By Ben Westcott, Chronicle Staff Writer
In the quarterfinals of the Section II Class B football playoffs, Glens Falls junior quarterback Brody Holcomb broke a school record with seven touchdown passes in a 48-14 win over Ichabod Crane.
But in Friday’s semi at Putt LaMay Memorial Field, the story was the Glens Falls defense, which held Schalmont scoreless in a 20-0 victory.
Frequently the home PA announcer described a Schalmont rusher as being taken down by a “stampede of Black Bears.”
Lunging defensive back Kellen Driscoll knocked down a sure Schalmont touchdown pass.
And in perhaps the biggest stop of the game, linebacker Ralph Maldonado stripped the ball from a Schalmont ball carrier inside Glens Falls’ five-yard line as the Sabres threatened to tie the game in the third quarter. Defensive lineman Jakob Pregent pounced on the loose ball.
A big night for the Black Bear defense indeed.
“They played great and they came up with an opportunistic turnover,” Glens Falls Head Coach Pat Lilac said. “They had short field to defend, and I thought they did a great job the whole game.”
With the victory Glens Falls moved to 9-0 on the season and advances to the Section II title game against Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk (10-0) on Saturday, Nov. 11, at 11 a.m. at Guilderland High School.
Glens Falls’ first two drives were hampered by two illegal man downfield penalties, a false start, and an illegal motion.
The Black Bears caught a lucky break in their second drive when a would-be interception fell through the hands of two Schalmont players.
Glens Falls’ third possession was much more fruitful, as the Black Bears drove 70 yards for a touchdown. Holcomb connected with Oscar Lilac for a big throw down the middle. Senior Skyler Sturdevant ran for three first downs. Schalmont was whistled for taunting after a big hit and for pass interference on a big third down.
The drive culminated with Holcomb’s toss to Jordan Baker for a six yard touchdown. Bryce McClenning booted the extra point and just like that the Black Bears were up 7-0 with 1:57 left in the first half.
Early in the second half, it looked like Schalmont was about to seize momentum. Holcomb had Baker open far downfield on third down, but Baker dropped the ball. Schalmont’s Isaiah Smith returned the ensuing punt off of one bounce for serious yardage. A facemask penalty at the end of the play allowed the Sabres’ possession to start at the Black Bear 25 yard line. Two plays later, Schalmont’s Vinny Zido broke some tackles running around the end to advance the ball to the Glens Falls five.
That’s when Glens Falls’ Maldonado stripped Landen Callahan of the ball, and Pregent secured the crucial turnover.
“That was the game right there, being able to get a stop after they had a really short field,” Coach Lilac said. “That fumble was key.”
Also key was what happened after the fumble — the Black Bears drove 97 yards for their second touchdown of the game.
That drive featured plenty more bruising runs by Sturdevant and a big throw from Holcomb to Driscoll down the sideline. It was capped off with a nine yard pass from Holcomb to Lilac, putting Glens Falls up 14-0 early in the fourth quarter.
On the ensuing possession Schalmont’s Smith fumbled and defensive back Dylan Baker recovered the ball for Glens Falls.
The Black Bears then drove 45 yards for their third score of the night, Sturdevant punching the ball in from the one yard line. The point after was blocked. Glens Falls was up 20-0 with 2:59 remaining.
Schalmont’s last ditch effort to get on the board took the Sabres all the way to Glens Falls’s three-yard line, but Driscoll batted the ball to the turf on an attempted touchdown pass, and the Black Bears were able to take a knee to end the game.
“I thought it was a real gritty win by us,” Coach Lilac said. “They came in with a good plan to take Kellen out of the game. They doubled him every single play.”
He noted that Driscoll was still able to get open and had a couple key catches.
“Skyler Sturdevant did a really good job,” the coach added. “He was tough. They had a light box with the double teaming of Kellen, and we kind of figured going into the game that if they have five men in the box we’ve got to run it. And Skyler was a beast tonight.
“That’s probably more carries than Skyler had the entire year combined. He seemed like he got stronger as the game went on. And the offensive line was just pushing them.”
Lilac said that going into the year the offensive line was the big question mark. “So we’re just really proud of how they’ve come along. We’ve had some guys get hurt up front and different guys have stepped in, and they haven’t skipped a beat.”
Quarterback Holcomb said Schalmont’s main goal was to stop the pass. “So up front we dominated, and Skyler ran the ball great. We started off slow, but then Skyler really got our energy going.”
Sturdevant talked about the 97-yard touchdown drive in which he had a lot of crucial runs. “Basically it was the same play,” the senior running back said.
“It was ‘dive three’ after ‘dive three,’ and they just couldn’t handle it. Keep running it down their throat, and they’re going to get tired at some point.” He noted that the drive, which ate up about nine minutes of gametime, ran down a lot of clock. “That’s what we needed to win.”
In Sturdevant’s words the key to the running game was to “make sure you stay on your blocks, make sure you get downfield and run hard with your pads low.”
Sturdevant finished with 102 yards on 20 carries and the one-yard touchdown run. Holcomb was 11 of 14 for 122 yards and scoring passes of six and nine yards.
Other local sports
Warrensburg-Lake George-Bolton football (9-0) won its Section II Class D semifinal game, 69-15, over Cambridge-Salem. The Wolverines play Stillwater (8-1) Friday at Troy High at 11 a.m.
Lake George volleyball (15-3) repeated as Section II Class D champions with a 25-19, 25-7, 25-16 win over Hartford Saturday night at Saratoga Springs High School. The Lakers play a to-be-determined opponent in the regional final at Lake George Saturday, Nov. 11 at 2 p.m.
Fort Ann girls soccer won its Class D state regional final 4-0 against Livingston Manor on Wednesday at Mechanicville High School. The Cardinals (13-4-2) face off against Cincinnatus (20-0-1) at Homer High School in the state semifinals on Saturday, Nov. 11, at 2:30 p.m.
Queensbury junior Liam Davidson won the Class B boys race at the Section II Cross Country Championships at Queensbury. He ran 15:49.6 in the 3.1 mile race. He advances to the Class B Boys State Championships at Vernon Verona Sherrill High School this Saturday.
Glens Falls senior Liam Burgess placed fourth at sectionals with a time of 16:19.8, and will also compete in the state meet.
Other runners going to states include the Lake George boys, who won the Class D team title; Warrensburg senior Brody Olden, second in Class D; Queensbury senior Miranda Habshi, ninth in Class B girls; Schuylerville senior James Lynch and sophomore Adeline Ballou, second and first respectively in their Class C races; and Granville’s Amber Gibbs, who placed fourth among Class C girls.