Inspired by my list of the Glens Falls area’s all-time greatest high school football games , we keep moving toward the present day for the great (and very good) games of the 1990s… Click back a couple of entries to find the top games of the 1960s, ’70s and '80s...
I remember many of these games, since I was finishing college and launching my sportswriting career in the early 1990s, and there were a lot of good ones in this decade. The decade of the '90s saw the first Persian Gulf War, the Clinton years, the rise of grunge music, and the rise and fall of the Metroland Conference, which lasted from 1989-94 and was the precursor to the current Section II classification play. Hudson Falls, Cambridge and later Queensbury rose as top programs, along with Saratoga, Lake George and Greenwich, which had their successful runs. There was the big, bad Glens Falls powerhouse of 1992, and teams like Fort Edward and Salem had their day. And the greatest game in Glens Falls area gridiron history was played -- the No. 1 vs. No. 2 overtime clash in 1998 between Queensbury and Amsterdam, a game I had the pleasure to cover.
On to the games:
Schuylerville 22, Stillwater 14, Sept. 15, 1990 at Schuylerville: Schuylerville’s Henry Weatherwax batted down Chris Cavotta’s final-play pass at the goal line to preserve the Black Horses’ season-opening win. The Warriors’ Cavotta had recovered a fumble at the Schuylerville 35 with 24 seconds left. Cavotta hit Shawn King with two passes to the 8, and Stillwater got its final play off with one second to spare.
Greenwich 36, Granville 28, Sept. 22, 1990 at Greenwich: What a way to christen a brand-new football field. After playing road games for two years while George “Jordy” Jackson Field was under construction, Greenwich opened its new field by rallying for a wild win over Granville. Trailing 28-21 in the third quarter, the Witches took the lead on Dave Klingbiel’s 22-yard TD run and Jim Carroll’s two-point conversion. Greenwich then used up a chunk of the fourth quarter on a 10-play, 93-yard drive to Klingbiel’s second TD. Granville threatened, but Jeff Scanlon’s INT with 2:30 left sealed the win. The Golden Horde led 22-15 at halftime after a back-and-forth first half, and took their 28-21 lead on Richard Tremblay’s third TD run of the game. Carroll rushed for 173 yards and Klingbiel had 97 for the Witches, with both backs scoring twice.
Fort Edward 21, Whitehall 16, Oct. 6, 1990 at Fort Edward: Andy Rose ran 11 yards for a TD with 56 seconds left, then Dan Ryan picked off a Jerry Arquette pass in the final seconds to preserve the Flying Forts’ upset of unbeaten Whitehall.
Johnstown 15, Glens Falls 14, Nov. 2, 1990 at East Field: This was a near-repeat of their 1989 game, won by Johnstown 13-9. This time, the Sir Bills’ QB was Brian Clawson, who passed for two fourth-quarter TDs, plus the game-winning two-point conversion with 37 seconds to play. Trailing 14-0 midway through the final period, Clawson hit J.B. Callery with scoring passes of 30 and 19 yards, then he connected with Bob Bean for the go-ahead conversion. The same night, Hudson Falls won its first-ever Foothills Council title with a hard-fought 21-14 win at Scotia, getting a 49-yard TD run by QB Steve Judge midway through the fourth quarter to snap a 14-14 tie.
Saratoga Springs 13, Shenendehowa 10, Nov. 17, 1990, Class A sectional final at Mont Pleasant: On a dreary, damp day, Saratoga QB Ryan Masterson suggested the counter pass on fourth-and-goal that led to the Blue Streaks’ second straight Class A sectional title. A Mark Delano interception in the fourth quarter started Saratoga’s go-ahead drive at the Shen 31. With 4:35 left in regulation, the Streaks faced fourth-and-goal from the 4-yard line. Masterson rolled right, avoided a sack attempt by Shen’s Brad Keatley, and fired the ball to 6-foot-5 receiver T.J. Reilly, who made a leaping grab just over the goal line for the TD, as Saratoga made it all the way back from a 10-0 first-quarter deficit. Masterson helped seal the Streaks’ victory with a late sack of Shen QB Paul Wilders.
