SARATOGA SPRINGS– Instant classic.
That’s the only way to describe the sectional semifinal football game between Shaker and Saratoga on Friday night in Saratoga, with the Blue Streaks coming out on top by a final of 29-22.
The game went into the half with Saratoga up 19-14, ironically the same score at halftime the last time these teams had met, back in the sectional final in 2015. Shaker was set to receive to begin the second half, but fumbled the ball. It was picked up by Andrew Zilka to give Saratoga the ball in great field position to start the half. Although they only managed a field goal, it put them up by eight.
Shaker got the ball back with 7:41 remaining in the third quarter and drove the ball downfield, eventually scoring on a 15-yard touchdown pass to Jack Bush to make it 22-20, and a subsequent two-point conversion tied the game at 22.
With now 7:41 left in the fourth quarter, Saratoga got the ball back after a Shaker punt, giving the Blue Streaks the ball at midfield. They drove down to Shaker’s 21-yard line. QB Wes Eglintine fumbled, and it was recovered by Shaker with 4:13 left, giving them a good amount of time to draw out the clock and score in the final minutes. It didn’t happen.
After a series of Shaker penalties, the Bison had third and 28 at their own 33-yard line. Saratoga cornerback Avery Mickle picked off Shaker QB Joe Clausi with just over 90 seconds to play. The first play of the Saratoga drive was a completed 29-yard pass to Carter Steingraber, putting Saratoga at least in field goal range. They didn’t need it. With 24 seconds remaining, Eglintine punched the ball in from six yards out, sending the stadium into a frenzy and clinching a bid in the sectional final. A second Saratoga interception in Shaker’s first play put the nail in the coffin.
“Once we got in field goal range, we felt comfortable enough. We didn’t really want to leave any time on the clock for them, but you are never going to turn down a score,” Saratoga head coach Terry Jones said.
“We had a good push from our line, they really fought hard all game. I told them that we needed this one last play, get in the end zone, and they pushed for me,” Eglintine said.
Eglintine had a fantastic night overall, passing for 264 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 91 yards to go along with the game-winning touchdown.
Shaker did grab the first lead of the night late in the first quarter as Ravion Burt scored to put Shaker up 7-0. Saratoga tied the game a few minutes later on a pass touchdown to Christian Kondo, his first of two touchdown catches on the night. Kondo caught for 88 yards.
Saratoga advances to their second sectional final in three years. That game will be against Troy at Bob Ford Field at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium on the campus of UAlbany on Friday, November 3. Game time is TBD.