Blue Streaks again this year.
“We were not concerned about what other people were saying or even what Saratoga was doing,” said coach Greg Sheeler. “It was all about us and how we prepared all week. Our mantra has been tunnel vision all year and we just stuck to that mantra.”
One of The Bison’s biggest go-to guys all year has been Souza. The program has him at 5-foot, 5 inches, but when they measured, he might have been wearing football cleats and standing on a hockey puck or two.
“It was just an average game. We just came out here and we knew we had a job to do,” he said. “We just really wanted to come out here and win.”
“The bigger the game the bigger he plays,” Sheeler said. “He is just a tremendous football player.”
While it’s yet to be determined who the Bison will play in two weeks, Sheeler said they will enjoy this win and then get back to work.
“I really couldn’t be prouder,” he said. “We are not the best coaching staff in the world but we like to think we have the most coachable kids in the world. They bought into our system and believe in our staff and they believe in each other.”
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