VIDEOS/PHOTOS: Lourdes fights to finish in final loss

VIDEOS/PHOTOS: Lourdes fights to finish in final loss

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VIDEOS/PHOTOS: Lourdes fights to finish in final loss

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Lourdes' Dean Rotger runs the ball ahead of South Park's Leelan Coleman during the New York State Championship final in Syracuse on Friday.

Lourdes’ Dean Rotger runs the ball ahead of South Park’s Leelan Coleman during the New York State Championship final in Syracuse on Friday.

Lourdes' Billy Wagner gets tackled by South Park's Tyree Brown during the New York State Championship final in Syracuse on Friday.

Lourdes’ Billy Wagner gets tackled by South Park’s Tyree Brown during the New York State Championship final in Syracuse on Friday.

Lourdes' Joe Scaglione runs the ball during the New York State Championship final versus South Park in Syracuse on Friday.

Lourdes’ Joe Scaglione runs the ball during the New York State Championship final versus South Park in Syracuse on Friday.

Lourdes' Luke Timm carries the ball away from South Park's Daryl Moore during the New York State Championship final in Syracuse on Friday.

Lourdes’ Luke Timm carries the ball away from South Park’s Daryl Moore during the New York State Championship final in Syracuse on Friday.

Lourdes' Luke Timm carries the ball into the end zone during the New York State Championship final versus South Park in Syracuse on Friday.

Lourdes’ Luke Timm carries the ball into the end zone during the New York State Championship final versus South Park in Syracuse on Friday.

Our Lady of Lourdes' football team after the New York State Championship final versus South Park in Syracuse on Friday.

Our Lady of Lourdes’ football team after the New York State Championship final versus South Park in Syracuse on Friday.

Lourdes' Christopher Salotto gets tackled by South Park's (from left) Nick Schaefer and Mike Mcdonald during the New York State Championship final in Syracuse on Friday.

Lourdes’ Christopher Salotto gets tackled by South Park’s (from left) Nick Schaefer and Mike Mcdonald during the New York State Championship final in Syracuse on Friday.

SYRACUSE – Billy Wagner held back tears as he spoke, his high school football career having just ended in heartbreak.

Lourdes', from left, Steven Debellis and Colin Flynn console eachother after the New York State Championship final versus South Park in Syracuse on Friday.

Lourdes’, from left, Steven Debellis and Colin Flynn console eachother after the New York State Championship final versus South Park in Syracuse on Friday.

“We fought our hearts out,” the Our Lady of Lourdes senior said. “We have nothing to be ashamed about.”

Words of solace for himself and his teammates. Words of comfort to a community — rather, a county — that had rooted hard for the Warriors.

But, simply, they were words of truth.

As it had so many times this season, Lourdes fought back. As it proved so many times this season, there seemed to be no lead insurmountable, no opponent too good.

But the Warriors’ second-half rally, as well as their bid to become Dutchess County’s second state football champions ever, came up just short on Friday. Lourdes fell to South Park of Buffalo, 49-46, in the Class A state championship  at the Carrier Dome.

So ended a remarkable season that brought the Warriors  further than this program had ever been. No team from Dutchess had made a state final since Dover won the Class C title in 1997.

“It’s tough losing the last game, knowing it’s the end,” senior Nick Santacroce said. “But if you’d told me three months ago that we’d be here, I wouldn’t have believed it.”

Rotger to Timm: Dynamic duo connects one last time

Lourdes wide receiver Luke Timm set a state championship record with 18 receptions, the last of which kept his team’s hopes alive late.

Senior quarterback Dean Rotger found Timm on a hitch for a 7-yard touchdown that pulled Lourdes within 49-46 with 2:53 left. Though the ensuing two-point conversion pass attempt failed, the Warriors still had life.

But South Park recovered an onside kick and, with 1:22 remaining, Tyree Brown’s 8-yard completion on a third-and-7 gave the Sparks a first down. It was “the nail in the coffin,” Wagner said, enabling them to run out the clock on Lourdes’ season.

“We didn’t play badly,” Warriors coach Brian Walsh said. “We played a better team and they came up with more plays than we did.”

Rotger threw for 408 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for two touchdowns. Timm had 277 receiving yards and three touchdowns. The senior also had two interceptions at cornerback.

The Warriors (10-3) played from behind for much of the game, and dug itself out of a deficit that ballooned as large as 17 points.

VIDEO: Walsh transformed Lourdes, Dutchess football through sacrifice

“Looking up at the scoreboard every time,” said Santacroce, who had an interception, “we never once got discouraged.”

And that was the mark of this team.

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association divides football teams into five different competitive levels, based on the size of the school’s enrollment. Class AA is the largest, ‘A’ is the second-largest, and ‘D’ is the smallest.

As a private school that had extensive previous success at the Class B level, Lourdes was shifted to Class A competition against its wishes before the season. Still, despite larger opponents, Lourdes showed resolve, and pulled four successive upsets in the playoffs to reach this point.

How Dover became Dutchess’ only state football champion

The Warriors scored first in the state final, going up 6-0 on Joe Scaglione’s 4-yard touchdown run with 11:15 left in the second quarter.

Turnovers and near misses slowed South Park early. A dropped pass in the end zone and overthrows of open receivers hampered their offense. But, what was immediately evident was the Sparks’ game-breaking speed.

That manifested in the second quarter when Brown began an offensive onslaught that included four touchdowns in the period, three of which went for more than 50 yards. His 60-yard bomb to Daryl Moore and the subsequent two-point conversion put South Park (12-1) ahead for good, 8-6, with nine minutes left in the second.

South Park led 29-12 at halftime. But each time it seemed the Sparks had the game in hand, the Warriors charged back. Rotger’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Timm pulled them within 29-26 in the third.

“We could’ve given up halfway through this game and gotten blown out,” Rotger said. “But this team has character and I’m proud of that.”

Lourdes' Dean Rotger and Liam Hilderbrand celebrate a touchdown during the New York State Championship final versus South Park in Syracuse on Friday.

Lourdes’ Dean Rotger and Liam Hilderbrand celebrate a touchdown during the New York State Championship final versus South Park in Syracuse on Friday.

Tired and tearful, the team huddled one last time on the field, and each member expressed his appreciation for the other.

“That’s what I’ll take from this, how we fought this season from Week 1,” Wagner said. “When we lost to Yorktown, people thought it was a sign of things to come. But we came back and showed the whole section what we’re about.”

On Friday, they showed the state.

Stephen Haynes: shaynes@poughkeepsiejournal.com, 845-437-4826, Twitter: @StephenHaynes4 

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