North Rockland 17, Saratoga Springs 14, Nov. 24, 1990, state Class A regional game at Union College: For the second year in a row, Saratoga’s bid for a perfect 11-0 season came to a halt because of a placekicker. This time it was North Rockland’s John O’Riordan, who kicked a 37-yard field goal with six seconds left in regulation to beat the Blue Streaks. Mark Scirocco, Saratoga’s diminutive but brilliant 1,100-yard rusher, scampered for 130 yards and the TD that pulled the Streaks into a 14-14 tie with 1:16 left. However, North Rockland took advantage of a good kickoff return and a fake field goal on third down to get better field position for O’Riordan’s game-winner.
Granville 15, Stillwater 14, Sept. 28, 1991 at Granville: Most of the scoring came in a furious fourth-quarter finish as the Golden Horde pulled out a victory. Chris Mitchell’s pass was tipped by two Stillwater defenders before Chad Prevost made a diving catch in the end zone with 16 seconds to play, completing a 27-yard touchdown play on Mitchell’s only completion of the game. Granville’s John Stokowski then scored the winning two-point conversion on his only carry of the day.
Saratoga 14, Shenendehowa 10, Nov. 1, 1991 at Shen: Rich Darling scored from 3 yards out with 1:50 remaining to propel the Blue Streaks past Shen. The Plainsmen had the ball last, but on fourth-and-four from midfield, Darling and Jason Payant tackled Shen’s Jim Bensley on an option pass attempt to seal Saratoga’s win.
South Glens Falls 23, Columbia 16, Oct. 10, 1992 at South High: Entertaining game saw six lead changes, two kick returns for TDs, a hook-and-lateral play for a TD and a fake punt for a TD. The Bulldogs’ Eric Carpenter returned a punt 76 yards for a TD in the fourth quarter to give South High a 17-16 lead. Todd Gutheil hit Dan McGovern with a 36-yard TD on a fake punt with 1:25 left to seal the win. McGovern had scored on a 65-yard hook-and-lateral just before halftime.
Warrensburg 26, Fort Edward 20, Oct. 24, 1992 at Fort Edward: Trailing 20-6 midway through the third quarter, the Burgers scored 20 unanswered points in the final 13 minutes to clinch their first NAL Small-School Super Bowl berth since 1984. Two plays after Warrensburg’s Ron Zarczynski tied the score at 20-20 on a 2-yard TD run, Devin Durkin picked off the Forts’ Shamus Wykes and returned the ball to the Fort Edward 14. On the next play, Jon Welch ran for the go-ahead TD with just over three minutes to play.
* Honorable Mention * Warrensburg 8, Salem 6, Nov. 6, 1992 at Mechanicville: In the final Northern-Adirondack League Small School Super Bowl, Warrensburg prevailed in what may be remembered as the Mud Bowl, or at least, one of several classic weather-related games (remember Warrensburg’s 7-6 win over Fort Edward in the Snow Bowl in the 2002 Class D semifinals?). On this soggy Friday night in 1992, Burgers QB Darin Rafferty snuck in from a foot out with nine seconds left in regulation, and Jon Welch’s two-point conversion run gave Warrensburg the victory. Salem had opened a 6-0 lead on QB Ben McClellan’s 23-yard TD run in the second quarter. However, in the fourth quarter, Warrensburg made a huge goal-line stand after McClellan had run 10 yards for a first-and-goal inside the Burgers’ 1-yard line. McClellan was stuffed for no gain, 1,000-yard rusher Tracy Isom was thrown for a 2-yard loss, and McClellan lost 3 more yards on a sweep. On fourth down, McClellan’s pass for the end zone was broken up by Rafferty, giving the Burgers the ball to start their final 93-yard scoring drive. The Burgers converted two fourth downs and a third-and-long on the way to their winning TD and conversion.
Cambridge 7, Watervliet 6, Nov. 14, 1992, Class C sectional final at Bleecker Stadium: Upstart Cambridge stunned No. 1-ranked Watervliet in a defensive struggle that ended with Cory Record’s interception of a Cannoneers pass on the final play. The Indians had scored in the second quarter on Josh Woodworth’s TD pass to Record on fourth-and-three. It was the first of many Section II titles for Cambridge.
