Glens Falls football
Indians rally past No. 1 Batavia to capture second state title in three seasons.
As he slithered away from the final unsuccessful tackling attempts by a pair of Batavia defenders Saturday, Glens Falls sophomore running back Aalijah Sampson dashed forward to score his third touchdown and then got a celebratory lift skyward by tackle Kyle Vachon. The truth is the Indians had already taken flight long before that score.
In a contest that started completely going in top-ranked Batavia’s favor in the first quarter, Glens Falls made sure the final three quarters were completely in its favor.
Senior quarterback Joseph Girard III provided one final virtuoso performance on the gridiron in leading the Indians to a remarkable 55-32 victory over the Blue Devils in the Class B state football final at the Syracuse Carrier Dome.
Glens Falls (11-2) captured the program’s second state championship since 2016, and did so this time by overcoming a 14-0 deficit. Glens Falls joins Troy, Cambridge and Amsterdam as programs with multiple state championships won at the Carrier Dome since the full state playoff system began in 1993.
“This feels amazing. Words cannot describe how happy I am,” said Sampson, who rushed for 135 yards and four touchdowns.
“To do this once is incredible, but to do this twice in my high school career makes me speech-
less,” Vachon said.
“This team is special. It is such a tight group and it showed again in this game,” Glens Falls senior center/ nose guard Thompson Collins said. “We’ve been together since we were little kids. Our saying this year is ‘One heartbeat.’ We truly are that.”
The Blue Devils (12-1) left Glens Falls with palpitations during the first quarter as senior running back Ray Leach caught a touchdown pass and threw a touchdown pass to stake the Section V champions to a 14-0 advantage with 3:30 left.
Things got even worse as Batavia recovered an onside kick, but Girard started the comeback with an interception of a pass thrown by Leach at the Glens Falls 7. Two pass plays went incomplete to set up a thirdand-10 situation from the 7.
Girard scrambled away from trouble in the end zone and uncorked a long pass that junior receiver David Barclay caught and turned into a 60-yard gain. Girard later capped that series with an incredible 4-yard touchdown run on which he went right, reversed field back to the 30 and ran to the other sideline to score, but it was the pass to Barclay that truly jumpstarted the Indians.
“I went to the left side and the play wasn’t supposed to be run our way, so I just saw Joe scrambling, roll out and turn to his right,” Barclay said. “I tried to get behind my defender. Joe can really sling that thing.”
“I just trusted Dave. I know he was going to keep running,” Glens Falls coach Pat Lilac said. “He did a great job running to the ball and making the catch. It was a huge momentum swing.”
“That play was Joe,” Collins said. “Joe on the field told everyone to keep their heads up, that it wasn’t over at all. The line gave him some time. When we do that, he does some special stuff. That is exactly what he did on that pass.”
There were plenty more special things in store from Girard and Sampson as Glens Falls took a 21-20 lead into intermission. The Blue Devils lost starting quarterback Ethan Biscaro to a right knee injury in the first quarter and Batavia’s offense sputtered severely in the second quarter.
Girard marched the Indians down the field to open the third quarter, capping the drive with a 33-yard touchdown strike to Barclay on a fourth-down play. Girard, who earned the game Most Valuable Player award and received postgame congratulations from his soon-to-be college basketball coach Jim Boeheim, threw for 314 yards and two touchdowns and ran for two touchdowns.
“That kid is just unbelievable,” Vachon said of Girard. “I remember playing my first day of flag football with him. He was always a quarterback growing up. Even when he played basketball, he always wanted to be better than the average Joe. That is what he did, and that is what he showed today.”
Biscaro attempted to give it a go and he played two series, but consecutive sacks by Dylan Niro and Terrelle Bonner-welch knocked him out of the game. Leach, as he has done throughout the postseason, again ran wild on an opponent. This time, he accounted for 410 yards rushing and three touchdowns to go along with a 46-yard touchdown pass and a 28-yard touchdown reception. The bruising 215-pound senior, who amassed 474 yards rushing and eight touchdowns in the semifinals and 417 yards and eight touchdowns in the quarterfinals, could not do enough to deny Glens Falls.
“We were confident in our defense and we showed what we could do,” Girard said. “I am just really happy to be state champion and definitely doing it here at the Carrier Dome.”
“We stopped him enough,” Vachon said of Leach. “He could have 510 yards, but if you don’t put up enough points, you don’t win the game. We had Joe bail us out.”
The Indians produced 464 yards on 56 plays and scored eight touchdowns to effectively offset Leach’s exploits. Batavia had 538 yards.
“It just shows how good of an offensive team we are and how good Joe is,” Barclay said. “Trent had a great game. The O-line was amazing and Aalijah was running everywhere. A great effort all around.”
Lilac gladly toted the state championship plaque afterward. Unlike in 2016 when the Indians cruised to the state final and registered an epic 47-39 win over Chenango Forks, the 2018 team had overcome injuries and two losses to secure the state championship.
“That 2016 team was so talented. This team, we had to fight for everything we got,” Lilac said. “We had to deal with Burnt Hills and Queensbury. That kid right there (pointing to Trent Girard, who had seven receptions for 183 yards) epitomizes the blue-collar nature of this group. Even though we are a spread offense and go up and down the field at a fast pace, we have a blue-collar edge and it really represented Glens Falls and the way the town is.”
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Glens Falls’ Joseph Girard III, center, celebrates with the championship plaque after the Indians won the Class B state title on Saturday in Syracuse.
Glens falls’ terrelle Bonner-welch, right, sacks Batavia’s ethan Biscaro, who fumbled on the play on Saturday in Syracuse. Left, Glens falls’ Aalijah Sampson is lifted by Kyle Vachon after scoring one of his four touchdowns.