RICKY ST. CLAIR
CLINTONVILLE — Hoosick Falls’ rugged, smash mouth defense proved to be better than advertised.
Following a 6-0 Saranac Lake lead at halftime, the Panthers (11-0) were able to hold the Red Storm (10-1) to 116 yards of total offense and bounce back for 20 points in the second half for a 20-12 NYSPHSAA Class C regional victory Saturday.
“In the first half, there might have been some frustration because we didn’t make some plays that we normally do,” Hoosick Falls head coach Ron Jones said. “Halftime was good because we refocused. We held (Saranac Lake) to 12 points and won first and second down on a number of occasions. We were bending, but didn’t break against their short passing game.”
Saranac Lake had an average starting field position of their own 24-yard line in the second half and were unable to generate any offensive output on the ground, mustering 36 rushing yards.
“We just couldn’t run the ball and that was as stout a run defense that we’ve played,” Saranac Lake head coach Eric Bennett said following the eight-point loss. “(Hoosick Falls) made us go to the air and they covered the pass pretty well. Whenever you can take away what a team wants to do, you’re going to be successful and they certainly did that.
“That’s football. We couldn’t move the ball and we had an opportunity, but they caught fire a little bit and scored. It is what it is.”
Brad Burns, a 1,600-yard rusher in Section II this season, was held to 31 yards on nine carries in the first half. However, the senior was able score on three occasions and rack up 114 yards in the final 24 minutes of play.
“I think anytime you have a dynamic, strong back like that, he’s going to take his toll on your defense as the game wears on,” Bennett said. “I think he’s used to getting his yards in the first half. But he was very effective in the third and fourth quarter in terms of wearing down our defense and getting tough yards. I’m sure their game plan worked exactly like they wanted it to and they came out with a victory.”
Red Storm quarterback Matt Phelan opened the game’s scoring with 1:30 gone in the second stanza on a 1-yard plunge.
Burns was able to tie the game at six, but Phelan responded on the ensuing 75-yard drive in the third quarter on an 18-yard scramble at 2:00.
The senior-signal caller finished the game 20-for-32 with 206 yards through the air, with 100 of them to Mike Burpoe, and 21 carries for 86 yards and two scores on the ground.
Phelan concluded his illustrious career at Saranac Lake with 3,282 yards passing, good for fifth all-time in Section VII and 44 touchdowns, which is tied for third.
“(Phelan) as a person, like many of the seniors that played their last game (Saturday), is a genuine incredible young man that works his tail off day in and day out,” Bennett said. “You just don’t get many (players) like him. As far as his performance today, it was exactly like I thought it would have been — gritty and he left in on the field.”
Burns garnered the eventual game-winning score on a 15-yard run at 4:03 of the third quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, Kevin Morgan, who played a significant impact throughout the course of the game with 103 receiving yards, fumbled the ball. Hoosick Falls took over at Saranac Lake’s 20 and Burns concluded scoring three minutes and 22 second later.
“I think we were fortunate, lucky and privileged to work with a class like we had,” Bennett said. “Anybody can work with a group of athletes, but to get to have the pleasure and privilege of being around such a fine group of young men made this season. It’s going to be a long time before I have another group come through like this.”
Hoosick Falls advances to state semifinals on November 17 for 11 a.m. at Dietz Stadium in Kingston against Section IX’s James I. O’Neill, a 35-18 winner over Woodlands Friday night.
Hoosick Falls 20, Saranac Lake 12
Hoosick Falls 0 0 6 14 — 20
Saranac Lake 0 6 0 6 — 12
S- Phelan 1 run (kick failed), 1:30.
H- Burns 3 run (kick failed), 10:51.
S- Phelan 18 run (pass failed), 2:00.
H- Burns 15 run (Kaufman kick), 4:03.
H- Burns 5 run (Dubois kick), 7:25.
H- Burns 27-145, 3 TD; Pine 12-95. Team totals: 39-240, 3 TD.
S- Phelan 21-86, 2 TD; Pickreign 6-5; Ackerson 7-5. Team totals: 34-96, 2 TD.
H- Pine 7-16-1-96.
S- Phelan 20-32-0-206. Pickreign 0-2-1-0. Team totals: 20-34-1-206.
H- Burns 1-43; Tutunjian 3-29; Brewster 1-14; Brogue 1-10.
S- Morgan 7-103; Burpoe 11-100; Leahy 1-2; Ackerson 1-1.