** No. 2 Greatest Game ** -- Cambridge 21, Saranac Lake 20, Nov. 28, 1992, state Class C semifinal at Hudson Falls. This was the game that spawned perhaps the single most amazing play in Glens Falls area history — two-back special pass, simply known as “The Play”– the double-lateral 80-yard touchdown pass that proved to be the decisive score. Quarterback Steve Dearstyne lateraled left to Rob Harrington, who threw another lateral back across the field to Cory Record. Record then launched a bomb down the right sideline to Aaron Peters, who completed the touchdown play with 1:53 left. Josh Woodworth’s PAT gave Cambridge a 21-20 lead. The TD completed the Indians’ rally from a 20-0 second-quarter deficit as they finished a 10-0-1 season with the No. 2 ranking in the state.
Saratoga Springs 14, Shenendehowa 10, Oct. 8, 1993 at Saratoga: Saratoga took advantage of a roughing the punter call to keep its go-ahead scoring drive alive. Blue Streaks QB Mark Migliori, the punter who was roughed, led a long TD drive capped by a 20-yard scoring run by Eric Taylor with 6:27 left for a 14-10 lead. Shen had one final chance, but Saratoga’s Greg Wallis and Bill Sass came up with big stops — Sass forced a fumble by Shen QB Dan Haver in the final minute to seal victory.
Johnstown 34, Hudson Falls 33, Oct. 16, 1993 at Hudson Falls: The Tigers pulled out to a 33-21 lead in the fourth quarter, but could not contain Johnstown QB Rich Willard. Willard shredded the Hudson Falls defense all day, completing 22 of 25 passes for 300 yards and three TDs, all to Adam Barnhart . Willard brought the Sir Bills back from deficits of 19-7 and 33-21. After Barnhart ran 4 yards for his fourth TD of the day, Tucker Slingerland kicked the go-ahead extra point with five minutes left in the game.
** No. 3 Greatest Game ** -- Greenwich 35, Cambridge 34, Oct. 16, 1993 at Cambridge. This backyard rivalry ran red-hot in the 1990s, highlighted by this gem that saw Greenwich drive 80 yards for the tying touchdown and winning PAT with less than two minutes to play. The Witches’ win snapped Cambridge’s 17-game unbeaten streak as Greenwich battled back from a 28-14 halftime deficit. With Chris Crowd and Ken Rice combining to rush for 249 yards, the Witches pulled into a 28-28 tie heading into the fourth quarter. The powerful Indians, the No. 1-ranked Class C team in the state, surged ahead on Rob Harrington’s option pass to Steve Townsend with 7:30 to play, but a bad snap cost them the PAT. Greenwich then drove for the winning score on QB Josh Kelley’s 4-yard bootleg and Heath Mullen’s tie-breaking PAT with 1:47 left. The Witches’ late-game heroics overshadowed an outstanding effort by Cambridge RB Sakima Grimes, who rushed for 203 yards and three TDs on 19 carries.
Granville 30, Hoosick Falls 29, Oct. 23, 1993 at Hoosick Falls: Trailing 21-0 at halftime, Granville roared back and pulled out a last-second victory. Todd Ellis connected with Chris Fleming on a 14-yard TD pass with 15 seconds remaining, then hit Nick Norton with the two-point conversion for the win. Ellis completed 19 of 21 passes for 185 yards and three TDs, including a go-ahead score to Matt Thomas for a 22-21 lead earlier in the fourth quarter. The Panthers took a 29-22 lead on Matt Tarjick’s 5-yard TD run with 1:50 remaining. Fleming sparked the Golden Horde’s comeback with a 90-yard kickoff return to start the second half, and an interception on Hoosick Falls’ next play to start a scoring drive.
Glens Falls 14, Scotia 8, Nov. 10, 1993, Class B sectional final at Shenendehowa: Big, bad Glens Falls, undefeated and unchallenged all season, got a scare from Scotia in the Section II title game. The Tartans drove into Glens Falls territory in the final minutes, threatening a tying TD. However, Chris Mays chased down and sacked Scotia QB Doug DiBlasio on fourth-and-four from the Glens Falls 21 with less than a minute to play to save the Indians from a nightmare ending. Corey Brand’s two TD runs had given Glens Falls a 14-0 lead, but Scotia cut the lead to 14-8 in the third quarter on Chris Buhrmaster’s short TD run.
