Assistant Sports Editor
HOOSICK, N.Y. - Four banners hang behind each baseline in the Hoosick Falls Central School gymnasium. Close to 15 feet long, they are noticeably different - and much larger - than the rest.
These are the Panthers' state championship standards. All eight belong to the girls and so will the next, after the girls soccer team's triumph last weekend.
So, as if trying to snap three-time defending state champion Hornell's 51-game unbeaten run wasn't enough, the Hoosick Falls football team has its own weighty, decades-long streak to vanquish in the state championship game Saturday.
It's time the boys put up a banner of their own.
"I feel like it's well overdue," said senior lineman Bryan Sherman. "Our school really needs this."
More visible than the playoff plaques that line the walls outside the gym, easier to count than the trophies encased in the school lobby, the glossy banners are the thing.
"We've got eight girls championship banners - and the ninth is on the way - and no boys championships. It would be kind of exciting to be the first ones up there," said senior wide receiver Randy Tutunjian, who also played on sectional finalist squads in basketball and baseball last year.
Between 1986 and 1989, Hoosick Falls girls garnered state crowns in girls basketball, softball (two) and field hockey (two).
A Section II powerhouse for most of the last decade, the football team has six sectional titles and four regionals, but 2003's squad was the only state finalist until this fall.
Familiar with that history, the Panthers know exactly what's at stake at the Carrier Dome as they try to become the school's first male state championship team.
"It's pretty wild because we've had some great teams in the past and most of them have fallen short," senior Josh Brogue said. "That we get the chance to do it, I don't know how to put words to it. It's just crazy."
Sherman said the boys' dearth of state championships comes up "only when we argue with the girls."
But perhaps no Hoosick Falls football player is in a tougher spot than senior quarterback Billy Pine, whose sisters have three girls soccer state championships between them - Carly in 2005 and Rachel in 2011 and 2012.
"All my sisters are pretty athletic but my older two have patches, sectional [championships], Rachel has two championships and she got the MVP so she's been rubbing it in my face at home," Pine said.
"I want to be part of the first male state championship but also so I can compete at home, you know?" he said.
And maybe, just maybe, this is their year.
The Panthers owned Section II for the fourth year in a row. They rallied for wins in the quarterfinals and Final Four. They participated in the rare Thanksgiving Day practice.
With another win, they would not only surpass their predecessors from 2003 but earn their own immortal spot on the gymnasium wall.
"Ever since we were little we wanted to be just like that  team," Pine said. "Growing up, that's always been the team that everyone's been compared to and to be in the company of them is pretty cool because those are the guys we always looked up to.
"At least now we're even with them," he said. "We want to get that win."