STILLWATER - Heading into their Section II Class C semifinal football game, the Fonda-Fultonville Braves knew they had a tough task ahead of them facing defending state champion Hoosick Falls.
For the first half, the Braves essentially held the Panthers' running game in check, allowing just 54 total yards on the ground.
Hoosick Falls instead went to the air for a first quarter touchdown en route to taking a 10-0 lead into the locker room.
Fonda-Fultonville's Anthony Sinicropi (15) fights for yardage in a Section II Class C semifinal against Hoosick Falls Saturday at Stillwater High School. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)
The Panthers' offensive line stepped up its game in the second half, gaining control of the line of scrimmage and opening holes for their backs to break open the game and post a 36-0 victory Saturday at Stillwater High School.
"We were hoping our pace would take its toll on their bigger guys and then we would be able to run the ball a little more consistently as the game wore on," Hoosick Falls coach Ron Jones said. "We were aggressive and in the third quarter and the offensive line started to take over. They [Fonda-Fultonville] have some big, strong, tough kids. They had a good plan and at this level, it is never easy."
The win advances the undefeated Panthers to the Class C championship game to face undefeated Chatham Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. at Stillwater High School.
SECTION II FOOTBALL
Class A Semifinals
Queensbury 59, Amsterdam 26
Class B Semifinals
Broadalbin-Perth 41, Cohoes 32
Class C Semifinals
Hoosick Falls 36, Fonda-Fultonville 0
Chatham 52, Corinth 6
Class D Semifinals
Rensselaer 42, Greenwich 34
Cambridge 58, Salem 24
Chatham advanced to the championship game with a 52-6 victory over Corinth.
The teams exchanged punts early in the opening quarter before Hoosick Falls put together a six-play scoring drive that started on the 50 and finished when quarterback Garrett Wright found Austin Pitt wide open in the middle of the field with a 33-yard touchdown pass. Damon Dubois added the extra point for a 7-0 lead.
The Braves looked to answer the drive with Pat Hart breaking a 29-yard run on the first play of the en suing drive and Anthony Sinicropi added four more before a penalty flag and the Hoosick Falls defense stalled the drive and forcing the Braves to punt the ball away. Special teams coverage on Brandon Baker's punt, pinned the Panthers on their own 6-yard line.
Mike Matatt gave the Panthers some room to work with a 13-yard run, then Wright went to the air,completing passes of 18, 25 and 17 to move his team to the Braves 20-yard line when time expired in the first quarter.
The Braves dropped Matatt for a 3-yard loss before Dubois kicked a 39-yard field goal to open a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Fonda-Fultonville went to the air on its next possession with quarterback Russ Williams hitting Baker with a 32-yard completion and then finding Hart for 14 more. Hart sandwiched runs of 11 and three yards around a three-yard run from Sinicropi to help move the Braves to first-and-goal on the Panthers' 10-yard line.
Hart ran the ball to the two before being stopped for a one-yard loss, setting up fourth and goal from the three.
The Panthers' defense held as a broken play prevented the Braves from finding the end zone and turning the ball over to Hoosick Falls on the 10 yard line.
"We were trying to throw the ball up to Will Turner in the end zone but fumbled the snap and could not get it off," Fonda-Fultonville coach tom Carpenter said. "It is a good play when it works and a not so good play when it doesn't."
The Panthers drove the ball from their own 10 to the Braves' 10 in nine plays but could not finish the drive as hart picked off Wright on the three yard line.
"I thought we shut their run game down pretty good in the first half but against their passing game they were throwing the ball on us pretty good so we tried to take that away from them in the second half," Carpenter said.
The Braves successfully moved the ball on its first possession of the second half with Hart receiving a 10 yard pass and a 12-yard run before a holding call set them back.
The Panthers came up with a drive-stopping play when David Hardesty intercepted Williams' pass on their own 44.
Hoosick Falls capitalized on the turnover, driving 56 yards in nine plays, with Matatt plunging in from one yard out to up the score to 16-0.
The Panthers held Fonda-Fultonville to a three-and-out and again drove for a second third-quarter touchdown.
Wright connected with Brandon Hodges on a 13-yard touchdown pass and Dubois added the PAT to open the lead to 23-0.
Fonda-Fultonville looked to answer the drive and opened the en suing possession with a 30-yard pass completion from Williams to Turner.
The Braves moved the ball to the Hoosick Falls 34 before stalling and turning the ball over on downs.
Again the Panthers capitalized on the play to score with Matatt hitting pay dirt again this time from four-yards out.
Hoosick Falls closed out the scoring with 5:39 remaining when Williams' pass to Hart went off his hands and into Peter Muratori's and he returned it for a 55-yard touchdown to cap off the 36-0 victory.
Hoosick Falls 36, Fonda-Fultonville 0
Fonda-Fultonville0 0 0 0 - 0
Hoosick Falls7 3 13 13 - 36
HF - Austin Pitt 32 pass from Garrett Wright (Damon Dubois kick), 3:54.
HF - Dubois 39 field goal, 11:03
HF - Mike Matatt 1 run (pass failed), 7:47.
HF - Brandon Hodges 13 pass from Wright (Dubois kick), 2:49.
HF - Matatt 4 run (Dubois kick), 11:05.
HF - Peter Muratori 55 interception return (kick failed), 5:39.