Canajoharie 18, Fort Edward 16, Oct. 8, 1994 at Canajoharie: Canajoharie QB Chad Bowerman saved the Redskins on both sides of the ball in the closing minutes of this NAL contest. He drove Canajoharie to the go-ahead touchdown on his 1-yard plunge with 2:54 remaining, his third score of the day. Fort Edward responded with its own drive, and with a minute left, QB Pat Suprenant fired a pass over the middle to Rob Squires at the 2-yard line. Bowerman met him there and forced a fumble that was recovered by the Redskins' Eric Walker, allowing Canajoharie to run out the clock.
Fonda 28, Stillwater 26 (OT), Oct. 22, 1994 at Stillwater: Going into OT tied at 20-20 in this NAL showdown, each team had four shots from the 10-yard line (it was changed to the 20 a few years later). Fonda struck first with a 6-yard TD pass from Brian Melious to Mark Siegenthaler, with Melious tacking on the two-point conversion. Stillwater responded on Tom Tanner's QB sneak from the 5, but John Shook was halted on the two-point attempt to seal victory for the Braves. Fonda had rallied from deficits of 14-0 and 20-14, pulling into a 20-20 tie on David Crouse's 49-yard TD run early in the fourth quarter.
Rensselaer 21, Lake George 20, Nov. 4, 1994, Class D sectional final at East Side Rec, Saratoga: In a hard-fought Section II final, Lake George pulled within one point on Mike Burke’s 11-yard TD run and Justin Newell’s two-point conversion pass to Jesse Marcelletti with 3:24 left. The Warriors forced Rensselaer to turn the ball over on downs with 1:16 left, but on third down from its own 41, Lake George fumbled on a hook-and-lateral to end its final threat, as the Rams won their fifth straight Section II title.
* Honorable Mention * Saratoga Springs 35, Bishop Maginn 34 (OT), Nov. 4, 1994, Class A sectional final at Shen: At 5-4, Saratoga was certainly not expected to beat powerful, athletic Bishop Maginn for the Section II Class A championship, but the Blue Streaks led most of the game and had a shot to win in regulation. Rick Landry’s successful PAT kick in overtime proved the difference after the Griffins missed their attempt. Saratoga held leads of 14-0, 21-7 and 28-14 before Maginn rallied to tie the score on Brian Braxton’s 13-yard TD in the fourth quarter. Saratoga had two big plays called back by penalties and time ran out on the Streaks after QB Matt Robbens connected with Jim Pellett at the Maginn 4-yard line. In overtime, Maginn’s Rocky Bianchino hit a leaping Tyler Desmarais with a 9-yard TD pass, but a bad snap cost the Griffins the extra point. On Saratoga’s OT possession, Steve Rossi scored his third TD of the day, from 1 yard out, and Landry booted the extra point after a perfect snap and hold for the win. The Streaks went on to lose in the state semifinals.
Warrensburg 34, Whitehall 30, Oct. 7, 1995 at Whitehall: Facing unbeaten Warrensburg, the Railroaders rallied from a 28-8 deficit with 22 straight points. Sparked by freshman Joe Plude’s 12-yard interception return for a TD, Whitehall took a 30-28 lead with 6:30 to play on a pair of Paul Terry TD runs in the fourth quarter. However, the Burgers responded with Sam Bullock’s 22-yard TD run with 2:16 remaining to take the victory.
Shenendehowa 21, Saratoga Springs 20, Nov. 3, 1995, Class A sectional championship at Shenendehowa: Longtime Shen coach Brent Steuerwald gambled on a two-point conversion as the Plainsmen pulled out a thriller over undefeated Saratoga before an overflow crowd. Fakhree Munir scored on a 1-yard plunge with 2:17 remaining, then Dan Haver hit Jeremy Fitzgibbon in the end zone for the go-ahead conversion in the championship victory. Saratoga QB Matt Robbens had connected with Jim Pellett on a 5-yard TD pass with 7:16 left to put the Blue Streaks ahead 20-13. Shen drove for the go-ahead score to avenge a 21-14 loss to Saratoga two weeks earlier, when Derek Esposito’s late interception for the Streaks set up Steve Rossi’s winning TD run.
