The Hoosick Falls Central School football team celebrates its 34-21 win over Hornell in the Class C state championship game Saturday in Syracuse, the
The Hoosick Falls Central School football team celebrates its 34-21 win over Hornell in the Class C state championship game Saturday in Syracuse, the Panthers' first state crown. (Austin Danforth)
ADAM SAMROV

Sports Editor

SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Three-time defending state champion Hornell had beaten a lot of teams in a lot of different ways during its 51-game winning streak.

Then the Raiders met Hoosick Falls.

Panthers safety Levi Brewster picked off Hornell quarterback Richie Harkenrider twice, his second sealing the game with 2:46 left, and tailback Brad Burns and quarterback Billy Pine combined for more than 300 yards on the ground as Hoosick Falls scored a 34-21 Class C state championship victory at the Carrier Dome on Saturday.

The title is the first for any male sports team at Hoosick Falls.

"The seniors finally got to go out with that state championship," Burns said. "We're just trying to take it in right now."

With Hornell (12-1) down 34-21 and driving late in the fourth quarter, Brewster, playing deep safety, leapt and intercepted Harkenrider at the Red Raider 9 to seal the game for the Panthers.

Hornell got off to a fast start as Luke Morgan scored on the second play from scrimmage, dashing off-tackle for a 74-yard touchdown to give the Red Raiders an 7-0 lead. Morgan was the leading rusher for Hornell, carrying 12 times for 132 yards.

"We got down last week and we just said we need to come back like we did then," Burns said, alluding to the Panthers' 43-21 semifinal win against James I. O'Neill.

The Panthers immediately returned fire. Pine tossed a five-yard touchdown pass to Randy Tutunjian to cap an eight-play, 65-yard drive.

The read-option package was key for the Panthers, as Pine rushed for 169 yards and Burns for 144.

"We worked on that all week in practice and came in here and it went like we planned," Burns said. "Billy puts the ball in my belly and if they crash down, he pulls out and runs just like last week."

Hoosick Falls scored again near the end of the first quarter. After a Hornell punt was downed at the Hoosick 47, Pine scrambled for 42 yards on the option. Two plays later, Pine finished the drive himself with a 1-yard sneak to take the lead, 14-7.

Then, with 9:31 left in the half, Hoosick Falls gained more momentum with a heads-up defensive play. Starting at his 8-yard line, Hornell running back Zach Bacon scampered 14 yards before Tutunjian stripped the ball and the Panthers took over at the Hornell 22.

On the first play after the turnover, Pine tossed a touchdown pass to Josh Brogue, who dove to the right pylon to extend the advantage to 21-7.

Pine hit five different receivers in the first half and finished 6-for-15 for 85 yards and two touchdowns.

On the next series, Hornell fumbled an option pitch on third-and-1 near midfield and Hoosick pounced again. Burns scored his 36th touchdown of the year on a 35-yard run right up the gut for a 27-7 lead with 5:19 left in the half.

Hornell cut into the lead in the third quarter when quarterback Richie Harkenrider found receiver Brendan Buisch for a 45-yard touchdown strike behind the Panthers defense. But Hoosick Falls came back immediately with Brad Burns going on a 60-yard jaunt to make the lead 20 again at 34-14.

On fourth and 20, just into the fourth quarter, Harkenrider and Buisch hooked up again to make it 34-21, but that was as close as the Red Raiders would get as the Panthers kept the ball for six minutes to make it difficult to come back.

"I only felt comfortable when they were down two scores and we got the ball back so we could take [three kneeldowns]," said Hoosick Falls coach Ron Jones, who won his first New York championship in14 seasons leading the Panthers.

Hoosick Falls becomes only the second Section II team to go 13-0 in a season, matching the 1996 Watervliet championship squad.