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Tuesday, 24 November 2015 12:18

Heading to States: Saratoga Streaking To Title Game!

By | Sports

Win Over New Rochelle 32-29 Decided In Last Minute

KINGSTON – If you want to show someone why Americans love football so much, you need only show them the footage from this game. 

 

This wild one had everything: dramatic offensive running and passing scoring plays, lead changes, defensive scores and red zone stands, and ultimately, a well-timed whistle to wipe out an apparent game-tying field goal and secure victory in the last minute.

 

Bottom line: The Saratoga Springs Blue Streaks will be heading to the Carrier Dome for their first Class AA title game next Sunday, November 29, at 3 p.m., by virtue of a 32-29 victory that gave a whole new meaning to the expression ‘nail-biter’, over Section I powerhouse New Rochelle. The 2015 Blue Streaks are also the first Saratoga team to go 11-0, and secured their first-ever State Playoff victory. In doing so, they also avenged their 2009 semifinal loss to New Rochelle. They will face Aquinas of Rochester in the title game. 

 

The first quarter was a frenetic scoring slugfest, with 33 points registered by the two teams – on both offense and defense. DB Keelan Thomas got New Rochelle on the board first, with a 42-yard pick-six to put the Huguenots up 7-0 with 8:33 to go. But just 19 seconds later, as they had done following an initial score by Shaker in the Section II Class AA championship two weeks ago, Saratoga had the answer: Dakota Harvey. 

 

Harvey accelerated away from the entire New Rochelle defense for a 76-yard rushing TD. A missed extra point made the score 7-6, New Rochelle, who answered with some fireworks of their own: A 62-yard TD pass from QB Greg Powell to WR Dwayne White-Edney, just over the outstretched fingers of Saratoga DB Ryan Manlapaz extended New Rochelle’s lead to 14-6. 

 

Saratoga had the answer again – this time on both offense and defense. QB Brian Williams found WR Nick Kondo alone in the end zone for a 30-yard scoring pass with 1:53 to go and cut New Rochelle’s lead to 14-13. 

 

The Blue Streaks took their first lead with 10 seconds left in the quarter, when Harvey, playing linebacker on defense, forced the ball from Powell’s hands. It squirted free, into the waiting arms of LB Eric Stone, who returned the interception 43 yards to put Saratoga up 19-14. Saratoga’s two missed extra points would later prove to set up some end-of-game dramatics, but there was still plenty of football (and highlights) to come before that point – again, this was just the end of the first quarter!

 

In the second quarter, Harvey extended the Blue Streaks’ lead to off his second touchdown, an 11-yard run that increased the margin to 11, 25-14, when Saratoga missed on a two-point conversion attempt with 3:41 to go in the half. New Rochelle’s Thomas, at RB, answered with a 15-yard run of his own with 1:53 left. The Huguenots successfully went for a two-point conversion, cutting Saratoga’s margin to three points, 25-22 at the half. 

 

The third quarter was characterized by New Rochelle driving deep into the Saratoga red zone three times (extending into the fourth quarter), only to be frustrated by the Blue Streak defense each time and holding on to their slim three-point lead. This, however, meant that Saratoga’s offense had to operate in the shadow of its own goal posts. They were unable to get anything started from there, and on the third possession following a stop, Saratoga fumbled the ball out of a wildcat formation to New Rochelle on its own 1-yard line. This was too much for the defense to stop and New Rochelle broke through on a 1-yard run by Jared Baron to regain the lead, 29-25 with 7:39 remaining. 

 

Saratoga showed it was not done, however. Getting decent field position for the first time in the second half, Williams (who had gone down briefly with an injury earlier in the quarter on defense during Saratoga’s third stop) scrambled and threw a 52-yard bomb, which seemed to hang in the air forever, to Ryan Manalpaz, who went out at New Rochelle’s 3-yard line. Two plays later, Williams found Robert Haughton with a 6-yard TD pass, as the Blue Streaks regained the lead, 32-29 with 5:24 left. 

 

Once again, New Rochelle came out driving. Eventually, following some key plays by Saratoga’s Brandon Hipsley, they were stopped in the red zone again at Saratoga’s 10-yard line, setting up a potential 27-yard tying field goal with 43 seconds left. The kick went through the uprights – but Saratoga’s Coach Terry Jones had used a well-timed timeout to negate the kick. New Rochelle’s second attempt sailed wide to the right, and Saratoga ran out the clock to punch its ticket to Syracuse next week.  

 

Saratoga won in characteristic fashion – a balanced attack (168 yards rushing and 215 passing) and several big-play contributors on both sides of the ball. With the victory, the key number for their fans is now eight: The number of days until the biggest game in Blue Streak history, and they number of days they have to grow their nails back. 

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