* Honorable Mention * Cambridge 33, Greenwich 25, Nov. 4, 1995, Class C sectional final at Colonie: This Class C sectional final was highlighted by Cambridge running back Sakima Grimes’ 201 yards and three TDs. Grimes’ final score came on a 1-yard run with 1:40 left for a 33-25 lead, but Greenwich’s Josh Wilcox blocked the PAT. Greenwich’s final drive ended with Don Record’s second interception of the game with 44 seconds remaining. This great overall game also saw Greenwich QB Wally Dow go 9-for-12 passing for 166 yards and three TDs.
Saranac Lake 28, Cambridge 27, Nov. 11, 1995, state Class C quarterfinal at Queensbury: Third time was charm for Saranac Lake, which had lost to Cambridge in regional play 1992 and '93. Neil Fortier ran 2 yards for a touchdown, then slithered in for the two-point conversion with 37 seconds remaining to lift Saranac Lake to the state playoff victory. In a back-and-forth game, Cambridge had scored twice in the fourth quarter, on Don Record’s TD pass to Sakima Grimes and Jim Brandalik’s TD run, to take a 27-20 lead with 4:53 left. Ryan Ratelle picked off Record’s long, last-ditch pass in the final seconds to end the game — and bring an end to Ken Baker’s legendary coaching career.
Lake George 22, Warrensburg 16, Sept. 28, 1996 at Warrensburg: The Burgers’ failure to put the game away in the second half came back to haunt them, as Lake George rallied from a 16-14 halftime deficit in the final minute. The Warriors erased a great game by Warrensburg on back-to-back pass plays from Joe Mondella to Damien Bundrick, an 18-yarder to set up a 17-yard scoring pass on the next play with 35 seconds left. After a successful two-point pass, Mondella recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff to seal Lake George’s win. The Burgers had come up empty inside the Warriors’ 5-yard line earlier in the second half.
Salem 22, Poultney 14 (OT), Oct. 5, 1996 at Poultney, Vt.: The Generals’ George Beebe came through all day for Salem, rushing 35 times for 142 yards, scoring the go-ahead TD from 3 yards out in overtime, catching the two-point conversion pass from Chris Justin, and intercepting Poultney’s last-ditch pass attempt on fourth down. The Blue Devils had tied the score in bizarre fashion with 43 seconds left in regulation, when a Salem player intercepted a pass, fumbled, and Poultney’s Phil Welch snagged the ball in mid-air and scored on a 10-yard return.
Mechanicville 29, Schuylerville 26, Oct. 5, 1996 at Schuylerville: In a back-and-forth battle, the visiting Red Raiders pulled out the win on Pat Sgambati’s 69-yard TD pass to Tony Miranda with 2:35 remaining. The Black Horses had taken a 26-23 lead only 45 seconds earlier, on Phil Myers’ 3-yard scoring run.
Greenwich 21, Cambridge 14, Oct. 12, 1996 at Cambridge: In a battle of Northern-Adirondack League unbeatens, the Witches survived a final desperate Cambridge drive that ended when Don Record’s fourth-down pass from the Greenwich 11 fell incomplete. Josh Wilcox had given Greenwich the lead on a 4-yard TD reception from Wally Dow with 3:54 left to play, capping a scoring drive set up by Ryan Bryant’s tackle of his cousin, Cambridge’s Jason Dyke, that jarred loose a fumble that was recovered by the Witches’ Jason Graves.
Albany 17, Saratoga Springs 14 (OT), Nov. 8, 1996, Class AA championship at Shenendehowa: Albany erased a 14-0 deficit with two second-half TDs to force overtime, then won on Brian Roache’s 30-yard field goal. Playing in a quagmire in a driving rain, Saratoga’s two second-half fumbles set up both Albany TDs, the second a 2-yard plunge by Mike Montejano with 22 seconds left in regulation, followed by a successful two-point conversion pass to send the game into OT knotted at 14-14.
Burnt Hills 13, Saratoga Springs 12 (OT), Sept. 6 and Oct. 13, 1997 at Saratoga Springs: In one of the most bizarre games in Section II history, Saratoga and Burnt Hills walked off the field on Sept. 6 thinking they had played a 6-6 tie. However, overtime had been initiated by Section II for all regular-season games in 1997, so they found a time to make up the OT session on a Monday afternoon later in the season. The Blue Streaks scored first on Josh Powers’ 4-yard run, but missed the PAT as the Spartans’ Brian Eidens got a piece of the ball. Jon George pulled Burnt Hills even with his 1-yard TD run, and the Spartans won the OT, separated from regulation by five weeks, on Matt Milnar’s extra-point kick.
