SYRACUSE — Joseph Girard III was unquestionably the star of the Class B state football championship game, accounting for four of Glens Falls’ touchdowns in the Indians’ 55-32 victory over Batavia.
But without his supporting cast of game-breaking athletes, Girard and the Indians likely would not have won Saturday at the Carrier Dome.
The trio of David Barclay, Trent Girard and Aalijah Sampson combined for 449 yards of total offense and six touchdowns.
Trent Girard set up a touchdown with a 63-yard reception in the third quarter, then scored on a 55-yard pass play early in the fourth. The 5-foot-6 slot receiver finished with a game-high seven catches for 183 yards.
“He’s done it the whole playoffs — he finds those holes,” Joseph Girard said of his third cousin. “He’s so small and he’s so smart to where he makes up for his size. I know if I get him the ball, he’s not going to drop it and he’s going to make a play with it. He made really great plays today, and credit to him for having the biggest heart on the field.”
Barclay caught two passes for 93 yards — a 60-yard gain to set up the Indians’ first score, and a leaping 33-yard touchdown catch as he beat one-on-one coverage.
Sampson outshined them all, however. The shifty scatback scored four times, twice in the fourth quarter, and finished with 135 yards rushing on 23 carries and added a 38-yard reception.
Joseph Girard’s supporting cast was as lights-out as he was.
“He loves his teammates and buddies, but the other thing is he also has so many good people around him,” Glens Falls athletic director Chip Corlew said of Girard’s teammates. “They keep him enjoying the moment.”
Joseph Girard is at his best when he’s improvising — scrambling to elude pressure, buying time to fire off a pass to a receiver, or make a play with his feet.
While he rushed 15 times for a net gain of 15 yards — losing yards on four sacks and a couple of kneel-downs at the end of the game — two of his runs in the second quarter were vintage JG3.
One was a brilliant 43-yard scramble where he was ruled out at the Batavia 1-yard line. That set up Sampson’s touchdown on the next play to tie the score at 14-14.
Minutes earlier, Joseph Girard scored the Indians’ first touchdown on a 5-yard run — but he actually covered at least 50 on the play, scrambling first to his left, then back left for the score.
He spotted Sampson wide open in the end zone at one point, but wasn’t sure he could get the ball to him.
“The (Batavia) ends did a good job containing me — they sprinted in every time we snapped the ball,” Joseph Girard said. “I saw the end jump up when I was trying to throw it in the flats, and I wasn’t really confident getting it over the guy. So I ran back the other way and I knew if I did that, I had to make a play and it just happened. Nick (Danahy) made a good block on it as well, and luckily we scored a touchdown.”
“You can’t describe what he does, it’s like superhuman,” senior lineman Kyle Vachon said. “He’s cutting back and forth, now he’s got a 16-yard gain when he should’ve been tackled in the backfield. He’s just unbelievable.”
Batavia’s offense took a major hit late in the first quarter when senior quarterback Ethan Biscaro went down with a knee injury on a non-contact play.
Although Ray Leach threw a 46-yard touchdown pass to Taiyo Iburi-Bethel on the next play, the Blue Devils were limited to running the ball with Leach almost exclusively. Leach and fullback Alex Rood took turns under center, but struggled passing — Joseph Girard and Vachon intercepted passes for Glens Falls.
Biscaro, who attempted to return to the game in the third quarter before leaving for good with a more pronounced limp, also left a big hole at safety.
“We got off to a good start, but when your starting quarterback goes down, that’s asking for a momentum shift right there,” Batavia head coach Brennan Briggs said. “He’s been our guy all year, he can throw the ball and do a lot of things with it. So obviously it hurts, and defensively, too, he had 12 interceptions this year.”
Joseph Girard III added two single-season records to his list of accomplishments Saturday. With his 314-yard passing performance, Girard finished the season with 3,078 yards, topping the Section II single-season record of 3,052 set in 2017 by Holy Trinity’s Joe Tortello. Girard’s total placed him fifth in the New York state record book.
Girard also set a Section II mark for passing touchdowns in a season with 36, tying him for seventh in state history.
For his career, Girard finished with 6,767 passing yards and 83 touchdowns. His career TD passes are a Section II record, three more than former Cambridge star Zack Luke, whom he passed for fourth in the state. Girard still trails Luke in career yards — Luke passed for 7,290 yards from 2001-04. Girard is sixth all-time in the state in that category.
While Leach rushed for a state championship game-record 410 yards and three touchdowns, Glens Falls did a pretty good job of slowing him down and gang-tackling him. He scored on runs of 83, 19 and 80 yards, but he only had six other runs of longer than 8 yards in his 30 total carries.
“We weren’t going to let him run all over us all day, we weren’t going to let one person beat us in a state championship game,” Barclay said. “We just all played together, we stopped him at crucial times when we needed to and we came back.”
“I thought the defensive line, even though he did (break loose) on occasion, we kept those guys off-schedule by making hits on him in the backfield,” Indians head coach Pat Lilac said. “And Kyle Vachon and Connor Girard did a good job of cleaning up after they made him re-set his feet.”
Lilac said the game plan was to try to get Leach to fall backward, and not try to strip the ball from him.
“So many times you see he gets held up, and he breaks tackles because people are trying to strip the ball from him,” Lilac said. “If he runs over a kid, go pick your teammate up and line up and do it again on the next play.”
Senior center Thompson Collins was the linchpin of the Indians’ solid offensive line all season. Not bad for someone who had never snapped a football before training camp in August — Collins had played guard, but head coach Pat Lilac had him take over at center.
“He didn’t have one botched snap I don’t think all year,” Joseph Girard said of the 6-3, 235-pound Collins. “Credit to him for adapting. He just showed he’s one of the best linemen in the state — he’s got good size and good feet, and he’s athletic.”
Collins, who took a few years off from football before returning to the sport as a sophomore, is also a swimmer for the Indians’ boys swim team in the winter.
Magic to come?
Joseph Girard wore a big smile as he looked around the Carrier Dome several minutes after the Indians wrapped up their second state title in three years. Named the game’s MVP for the second time in three years, he will play college basketball at Syracuse in that very stadium beginning next year.
“It’s been fun being an Indian and it’s a fairy-tale ending to go out a state champion in your future home for the next four years,” he said. “Hopefully I can make some more magic here. I’m 2-0 in the Dome so far and hopefully a lot more wins to come.”
Joseph Girard was not the only Glens Falls player honored in the postgame award ceremony.
Barclay was named the game’s most outstanding offensive back, senior Terelle Bonner-Welch — who picked up his 15th sack of the season in the game — was named outstanding defensive lineman, and senior Kyle Vachon received Glens Falls’ sportsmanship award.