Burgher ground-gainer John Kelly eyes a potential route past a Whitehall defender as he heads downfield during Warrensburg’s victory in the Northern Adirondack Youth Football League’s first-ever Superbowl showdown.
Warrensburg Youth Football coach Gary Baker knew his team had a real challenge ahead of them Saturday night, when his water bottle, next to the team bench, iced over.
His players, fifth and sixth graders, could see clouds of frozen steam when they exhaled. Temperatures were dropping as the team was facing the tough and skilled Whitehall squad in the first-ever Superbowl of the Northern Adirondack Youth Football League.
But under the lights on the Corinth field on Oct. 5, the young 31 gutsy Little Burghers fought with determination and focus through four quarters and brought home a hard-won 39-26 victory and captured the regional youth football championship.
With a rushing attack led by Greg Shambo, the Burghers moved the ball over 400 yards on the ground. The virtually mistake-free offense was piloted quarterback Evan Macduff.
The Burgher game play featured a mixture of two rushing attacks — the Double-Wing offense similar to their Burgher high-school counterparts, and a Power-I formation. The former is a wedge of players surrounding the ball carrier that smashes through the opponent's defensive line, and the latter is a lineup of the quarterback having a choice of handoffs to either the tailback behind him or the wingback off to one side.
The dual attack kept Whitehall’s hard-hitting defense at bay.
After the Burghers first demonstrated lackluster tackling and gave up a touchdown to Whitehall on their first drive, Warrensburg’s coaches advised their players to apply more aggressive follow-through to bring down their opponents.
The Burghers dialed up their efforts as each team scored in a back-and-forth battle. The Burghers modified their defense in response to Whitehall’s unbalanced line.
Midway in the game, the Burghers’ determination made the difference, providing a turning point that provided momentum for the rest of the contest.
At the Whitehall 20, on fourth down and three yards to go, the Burghers handed the ball to fullback Mike Baker, who charged through the Railroaders for a first down, leading to a score. In the next series, the Burghers recovered a fumble and scored.
“From that point on, we just rolled,” Coach Gary Baker said. “These kids played their hearts out all season, and tonight was no different.”
Greg Shambo racked up four touchdowns, and John Kelly scored two more. This duo, along with Mike Baker, Jacob Johnson and Dan Monthony, ran for more than 400 yards.
They achieved this feat behind the blocking of Cole Lanfear, Robert Shepler, Will Schwartz, Donald Carpenter, Hunter Mosher and Brandon Bailey.
Macduff completed a pass to Bailey for an extra point.
Defense was led by Greg Shambo, Dan Monthony, Will Schwartz, Brandon Bailey, Jacob Johnson, Mike Baker and Evan Macduff.
The Burgher’s dual-offense attack wore Whitehall’s defense down, gaining the high scores that their high-school counterparts achieved this year, Coach Baker said.
“Going forward, our players have gained a lot of knowledge they will be applying at the next level,” he said, noting the vital contribution of players Summer Baker, Tyler Baker, Mackenzie Blydenburgh, Mike Clickner, Ian Colegrove, Neil Galvin, Nolan McNeill, Corbin Miller, Ben Mosher, Payton Olden, Trevor Prosser, Paul Rabine, Garry Ross, Cole Shambo, Austin Smith, Seth Therrien, Chris Wilson, Trevor Winchell and Sean Winter.
The success of the team in their championship season was due to the players’ dedication, solid community support and the work of the assistant coaches, including Joe Sutphin, Rich Bailey, Brian Winchell, Greg Shambo and Kim Monthony.
The strong support from Warrensburg was demonstrated Saturday night, as parents, friends and relatives of players showed up in force, alongside high school players and coaches plus dozens of local spectators that weren’t related to anyone on the field, Coach Baker said. Bleachers and sidelines were full of Warrensburg fans.
“The crowd was huge, and the support was incredible,” Baker said. "Grandparents of players were in the stands watching the game with blankets over their heads.”
The players’ strong work ethic, he added, propelled them toward their goal of a championship.
For 13 weeks, the players practiced and honed their skills on the field, while their friends were off fishing, camping or swimming, Baker said. Several players gave up their summer vacations to be a part of every game, he continued.
“I am so very proud to have the privilege of coaching these kids since flag football six years ago,” he said. “For the kids to set a goal and achieve it like they did is truly amazing.”
Baker added that the season’s accomplishments reflected a total team effort.
“This is something we all will remember for a lifetime.”