KINGSTON – Back in August, coach Brian Walsh had the Our Lady of Lourdes High School football team create a checklist. The players would come up with goals, for themselves and the team, and that would serve for them as a written reminder and a constant motivator.
“Honestly,” defensive end Sean McDowell said, “our goal back then was just to get to the section championship.”
Despite having won two of the previous three Section 1 Class B titles, the Warriors all understood the challenges of moving up to Class A. So the objective then was relatively modest.
“But then we got there and won,” McDowell said of the section final. “So then the goal changed and we updated the checklist. We wanted to get to the Dome, and now we got that.”
So, after defeating Amsterdam 47-27 on Friday night in a state Class A semifinal, there now is a checklist of another sort:
- Gather food and supplies and pack for a road trip to Syracuse
- Make hotel arrangements
- Prepare for the opponent and cram practice into a short week
- Cram Thanksgiving dinner before hopping on the bus
Lourdes, after advancing to the state final for the first time in program history, will face Section 6 champion South Park at 3 p.m. Friday at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.
And the plan, for now, is for the Warriors to make the 230-mile trip up north late Thursday afternoon. “We don’t want to travel four hours then have to play a game the same day,” Walsh said.
The team will study film and begin installation of its game plan on Monday, then they’ll have full-tilt practices on Tuesday and Wednesday. Some families intend to dine early on Thursday, before the trip, and others said they would rather have a non-traditional dinner in Syracuse.
That Lourdes has these logistics to consider — that its campaign has extended into the holiday season — is reason enough for them to be thankful.
“We’re still here!” senior Luke Timm said excitedly. “It’s just us and one other team. This is the moment we’ve been waiting for.”
What awaits them is a showdown with a South Park team that upset Section 4 champion Maine-Endwell, 43-26, snapping the Spartans’ 62-game win streak.
And in the other semifinal…
Dean Rotger threw for 298 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another score, and Joe Scaglione rushed for 177 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Warriors (10-2).
“This means everything,” said receiver Corey Mullaly, who had a 28-yard touchdown catch. “This is the biggest win in Lourdes’ history.”
Scaglione’s 2-yard touchdown gave the Warriors a 47-27 lead with 5:49, and Timm intercepted a pass with 4:43 left to seal the win.
Billy Wagner and Chris Mulvey each caught touchdown passes and Timm had 105 receiving yards, despite aggravating a sprained knee he sustained last month.
“We’re one of only two teams left in this class,” Rotger said. “If you don’t believe in us now, then I don’t know.”
There can’t be too many more doubters remaining. Because with each step forward on this remarkable run, the Warriors have looked less like the little engine that could and more like a steaming locomotive.
Amsterdam, too, entered this game bearing an “underdog” label. They lost their first three before reeling off seven straight victories to reach this point. But they ran into a Lourdes team that, quite simply, was more talented and better prepared.
The Rams did pull within 35-27, scoring six seconds into the fourth quarter on Bryan Stavanich’s 13-yard touchdown run. But Lourdes, again, responded.
Amsterdam struck first on Stanavich’s 65-yard touchdown run off a sweep left with 5:18 left in the first quarter. Lourdes pulled within 7-6 on Scaglione’s 1-yard touchdown — burrowing in off left guard — as time expired in the first.
The Rams went up by eight, but the Warriors tied it at 14 on Rotger’s touchdown to Mullaly, followed by a two-point conversion pass to Mulvey. Rotger’s 1-yard touchdown put them up for good, 21-14, with 3:21 left in the second quarter.
And really, that has been the mark of this team all season — its stern resilience and ability to respond even when on the precipice of defeat. As the players celebrated at Dietz Stadium, posing for photos with friends and family, an ecstatic Anthony D’Urso howled into the cold night: “We’re going to the Dome, baby!”
And Lourdes’ run has gone from a magical ride to a methodical march.
Stephen Haynes: email@example.com, 845-437-4826, Twitter: @StephenHaynes4