GLENS FALLS — A quarterback who can extend plays with his feet and make things happen.
A darting, dashing running back with breakaway speed.
A collection of big-play receivers, a rugged defense and rebuilt front lines.
Add huge playoff wins the last two weeks — one in overtime, one a come-from-behind effort.
You can check off all of those for the Glens Falls football team.
Oh, and check them all off for Pleasantville, too.
If the Indians and Panthers seemed like mirror images a year ago, Pat Lilac doubled down on that assessment this week.
“It’s even more so than last year,” the Glens Falls head coach said during Wednesday’s practice at the Adirondack Sports Complex dome. “Physically we’re much closer this year. ... And their path to get here is very similar. It’s uncanny.”
No. 1-ranked Glens Falls (11-0) and fifth-ranked Pleasantville (10-1) square off for the second straight year in the Class B state semifinals. They meet Saturday at 3 p.m. at Middletown High School’s Faller Field.
The winner faces either Chenango Forks or Cheektowaga in the Class B state championship game next Sunday at noon at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.
“It’s like playing yourselves,” said Indians junior quarterback Joseph Girard III, who has passed for 1,684 yards and 20 touchdowns this season. “We kind of know what they’re going to do, they kind of know what we’re going to do, so whoever plays better that day is going to win.”
In 2016, Glens Falls jumped out to a quick lead and rolled to a 49-14 win over the Panthers. The Indians went on to win the state championship and come into Saturday’s game on a 24-game winning streak.
“We know that they’re going to come in with something else on their shoulder,” Girard said. “We kind of roughed them up last year, and I’m sure they want to avenge that.”
“Last year, we came out and punched them in the mouth early and took the fight out of them,” said senior Aaron Sampson, who leads the Indians with 1,131 yards and 19 touchdowns on the ground. “They’re going to come out all excited, and we need to come out (in the) first quarter and shut them up right out of the locker room.”
Lilac said the Indians will be counting on the experience of other veterans like linebackers Dakota Trombley and Kyle Vachon, lineman Andrew Rizzo and receiver Quinn Girard to keep the team focused.
“This time of year, there’s lot of excitement, new sports are starting, the marking period just ended,” Lilac said. “You throw all those things together, and it ends up being a focus issue — just stay focused and understand what’s in front of you.”
Pleasantville, located near Ossining in Westchester County, has reached the state semifinals in football and boys lacrosse the last two years. The Panthers defeated Glens Falls 15-5 in the state lacrosse quarterfinals in June, and several Panthers play both sports.
“You know what you’re going to get with Glens Falls,” said Pleasantville head coach Tony Becerra, who was a football teammate and fraternity brother of Lilac’s at Cortland State. “Pat will have them well-prepared, and you have to game plan for Girard and Sampson.”
Like Glens Falls, the Panthers lost most of their linemen to graduation, but returned their skill players. Junior Jack Howe is back at quarterback, Charlie McPhee has rushed for more than 1,000 yards, and Jack Minerva and Declan McDermott are quality receivers. They’re more of a finesse team than the physically punishing teams the Indians have faced for the last six weeks.
“You just hope now that you have to tackle out in space, that you’re able do that,” Lilac said. “They can muscle the ball, they did it a little bit against Marlboro in the second half. And I hate to say it again, but that’s what we’ve been able to do when we’ve needed to.”
Pleasantville’s season has paralleled Glens Falls’ in many ways. The Panthers’ only loss was to Valhalla, 21-20 on a Hail Mary, but they avenged that loss in sectionals. In the Section I final, they outlasted Westlake in double overtime. Last week, they rallied from a 15-0 deficit to beat Marlboro 33-22.
“Nothing seems to faze them, they’re pretty even-keeled,” Becerra said. “It’s been so hard to repeat, we faced a lot of adversity, but the kids showed a lot of character overcoming it. They don’t want to make it about the other team, but about their goals for themselves.”
Glens Falls had similar character-building wins the last two weeks — a 40-37 overtime thriller over Schuylerville in the Section II final, then holding on for a 28-26 win against Gouverneur last week. The Indians came from behind in both games, and know they can’t afford another slow start against Pleasantville.
“We need to go out there and punch them in the mouth right off the rip, let them know that we’re here and execute a lot better than we have been the last two weeks,” Rizzo said.