Queensbury 21, Hudson Falls 14, Sept. 6, 1997 at Hudson Falls: Perennial Foothills Council doormat Queensbury opened a new era with its new double-wing offense under first-year coach John Irion. The Spartans ground out 240 rushing yards and opened a 21-6 halftime lead as they launched a memorable season. Dirk Buban's recovery of a bad punt snap gave Queensbury the ball on the Tigers' 9, leading to the Spartans' first TD as they rolled to their first win over Hudson Falls since 1985.
* Honorable Mention * Granville 36, Whitehall 34 (OT), Sept. 20, 1997 at Whitehall: In driving wind and rain, Whitehall roared back from a 28-6 halftime deficit to send the game into overtime. In OT, the Railroaders struck first on Tom Monty’s 7-yard run, but their two-point conversion run was stopped short. Granville scored on Aaron Torres’ 1-yard run and Dennis Cary’s conversion run for the thrilling win in this traditional rivalry game.
Queensbury 15, Ballston Spa 14, Oct. 10, 1997 at Ballston Spa: A fourth-quarter goal-line stand spearheaded by linebacker Joe Dufour preserved Queensbury’s lead, and made Brad Whelan’s 155 yards and two TD runs stand up for the Spartans. Whelan broke a 72-yard run to set up his own 5-yard scoring run with 8:18 left, and backup kicker Jerrett Higginbotham’s PAT gave Queensbury the lead for good. Led by Dufour, the Spartan defense stuffed Scotties standout Dan Vergine — who rushed for 227 yards on 30 carries — three times from the 2-yard line, then Vergine missed a field goal try with 3:49 left. They also halted a Ballston quarterback sneak on fourth-and-1 in the final minutes to end the Scotties’ final threat.
South Glens Falls 24, Gloversville 21, Oct. 11, 1997 at South High: With four seconds left in regulation, Chris Comisky calmly booted a 31-yard field goal to give the Bulldogs a victory over Gloversville in a back-and-forth game.
* No. 7 Greatest Game * -- Hudson Falls 28, Glens Falls 26, Oct. 17, 1997 at East Field. The Jug Game produced many memorable moments over the years, but it’s hard to top this one between these fierce rivals. This Jug Game ended in thrilling fashion, as Hudson Falls’ Chuck Fallen ran 3 yards for a TD with 16 seconds remaining. Fallen’s score capped a 16-play drive that included Chris Mound’s 10-yard run on fourth-and-nine from the Glens Falls 22 with 41 seconds left. Fallen rushed for 208 yards and all three Tigers TDs, and he carried the ball 10 times for 65 yards on the final scoring drive. Glens Falls had rallied from a 22-8 first-half deficit with three TDs, the last with 6:38 left in the game on Bob Sutphen's 5-yard pass to Jason Ryan for a 26-22 lead, but failed on all three conversions. It was the most recent time Hudson Falls won the Jug — the teams did not meet from 2005-09, and Glens Falls won its eighth straight Jug Game in 2010.
Fort Edward 49, Whitehall 44, Oct. 18, 1997 at Fort Edward: Jeff Durkee’s interception at the 5-yard line preserved the Flying Forts’ win in a wild game with Whitehall. Josh Plude (224 yards rushing) and Durkee had each scored three TDs for Fort Edward, but the Railroaders kept playing catch-up.
Salem 18, Poultney 14, Oct. 25, 1997 at Salem: In a hard-fought game that created a tie for the NAL Division III title, Salem’s George Beebe capped off a 12-play, 72-yard drive with a 1-yard TD plunge on fourth-and-goal with 56 seconds remaining. It was the Generals’ second TD in the final eight minutes of the game as they rallied from a 14-6 deficit.
Hudson Falls 7, Broadalbin-Perth 6, Nov. 1, 1997, Class B sectional semifinal at Broadalbin: In driving rain and mud, the inexorable force of B-P fullback Kevin Kowallo met the immovable object of Tigers linebacker Chuck Fallen. With time running out and the Patriots on the Hudson Falls 1-yard line, Kowallo plunged into the line on fourth-and-goal, but he was met and halted at the line by Fallen. Fallen’s huge hit preserved Hudson Falls’ victory in the Section II Class B semifinal game.
