Stevens: Extra push lifts Spartans to new heights

Stevens: Extra push lifts Spartans to new heights


Stevens: Extra push lifts Spartans to new heights



First off, let it be known that someone neglected to share the pre-game script for Saturday’s state championship football contest with the young men in Glens Falls uniforms.

Secondly, let that put in perspective just how far superior Maine-Endwell truly was to all comers in this, a ground-breaking season of excellence that was every drop as extraordinary as it was expected.

Maine-Endwell wins by 42-12, yet its personnel fielded post-game questions regarding the uncharacteristic difficulty experienced putting away the Indians.

Right, they put a 30-point hurting on a team that rolled in with 11 consecutive wins — in a state final, For Rockne’s Sake! — yet the Spartans are asked about some tight spots escaped along the way.

Thing is, the questions were legitimate.

See, that’s the M-E monster that was created, on the practice field and in the weight room and during film study and on game days. These Spartans were that good, and so something along the lines of a semi-tenuous nine-point lead and first-and-10 at their 4-yard line with inside two minutes left in the third quarter was indeed a rarity.

“When it gets to that point, we know we just have to push harder,” said Jake Haddock, center/tackle and the premier lineman not named Jones that Section 4 has seen in some time.

“We know we always have that little bit of extra that we put in there in the offseason, over the summer and everything. We know how to dig down and get that, so when it gets to that point it’s just a matter of reaching down there and grabbing it, being ready to do what we need to do.”

“What was going through my mind was, if we score here that’ll put them away,” said Kyle Gallagher, who quarterbacked Maine-Endwell at a level just a bit higher than he’d quarterbacked the Spartans in any previous game.

So what happens?

Gallagher, 6-foot-5 and extremely effective-if-something short of, say, graceful-looking when running with the football, rips off 20 second-down yards to the 27. Nick Sorrenti bashes for 5 on the final play of the third quarter, and then Maine-Endwell morphs back into Maine-Endwell.

Gallagher, Justin Jacoby and Gallagher log successive 14-yard rushes, and Jacoby jukes past the final defender inside the 5-yard line to complete a 26-yard scoring run and, with Stephen Pham’s PAT kick, made it 28-12 with 1:09 of the final quarter elapsed.

Beginning with that that 96-yard, state championship-worthy march, what had been a highly competitive and riveting football game gave way to, oh, Week 5 against Johnson City or Week 9 against Norwich.

Glens Falls, in state playoffs for the first time since ’93, was finished.

The Indians had played sound football, surprisingly sound to many who’d not seen M-E tested to that extent, but pretty clearly had been worn down.

Of what crossed his mind just before that critical 96-yard demonstration of will, coach Matt Gallagher said: “Just do what we’ve done all year. Our mid-line was working very well. We wanted to get it up the field a little bit, and get it in the hands of the people who got us where we are today.

“We just tried to do what we’ve normally done — and it worked out a little bit.”

Yeah, a wee bit.

Subsequent M-E scores were turned in by Jacoby and, rightfully, by Luis Uceta.

Uceta’s came on a 47-yard rush with 4:58 remaining, a fitting final high school carry for a young man who’s figured immeasurably into what this program has become but who has been operating at far less than full capacity since having an ankle dinged up weeks ago.

Those who’ve seen the young man play football at max-capacity know the difference between the Luis Uceta that awed spectators with his speed and elusiveness, and the player who gamely gutted it out on a bum wheel. Those who’ve conversed with him, who’ve seen the 200-watt smile flashed so readily, were thrilled to see him cross the goal line one last time.

And do not be misled by that 19-yard rushing output that Sorrenti’s seven rushes netted. His man-sized reputation preceded him.

Glens Falls defenders were bent on not letting 240 pounds worth of stud fullback be the deciding factor in this game, and did one fine job of containing Sorrenti. However, those 309 rushing yards from Jacoby and Kyle Gallagher — particularly Kyle’s 152 following an inside path after tugging from Sorrenti’s belly — were the consequences.

“We figured they’d try to take away Nick — and they did. But that allows Kyle to get up the field a little bit,” coach Gallagher said.

Come 5:44 p.m. on 11/24/2012, Maine-Endwell had tucked away the state championship that was presumed to be theirs since 11/25/2011, the day the Spartans rallied past Burnt Hills on the same synthetic surface to claim the Class A title.

Haddock, whose three tackles for negative-yardage outnumbered Glens Falls’ team total, was asked to complete the following sentence: If we did not win this game …

” … This season probably would have been a disappointment,” Haddock said. “We knew coming into the season that this is what we were coming to do, win a state championship. Our shirts, they had 13 rings on the back of them. Each ring symbolized a week, and the 13th ring was the Dome. That’s been our goal since Day 1.

“If we hadn’t gotten there, no matter how well we did the rest of the season, I don’t think it would have been the same season.”

The guy is Ivy League-bound, with the University of Pennsylvania thankful recipient of his future services, and speaks the part of an Ivy Leaguer.

And now, may these Spartans celebrate, in their customarily dignified, unified and humble fashion.

It’s a celebration richly deserved.


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