It was the slimmest of margins. But, then that’s all it takes. The Amsterdam Rugged Rams were in a close contest with the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Spartans in a Class A semi-final Friday night at Lynch Literacy Academy field trailing 20-13 and facing a third and goal at the BHBL one yard line. AHS quarterback Tony Isabel took the snap and lunged forward. It appeared for a fraction of a second that he had scored, but he was ruled down at the one. Moments later on fourth and goal, a fumble in the end zone recovered by Burnt Hills gave the Spartans the stop they needed to pull away for a 30-13 win.
“It’s a game of inches,” said Amsterdam head coach Doug Edick. “We knew coming in that you have to execute against a team like Burnt Hills. Football is a game of inches. Our kids they did put up a fight. They left it on the field.”
Amsterdam struck first in the opening quarter and on their first play from scrimmage. After the AHS defense led by James Valentin, Brady McGillin, Austin Brock, Elijah Newborn, and Dale Stanavich forced the Spartans to punt after only three plays, Bryan Stanavich picked up where he left off last week against Gloversville.
Stanavich took a hand off from Isabel and broke two tackles, spun away from another, and then flew down the near sideline with his teammates and an increasing AHS crowd roaring behind him for a 57 yard touchdown run. Marcus Pritchard kicked the extra point and with 10:14 left in the first quarter the Rams had a 7-0 lead. Then, what initially looked like a game featuring two talented offenses became a defensive struggle.
Both teams had their next drives stall at midfield. Brian Swank’s punt pinned BHBL inside their own 20, but the Spartans talented running backs Michael Leveroni and Johnny O’Donnell began eating up yardage. That ended on third and three when O’Donnell was tackled for a loss by Elijah Newborn.
The ensuing punt pinned AHS inside their own ten yard line. Amsterdam went three and out and a punt return by Maxwell Charlton to the AHS 14 set up the Spartans first score.
Leveroni moved it to the one yard line and then on the next play put it in the end zone. Ethan Perragaux added the extra point tying the score with 9:23 left in the first half. The Spartans defense forced Amsterdam to punt on their next drive as well and Leveroni helped set up the next BHBL touchdown picking up a first down on third and one putting the ball on the AHS 15 yard line.
The Spartans had good field position starting the drive at the AHS 35. Tyler Dowdle joined Leveroni and O’Donnell in gaining yards before quarterback John Clayton found O’Donnell for a 15 yard touchdown pass. Perragaux connected again for the extra point and BHBL led 14-7 with 4:05 left in the half. That was more than enough time for the Rams to respond.
Brian Swank’s catch and a BHBL interference penalty on AHS’ next drive set up Pritchard for a 37 yard field goal as time expired in the half.. Amsterdam trailed 14-10 and came out saying ‘this is our half’ after the intermission. They were determined to make that happen.
Bryan Stanavich took a pass from Isabel and soared from the AHS 30 to the BHBL 12 yard line early on the Rams next drive. That play led to a 28 yard field goal by Pritchard and AHS trailed by only one 14-13. The momentum however, would quickly change.
The Spartans responded on the very next play. O’Donnell took the kickoff and rumbled 80 yards for the score and BHBL led 20-13. Amsterdam had tackled well most of the night but special teams play wasn’t a strong point.
“We had a special teams breakdown,” said Coach Edick. “We missed some tackles, and you have to execute against these teams.”
The Rams next offensive drive stalled and the Spartans moved the ball down field once again reaching the AHS 13, but the Rams defense held strong getting key tackles by Newborn, McGillin and Brian Cranker. An incomplete pass on fourth down gave the Rams offense a chance to tie the game one again.
Isabel completed a key fourth down pass play to Keenan Holloway that kept the drive going as the third quarter ended. Holloway’s acrobatic catch on the first play of the fourth quarterback put the ball at midfield. Two plays later, Bryan Stanavich raced down the sideline before stepping out of bounds at the BHBL two yard line. The stage was set for the key sequence. The fumble on fourth down was the turning point.
“I thought if we could just get that one time,” said Spartans head coach Matt Shell. “That sequence was good for us. Our kids played amazing against a great football team. We told them it’s going to be four full quarters and we made some big plays as a result.”
The Spartans went on the move again reaching the AHS nine. Amsterdam’s defense would not let them in the end zone and BHBL settled for a 25 yard field goal by Perragaux with 6:31 left to play.
“Our kids played with heart,” said Coach Edick. “The defense played with heart. It’s been fun watching them grow. ”
BHBL stopped the Rams next drive on an interception by Charlton. The Spartans tacked on a late touchdown with a three yard run by Leveroni producing the final score 30-13.
The game marked a pair of milestones for a couple of Rugged Rams. Tony Isabel reached second all time in school history in passing on a completion to Holloway. Junior Bryan Stanavich became the all time leader in rushing topping Darien Ward’s mark. Isabel played his last game in an AHS uniform as did Marcus Pritchard who has over 100 extra points in his AHS career.
“I’t’s about the experience,” said Pritchard after the game. “It’s about the future. AHS is taking steps in the right direction. We kept fighting all the way. And that’s the thing about football. It’s more than just a game.”
(Photos by Scott Mulford)