Survive and advance took on a whole new meaning for the Glens Falls Indians last weekend.
The Indians weathered a very strong Schuylerville team that pushed them to the limit and very nearly toppled the reigning state champs. Glens Falls needed two Sam Hogan field goals — one at the end of regulation, the second in overtime — to escape with a 40-37 victory in the Class B sectional championship game.
Now, No. 1-ranked Glens Falls hits the road for a 3 1/2-hour bus ride to what could be the coldest November game in many years.
The Indians face Gouverneur in a Class B state quarterfinal at 7 p.m. at Ogdensburg Free Academy in a matchup of 10-0 teams.
With temperatures expected to be in the teens up north Friday night, Glens Falls head coach Pat Lilac has simple instructions for his team.
“You can’t control the weather — you can only control what you do,” Lilac said. “They have to deal with it, too.”
“We know Glens Falls is very good, very experienced and they’ve been here before,” Gouverneur head coach Sean Devlin said. “They’re tough, big and fast, and we’re glad we’re hosting.”
Gouverneur, ranked 15th in the state, plays a physical running style that the Indians are familiar with, facing teams like Queensbury, Hudson Falls and Schuylerville — the latter pair twice each in the last five weeks.
“We know they’re real physical up front, but we’ve faced one physical team after another — you just line up and go,” said Lilac, whose team is riding a 23-game winning streak. “They’re a spread team that wants to run the ball. I compare them to Hudson Falls with a little more motion.
“These guys hit you with window dressing — they disguise what they’re doing with motion and fakes, so you have to play disciplined assignment football and don’t get caught looking in the backfield,” Lilac added.
In 2015, Gouverneur was a Class C team that lost in the state quarterfinals to Greenwich. The Wildcats lost in the Section X final last year, then bumped up to Class B this season. Gouverneur, located about 45 minutes south of Ogdensburg in St. Lawrence County, is a merged program, with a few players from Harrisville — including leading rusher Peyton Schmitt.
The speedy Schmitt has rushed for 1,498 yards and 19 touchdowns, averaging 12.2 yards per carry. The junior, who set a Section X record with 433 rushing yards in one game this season, teams with senior quarterback Connor Fenlong (1,083 rushing yards, 21 TDs) in a formidable backfield. The two combined to rush for 384 yards and six touchdowns in last week’s wild 52-31 win over Peru in the Section VII-X playoff, in which the Wildcats pulled away from a 28-25 halftime lead.
“We have a lot of the same formations (as Glens Falls), but we run different things out of them,” Devlin said. “Connor is a three-year starter — he understands everything we do, he’s almost 6-4, 215, 220 pounds, he’s fast and strong. He’s a baseball guy, so he can throw with accuracy.”
Glens Falls counters with an explosive spread offense that can strike quickly through the air or grind it out on the ground.
Junior quarterback Joseph Girard III is coming off a monster game, completing 24 of 39 passes for 422 yards and three touchdowns against Schuylerville. For the season, Girard has completed 63 percent of his passes for 1,573 yards and 19 TDs. Quinn Girard, Aalijah Sampson and Justin Holness are all in double figures for receptions.
On the ground, Glens Falls’ all-time rushing leader Aaron Sampson has dashed and slashed for 948 yards and 17 TDs.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to adapt quick enough to what they’re doing defensively to move the ball consistently,” Lilac said. “Joe’s playing at a very high level, he has a really good understanding of what’s there and he’s willing to take it. We trust him and we have faith in all our receivers.”
“We’ll see speed Friday that we haven’t seen before,” Devlin said. “I hope we can give them some problems. We can’t afford to give them the ball every four downs.”