Greenwich 20, Cambridge 14, Nov. 8, 1997, Class D sectional final at Hudson Falls: Greenwich nearly saw a championship game it controlled slip away in the final minutes. The Witches had fumbled on the Indians’ 1-yard line, leading to a 99-yard scoring drive — capped by Marcus LaBombard’s 42-yard screen pass to Ben Watrous to pull Cambridge within 20-14. The Indians got the ball back on the Greenwich 45, but with 33 seconds left, Jim Griffith was halted by the Witches’ defense on fourth-and-3. With Cambridge keying on star Aaron Kuzmich, Steve Wilcox led the Witches with 159 yards and two TDs on the ground.
* Honorable Mention * Vestal 14, Queensbury 11, Nov. 29, 1997, state Class A championship game at Carrier Dome: A spirited effort by Queensbury nearly paid off with a state title in the Spartans’ first appearance. The Spartans had the ball at the Vestal 22 with 1:57 left in regulation, but a holding penalty set them back. Then, QB Mike Sipowicz’s fade pass for Dirk Buban bounced off Buban’s hands as he tried to make a diving catch at the goal line. On fourth down, Sipowicz was intercepted to end the Spartans’ final threat. Queensbury’s dominant running game was stifled by the Vestal defense, as the Spartans were held to 113 yards on 44 carries, more than 200 yards below their average. Twice, they were stuffed on fourth-and-short. The Golden Bears had taken a 14-11 lead on a 22-yard TD run and two-point conversion pass by QB Mike Young with 8:31 left in the game. Queensbury trailed 6-0 at the half, but scored on a TD pass from Sipowicz to Stacey Williams on a fake field-goal attempt, a conversion run by Nick Mehalick and a 27-yard field goal by Phil Klaiber for an 11-6 third-quarter edge. Queensbury’s defense did come up with three fumbles and made a goal-line stand in the first quarter against a very strong Vestal offense that outgained the Spartans in total yards, 321-201.
Glens Falls 21, Gloversville 14, Sept. 25, 1998 at Gloversville: Scrambling QB Mike Romeo capped a 64-yard, 11-play drive by scoring from 6 yards out with 34 seconds left in regulation, lifting the Indians to the dramatic win over Gloversville. That score answered the Huskies’ 84-yard TD pass from Uli Delgado to Justin DeMagistris that tied the score with 3:40 to play.
Ballston Spa 27, Hudson Falls 26, Sept. 26, 1998 at Hudson Falls: In an emotional, back-and-forth game, Hudson Falls came up short as a 21-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left with 12 seconds remaining. The Tigers had also suffered two crushing fumbles in the fourth quarter. They had fumbled at their own 3-yard line, which the Scotties immediately turned into a TD run by Mark Groff to take a 27-26 lead. Late in the fourth, Hudson Falls’ Luke St. Pierre, who rushed for 206 yards and three TDs, fumbled at the Ballston Spa goal line, with the Scotties recovering to preserve their lead. The Tigers’ final drive ended with the missed field goal.
** No. 1 Greatest Game ** -- Queensbury 36, Amsterdam 35 (OT), Nov. 7, 1998, Class A sectional final at Shenendehowa. This game was truly one for the ages. Amsterdam came in ranked No. 1 in the state, Queensbury was No. 2. It was a titanic clash of high-powered offenses and rugged defenses, size and speed, and it took overtime to separate the teams — and 6 inches to separate Queensbury from Amsterdam in this battle of unbeatens. There were eight lead changes or ties in the game, which Amsterdam led 29-22 with 8:51 left in regulation. The Spartans then marched 51 yards in 16 plays, converting four fourth-down situations, one a defensive holding call away from the play. The drive was capped by QB Mike Leonbruno’s 7-yard bootleg for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal. Matt Miller’s point-after kick tied the score at 29-29 with 1:09 remaining. With 24 seconds left, Leonbruno picked off Amsterdam’s Brendan Cudmore at the Queensbury 15 to send the game into overtime. Amsterdam won the coin toss and chose to defend first, but Howard scored from 10 yards out on the first play, with Miller kicking the PAT for a 36-29 lead. On the Rams’ turn, Cudmore hit a diving Eric Crane in the end zone with a 10-yard scoring pass to pull Amsterdam within one point. The Rams went for two and the win, but Angel Lopez was stuffed at the goal line by Josh Etu and Rob McArthur to end the game, sealing victory for the Spartans, who went on to the state finals for the second straight year. Two players who went on to the NFL faced each other in the game — linemen Adam Terry of Queensbury and Josh Beekman of Amsterdam.
