AVERILL PARK, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Prior to Friday’s Class A football sectional semifinal game with Burnt Hills, Averill Park head coach Zach Gobel said star junior running back Jacob Phelps would be the first person to credit the Warriors’ offensive line for his tremendous success this season.
And after a four-touchdown, 235-yard effort on the ground from Phelps that propelled Averill Park to a 28-14 victory over the Spartans, that sentiment reigned true.
“The line up front was blocking really good (tonight), and there were some good holes to run through; we just kept running all game,” said Phelps. “I always just try to be tough to take down, and run hard every play.”
For the second straight season, Averill Park pushed past Burnt Hills in the semifinals to reach the Class A championship game. Phelps burst onto the scene as a sophomore in that 42-21 win over the Spartans, rushing for 162 yards and a touchdown, while throwing for a touchdown and taking a kick return to the house. And his presence was felt early and often Friday night – all over the field once again.
On Burnt Hills’ first play from scrimmage, Phelps picked off quarterback Myles Yannuzzi, which led to Phelps’ first score: a five-yard sweep off the left side that put Averill Park up 7-0.
The Warriors capitalized on another Burnt Hills miscue – a muffed punt at the end of the first quarter – which set AP up with great field position at the Spartans’ 29-yard line. 4:28 into the second stanza, Phelps struck again on the ground from two yards out, growing the margin to 14 points.
But Burnt Hills immediately responded on its ensuing drive, marching right back down the field exclusively via the run game, and Yannuzzi capped off an impressive, momentum-swinging drive with a four-yard touchdown scamper on a read option, trimming AP’s lead in half as the two teams headed for their locker rooms.
The Spartans carried that momentum right into the opening possession of the second half, chewing up nearly seven minutes off game clock, and Yannuzzi found the end zone on the ground once again – this time on a one-yard QB sneak – with 5:06 to play in the third quarter, tying the game at 14.
The score remained 14-14 until the late stages of the fourth quarter when Averill Park put together what would prove to be the game-winning drive, punctuated by a nasty Phelps run that was intended to go off the left side of the line. But Phelps put his foot in the ground, reversed field and turned it up the middle, galloping his way seven yards to pay dirt, and reclaiming the Warriors a 21-14 edge.
After Burnt Hills coughed up the ball on the first play of its next series, it took Phelps all of two carries to find his way back to end zone for the game-clinching score – a 19-yard touchdown run for his fourth score of the night.
“He’s a tremendous player,” said Gobel. “One of things he did tonight – he had a terrific offensive line opening up holes for him – but it wasn’t what he was used to. It wasn’t monstrous holes, ’cause we played a really good team. He had to run for six (yards), and eight, and three, and four; and he did. He’s a tough dude.”
Averill Park (8-2) now sets up a rematch with the top seed out of the Grasso Division, Niskayuna, for the section title. The Silver Warriors handed AP a 35-6 defeat in last year’s Super Bowl.
“(We) have a lot of confidence going into next week,” said Phelps. “Hopefully we can get it done.”
Kickoff in the Class A championship game is set for 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 11 at Guilderland High School.
Burnt Hills concludes a successful first season under head coach Kevin DeBonis with a strong overall record of 7-2.