By ROB JONAS
BURNT HILLS – Liam O’Mara stepped up in the biggest football game of the season for Queensbury.
The senior rushed for 180 yards and scored all of the Spartans’ points in a 42-21 victory over Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Friday, Oct. 12.
The victory clinched the Grasso Division title and home field advantage for the first two rounds of the Section 2 Class A playoffs for Queensbury (6-0 division, 7-1 overall), while dropping Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (5-1, 6-1) into the No. 2 seed.
“It’s the best team we’ve played all season, so we wanted to come in here and show them what we could do,” said O’Mara.
There was little that Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake’s defense could do to stop O’Mara. The 6-foot, 1-inch, 180-pound tailback consistently eluded tacklers and powered his way to touchdown after touchdown – six in all, plus three two-point conversion runs.
“He was a man possessed tonight – a man on fire,” said Queensbury head coach Matt Crossman.
What started with a bad bounce turned into an opportunity for Queensbury to show Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake what was in store. Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake’s opening kickoff took several hops off the Centennial Field turf before Queensbury recovered it at its 4-yard line and could not get a return on it.
O’Mara kicked off the ensuing series with a 21-yard run to get Queensbury out of trouble. He then converted a pair of fourth down runs to keep the 20-play drive going – a drive that ultimately took up the entire first quarter. O’Mara capped the series with a 2-yard touchdown run to start the second quarter, and he added the two-point conversion run to give Queensbury an 8-0 advantage.
“We had a couple of fourth down chances [to stop Queensbury],” said Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake head coach Matt Shell. “They made the plays on fourth down, and we didn’t.”
It took until the final two minutes of the second quarter for Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake to get on the scoreboard – an eternity for a team that averaged 46 points per game coming into Friday night’s showdown. Tailback Vincent Daviero broke free for an 8-yard touchdown run and caught the two-point conversion pass from quarterback Darien LaPietro to tie the score at 8-8 with 1:58 left.
Queensbury responded quickly to Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake’s touchdown. Jason Rodriguez returned the ensuing kickoff to Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake’s 24-yard line, and O’Mara scored on a 4-yard run two plays later to give Queensbury a 14-8 advantage.
“We put that [kick] return in this week,” said Crossman. “It’s something they had never seen [on film].”
Queensbury’s special teams unit came up big again in the third quarter when it blocked a Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake punt and recovered it at the opponent’s 9-yard line. O’Mara took the ball into the end zone on the next play and added his second conversion run of the night to give Queensbury a 22-8 advantage.
Needing to get back into the game, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake took to the air. LaPietro threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Rece Gobel with 8:29 left in the third quarter to trim Queensbury’s lead to 22-15. Following a Queensbury fumble, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake drove the field again – aided by a pair of unsportsmanlike penalties against Queensbury. LaPietro connected with Gobel for a 20-yard touchdown pass, but the extra point attempt failed, leaving Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake with a 22-21 deficit.
O’Mara saved his best for the final quarter. He spun his way through a couple of Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake tacklers on his way to a 16-yard touchdown run to start the fourth period and added the conversion run. Following a shanked punt attempt by Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, O’Mara busted through the defense again for a 31-yard run and scored on a 5-yard run two plays later to increase Queensbury’s lead to 36-21.
A fumble recovery by Connor Havern set up Queensbury’s final scoring drive of the night. Quarterback Nate Angell threw a 45-yard pass to Hunter Montgomery to get the ball deep into Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake territory. Four plays later, O’Mara scored his sixth touchdown with an 18-yard run to seal Queensbury’s victory.
Even though he was responsible for all of Queensbury’s points, O’Mara was quick to credit his offensive line for giving him lanes to run through.
“It’s not just on my own,” said O’Mara. “The offensive line did an amazing job blocking for me.”
Daviero rushed for 74 yards, and LaPietro threw for 85 yards for Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, which will host Columbia in the opening round of the Class A playoffs next weekend. Queensbury opens with LaSalle in the quarterfinals.
For a photo gallery from this game, click here.