Lake George 14, Moriah 7, Nov. 14, 1998, state Class D quarterfinal at Hudson Falls: Remembered for “The Drive,” the 94-yard march in the final minutes of this state quarterfinal game, which culminated in Tyler Frank’s 1-yard TD plunge with 30 seconds left. The Warriors trailed 7-6 and were led by sophomore QB Rob Bolen, who converted a fourth-and-13 with a 17-yard pass to Jeff Merrigan to keep the drive alive.
* No. 6 Greatest Game * -- Lake George 30, Delaware Valley 26, Nov. 20, 1998, state Class D semifinal at Dietz Stadium, Kingston. Lake George pulled off one of the biggest upsets in state football playoff history, beating Delaware Valley and star RB Fred Riullano, at the time the state’s all-time rushing leader. Warriors QB Rob Bolen led two second-quarter scoring drives for a 24-20 halftime lead they would not relinquish. Tyler Frank gave Lake George a 30-20 lead in the third, but other than a fumbled punt snap that gave Delaware Valley an easy touchdown, the downstate power could not solve the Warriors in the second half. Lake George became the first area small school to reach the state finals at the Carrier Dome, where it lost to Maple Grove.
Whitehall 32, Rensselaer 30, Sept. 17, 1999 at Rensselaer: Jim Saddlemire’s 30-yd TD pass to Jason Tucker with 1:42 remaining pulled the Railroaders into a tie, then Saddlemire hit Matt Foster for the go-ahead two-point conversion as Whitehall rallied to win. Whitehall had opened a 24-6 second-quarter lead before the Rams battled back to lead 30-24 in the fourth.
Whitehall 26, Salem 23, Oct. 2, 1999 at Salem: After jumping out to a three-TD lead, Whitehall had to hang on for a thrilling win over a Generals team that piled on the offensive yardage, but committed five turnovers. With less than five minutes to play, Salem’s Tom Yushak broke loose for an 85-yard run that ended when the Railroaders’ Matt Burger chased him down and tackled him at the Whitehall 10 — and stripped the ball, with Whitehall recovering to end the Generals’ final threat. Salem, which had racked up 438 total yards and 23 first downs, never got the ball back. Aided by Salem turnovers, Whitehall used three Jim Saddlemire TD passes to open a 26-8 lead in the second quarter before the Generals battled back behind the rushing trio of Yushak, Jared Slater and Curtis Nolan, who combined for 341 yards.
Lake George 22, Warrensburg 20, Oct. 29, 1999, Class D semifinal at Lake George: In a rematch of a 28-20 Lake George win a week earlier, Rob Bolen took over the game in the second half, accounting for all three Lake George TDs as he rallied the Warriors. Bolen connected with Colin Grady on a 99-yard TD pass, then ran for TDs of 65 and 42 yards as Lake George took a 22-14 fourth-quarter lead.
Fonda 39, Glens Falls 27, Nov. 6, 1999, Class B sectional final at Scotia: In a wild back-and-forth title game, Fonda scored twice in the final minute to snap a 27-27 tie and bring an end to Glens Falls head coach Paul Bricoccoli’s 27-year career. Despite being widely outgained by Glens Falls, the Braves either scored or set up TDs on a series of flukey plays, including a double-lateral pass, two fumbles, a blocked punt and an interception return. Mike Romeo raced 57 yards for a TD and passed to Anthony Civitello for the two-point conversion to pull the unbeaten Indians into a 27-27 tie with 5:45 left in regulation. However, Glens Falls fumbled at its own 22 with 2:30 left, and Andy Redshaw’s 1-yard TD run gave Fonda a 33-27 lead with 56 seconds left. Then, 22 seconds later, Kyle Collins returned an interception 50 yards to seal the Braves’ victory.