With time expired on the game clock and trailing in the score tally, the Warrensburg football team caught the Lake George Warriors off guard with a trick double-reverse 29-yard touchdown pass play. The result was a dramatic come-from-behind victory Friday Oct. 4 in front of a capacity crowd.
The Lake George “Blue Zoo” student cheering section had been standing behind the goal post, ready to rush onto the field to celebrate what had seemed to be a sure win, but the shocking final-play turnaround left them in stunned silence.
With three seconds left on the clock, three-year Burgher quarterback Malachi Prosser took the ball, handed it to running back Connor Scott who swept towards the left sideline, but handed the ball off to receiver Jake Nemec who ran in the opposite direction. Under pressure, Nemec tossed the ball downfield to Prosser, who took the ball into the end zone to reverse the team’s fortunes and win the 26-24 victory.
Powerful, elusive running by Scott had been a key factor in the game. He had tallied 257 yards rushing, including a 75-yard and a 65-yard run. Scott was backed up by runs from Matt Boodman, who helped move the ball downfield on the final drive.
The dramatic final play worked because the Warriors were probably keying on Scott, the athletic back speculated after the game.
“The Lake George players were calling out my number throughout the game,” he said. “Then on that last play, they all followed me.”
Nemec was nervous, but his game-winning throw was on target
Nemec, a sophomore, said he was “pretty nervous” after coach Mike Leonbruno called the timeout with 3 seconds on the clock and proposed the strategic play.
“When he called the play, I got butterflies in my stomach — I knew it was ‘make it or break it’ for this big game,” Nemec said. “I looked downfield, Malachi was open, and as soon as I let go of the ball, I knew we were going to score. I turned around and didn’t look — while all our fans rushed onto the field.”
Nemec stayed where he threw the ball, while the other players piled into a joyous heap in the end zone.
“I was speechless — I was wicked happy,” Nemec said. “I was on top of the world......It was the best feeling I’ve ever had.”
Prosser also spoke of that last play. He recalled how the Lake George crowd shouted out “Two, One,” counting off the seconds to apparent victory as the double-handoff was being executed.
“Then I ran downfield, looked back, saw the pass coming toward me, and thought ‘Oh, Boy.’ I caught the pass, turned around and ran. A Lake George player dove at me but missed, then I took off for the end zone.”
Then the joyous mayhem erupted, Prosser recalled.
“In the end zone, all my teammates tackled me, and I heard a player yelling, I love you, I love you! — and we were heaped in a big pile.”
McLaughlin's injury fired up the players
Prosser speculated that the team had been fired up by the loss of teammate Rogers McLaughlin, a key blocker and defender, sidelined in the first half with a dislocated finger. After he was taken away in an ambulance, the Burghers resolve to win was strengthened, Prosser said.
“Rogers gives 110 percent each play,” said Prosser, who’s been a quarterback since third grade. “And our motto is ‘You mess with one of us, and you’ve got to deal with all of us.”
He continued that the running backs ran harder than ever, and the lineman were more aggressive after McLaughlin’s injury.
“We knew that Rogers wanted to be in the game,” he said.
Throughout the game — Lake George’s homecoming — the lead changed often as each team made powerful drives.
Lake George running back Rick Jowly led the Warrior offense with 127 yards rushing and a touchdown. Quarterback Tyler Brown ran for two touchdowns.
Warrensburg's Connor Scott racked up the yardage
Burgher Connor Scott scored the first three touchdowns for Warrensburg. Leonbruno said Scott has emerged as a formidable threat in the Division.
“Connor is one of the hardest runners I’ve coached,” said the former semi-pro Greenjackets star quarterback. “He fires through holes and then gains extra yards on his own — he doesn’t go down easily.”
But Scott deferred credit to the Burgher line and the team’s coaching.
“Our line is now disciplined, and they do their job,” he said. “They opened up huge holes for me.”
The players had wanted to use the double-reverse earlier in the game, but Leonbruno held back, deciding to employ it when it was truly needed, Scott said.
“Coach Leonbruno was confident in calling the play, which was the perfect thing at just the right time,” he said.
Leonbruno also praised the linemen for their work.
“We’ve preached to the line that the team will go this season as far as the line can take us,” he said. Leonbruno also credited the young players who either stepped in for McLaughlin, or filled other roles in their small squad as openings occurred this season. The Burghers now have three 8th graders playing on Varsity — Greg Shambo, Mike Baker and Brandon Turner. He also praised underclassman Donny Stone, a starter, for his defensive play this week.
“I’m so proud the way the team played Friday,” he said citing a turnaround in execution and attitude. “If they keep this momentum rolling, we’ll get into the playoffs.”
Burghers' post-season hopes rekindled
The last two weeks indeed represent a dramatic turnaround. The Burghers overcame the rival Warriors who’ve prevailed in six of seven of the two teams’ meetups — and last week, the Burghers blew away talented Fort Edward by a score of 56-14 powered by 388 rushing yards. The prior two weeks, however, they’d been steamrolled 0-53 by Salem, and 0-36 by Cambridge.
Citing the two wins, Nemec credited new solidarity among players.
“We’re now coming together as a family,” he said. “We’re working as one unit.”
Scott said it was a powerful new spirit.
“We’re all playing with heart,” he said.
Prosser praised the coaches for their steadfast belief in the team, regardless of the season’s dismal start.
“The coaches deserve the win over Lake George,” he said. “They never gave up on us.”