Kingston The Shaker football team experienced new highs and new lows in the final two minutes of Saturday’s Class AA state semifinal game against New Rochelle.
The Blue Bison took a 21-20 with 1:57 left, but the Huguenots scored with 30 seconds left to pull out a 28-21 victory and earn a berth in next weekend’s state finals in Syracuse.
“They made one more play than we did at the end of the game,” said Shaker coach Greg Sheeler.
Shaker (10-1) rallied from a 20-0 third-quarter deficit to take its lead. Mike Mainella hauled in a 53-yard touchdown pass from Chris Landers for the Blue Bison’s first touchdown. Then, Ryan Griffin capped a fourth quarter drive with a 2-yard scoring run to trim New Rochelle’s lead to 20-13.
The late-game fireworks began when Landers broke free for a 49-yard touchdown run to pull Shaker within one point. The Blue Bison went for the two-point conversion, and Landers connected with Mainella to put Shaker ahead 21-20.
New Rochelle (11-1) grabbed the momentum back. A pass interference call against Shaker got the Huguenots into Blue Bison territory. A short time later, Khalil Edney threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Joseph Clarke to put the Section I champions ahead for good.
Despite giving up the final scoring drive, Sheeler was pleased with his team’s performance in the second half.
“We outgained them on offense and shut them down in the second half on defense,” said Sheeler. “I was thrilled with how we played.”
The state semifinal appearance capped a historic season for Shaker. The Blue Bison won their first Section II title and set a school record for wins with 10. Griffin led Shaker’s offense with 1,099 rushing yards, 18 touchdowns and 25 point-after kicks, while Landers threw for 803 yards and rushed for another 509 yards.
Sheeler said this year’s senior class – which included Griffin, Landers, Kenny Jackson and defensive leader Schuyler Huntington – has set a high standard for future teams to follow.
“From when I had them in junior high school, they really wanted to be challenged and we gave them all the challenges they could handle – physically and mentally,” said Sheeler.