Weekly Feature

2012-11-28 / Sports

Sweet Home’s comebacks run out in Class A final

Panthers lose to Burnt Hills, 40-20

Sweet Home senior Michael McCoy wraps up Burnt Hills’ quarterback Ryan McDonnell during the second half of the Class A state final Friday at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. The Panthers lost, 40-20. 
Photo by Nick LoVerdePurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Sweet Home senior Michael McCoy wraps up Burnt Hills’ quarterback Ryan McDonnell during the second half of the Class A state final Friday at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. The Panthers lost, 40-20. Photo by Nick LoVerdePurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Sweet Home has made it a habit in its playoff run of falling behind and then rallying to victory. Unfortunately, their luck ran out in the Class A state final.

Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (12-1) of Section II Albany scored on four of its first drives of the game to build a 26-0 halftime lead to down the Panthers, 40-20, at the Carrier Dome at Syracuse University Friday afternoon.

Sweet Home (12-1), who came back to beat Eastridge in the Far West Regional and Union-Endicott in the state semifinals, was making its third state final appearance in five years. Their previous two trips to the Carrier Dome in 2008 and 2009 resulted in victories over Burnt Hills.

It was Burnt Hills’ first state title in four attempts and Sweet Home’s first state playoff loss to a team other than Aquinas.

“Whenever you get this far, a loss hurts more than any other loss because it’s your last one and your season is over,” Sweet Home coach John Faller said. “I give a lot of credit to Matt [Shell, Burnt Hills coach] and his team, they came ready to play right from the opening kickoff and they took it to us. We tried to come back in the second half and did not quite have enough. It’s a tribute to them. When you’re beat, you’re beat and today, we got beat by a better team.”

Burnt Hills’ success came on the ground, rushing for 287 yards, including 105 yards in the first half.

Sophomore Daniel Maynard (14 carries, 128 yards) — the game’s Most Valuable Player — scored two 3-yard TDs in the first half. His first score capped off Burnt Hills’ first drive of the game. His second tally made it 26-0 with 6:09 remaining.

Burnt Hills senior quarterback Ryan McDonnell (5-for-11, 98 yards) threw for the Spartans’ other two scores in the first half, a 37-yard bomb to senior Daniel Nuzzi, who outran Sweet Home’s sophomore star, Brad Zaffram, to the end zone with 1:10 left in the first quarter, and a 20-yard TD to senior Eric Dillon with 9:07 remaining.

The Spartans got great field position on their second, third and fourth scoring drives, starting at the Sweet Home 46, 35 and 44.

Burnt Hills also committed no penalties in the first half while Sweet Home was flagged nine times for 98 yards. The Panthers finished with 12 penalties for 116 yards.

“We made some big plays,” said Shell of his team’s performance in the first half. “Our offensive line did a tremendous job coming off the ball. We got some good inside runs early, did some good things in the passing game, our defense came up big and we got field position.”

The Panthers’ offense sputtered until about six minutes remaining in the first half when Zaffram caught a 13-yard pass from senior Mike Torrillo for the team’s first, first down of the game.

It was the start of a 13-play, 77-yard drive that unfortunately resulted in an interception by junior David Newell in the end zone. Senior Logan Ball initially tipped the ball while it was in the air.

Sweet Home came out after halftime fired up, getting a 49-yard kickoff return by sophomore Jordan Heine, and driving 42 yards in four plays, capped off by a 6-yard TD run by sophomore Jordan Evert.

The momentum seemed to be turning into Sweet Home’s favor when Zaffram intercepted an attempted screen pass by McDonnell, but Sweet Home fumbled the ball on their next play, and Ball recovered at the Sweet Home 45.

Burnt Hills’ offense took advantage six plays later with a 5-yard TD run by junior Daniel Porter (14 carries, 79 yards).

“We kind of lost momentum a little bit in the second half but our character showed after Sweet Home scored and we scored,” Shell said. “That was a big part of the game.”

“They’re a heck of a team,” Torrillo said. “They came out to play. That is what you get for not coming out to play in the first half. They started strong. We got the momentum coming out of the second half and we couldn’t stop their offense. That was the key to the game.”

Sweet Home responded with a 47-yard TD pass from Torrillo to Zaffram, but Burnt Hills answered with a four-play, 61-yard drive, culminated by a 39-yard TD run by junior Josh Quesada to extend the Spartans’ lead to 40-14 with 1:15 remaining in the third quarter.

Sweet Home appeared to be going into the end zone for a third time early in the fourth quarter, but fumbled at the Burnt Hills’ 1.

On Sweet Home’s next series, Torrillo was intercepted by Dillon.

The Panthers scored with a second left in the game on a 37-yard TD pass from Torrillo to senior Calvin Martin. The drive lasted 15 plays and 90 yards.

Torrillo — the game’s Most Valuable Offensive Back — completed 26-of-44 passes for 283 yards and was also Sweet Home’s leading rusher with four carries for 41 yards.

Zaffram caught seven passes for 98 yards, and recorded 3.5 tackles, eight tackles and an interception on defense, to earn the game’s Most Valuable Defensive Back.

McCoy had five receptions for 54 yards and Martin made four catches for 76 yards.

Sweet Home junior offensive lineman Kevin Gault earned the team’s Sportsmanship Award.

In attendance at the game was Shell’s son, Jacob, who during the Panthers’ state wins in 2008 and 2009, was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma, a rare form of childhood cancer.

In support of Jacob, Sweet Home held a “Shell Strong” fundraiser in 2010 for the Shell family in which a little more than $3,000 was raised.

Jacob Shell is now cancer free.

“It’s different with Sweet Home,” Shell said. “He was in the hospital in Boston when we played them [in 2008 and 2009]. They were real good to our family over the years. They have never met or seen him before, so I was glad he was able to be here. It’s football, but there is a different side of the whole thing. There was a little extra twist that not many games have, which is pretty special. Coach Faller is a first-class person, aside from being an awesome coach. And that is what it is all about at the end of the day. He’s a class act, as is their Athletic Director, Chris DeMarco.”

Sweet Home graduates 21 seniors, but returns playmakers, Evert and Zaffram.

email: pnagy@beenews.com

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