STILLWATER, N.Y. -- The Hoosick Falls Central School football team, ranked No. 1 in the state in Class C and winners of 49 straight sectional games, has a high-powered offense, scoring 357 points in eight games this season.
But when you get to the playoffs, more often than not, it's the defense that sets the tone.
Hoosick Falls intercepted Fonda-Fultonville quarterback Russ Williams three times -- including a pick for a touchdown -- and only allowed 227 total yards in a 36-0 Section II, Class C semifinal victory on Saturday afternoon.
"They take a lot of pride in keeping teams out of the end zone," said Hoosick Falls coach Ron Jones. "They feel like their back is against the wall and they have to produce. We just keep doing it, that's something championship teams need to do."
Trading punts on two consecutive series, Hoosick Falls took the advantage with 3:54 left in the first quarter. Starting at the 50 with excellent field position, quarterback Garrett Wright connected with Austin Pitt down the seam on 4th-and-4 for a 33-yard touchdown.
On the next series, the Braves punted again, burying Hoosick Falls at their own 6. But some well-timed passes from Wright -- including shots of 18 and 16 yards to Pitt and 23 yards to Levi Brewster -- put the Panthers and kicker Damon Dubois in position for a 40-yard field goal and a 10-0 lead at the beginning of the second quarter.
Wright was 12-of-22 for 199 yards, two touchdowns and an interception on the day.
"We're in the playoffs now, it's tougher to run," said Hoosick Falls running back Mike Matatt. "I just have to find the hole and the line started to get good movement. They played a great game."
The next Fonda series turned the game midway through the second quarter. Starting from its 20, the Braves marched down the field on a 31-yard pass from Williams to Brandon Baker and a 14-yard strike to Pat Hart to get into the red zone. On 3rd and goal from the two, Williams handed the ball to Hart, who was tackled on the outside for a loss by Pitt.
On fourth down, Hoosick Falls called a timeout after Fonda lined up and on the ensuing play, the Braves ran a halfback pass play that David Hardesty immediately sniffed out, sacking Hart for a seven-yard loss and taking the ball back, keeping Fonda off the board.
"It was great they didn't score on the goal line, they were moving the ball on us," Brewster said. "It was great to turn the game around at that point. I was surprised to see it, I knew what I was doing when they shifted, but we got the timeout."
Jones gave all the credit on the timeout to his defensive coaches, Chris Fleming and Eamonn DeGraaf.
"We had our defense set if they came out to run power," Jones said. "They told the officials we might take a timeout, it was good communication from the sideline. After that, [the kids] have to play whatever they show us, and they came up with a stop."
Fonda came up with a defensive play of its own on the next Hoosick Falls possession, as Hart intercepted Wright (the senior's first pick of the year) to go to halftime trailing just 10-0.
But Brewster was on the spot as Fonda got the ball to start the second half. On 1st-and-20, Brewster picked off Williams (who was 11-for-17 for 136 yards and 3 interceptions in the game) to give Hoosick Falls great field position at its 44.
"Watching some film, they like to throw the seam to [Will Turner, the tight end]," Brewster said. "Right off the bat, I saw the quarterback staring right at it so I went at it, jumped and got it."
Then it was Matatt's turn to shine scoring on a 2-yard touchdown run to make it 16-0.
After Fonda went three-and-out on the next drive when Jake Bakaitis sacked Williams on third down, Brandon Hodges became the workhorse, taking the ball on all but three plays before scoring on a 13-yard screen pass to make it 23-0.
"They are tough dudes, they are determined and they like having the ball," Jones said. "There's a lot of in-game momentum, a transition when something good happens. When [Fonda was] doing a good job against the run, Garrett and the receivers were playing very well. It opened up a few things and helped us establish the run in our pace."
Trying desperately to come back, Williams and Turner hooked up for 30 yards on a first down, but the drive stalled at the end of the third quarter after back-to-back sacks by Derek Bird to force a turnover on downs.
Mattat then scored six plays later. The senior carried the ball 26 times for 126 yards and two scores as part of a balanced attack from the Panthers.
Peter Muratorri finished the rout one series later when he picked off Williams and ran it back 55 yards for a score.
Hoosick Falls now faces Chatham in a rematch of last year's Super Bowl, a Hoosick 40-0 win en route to a state title. Chatham beat Corinth, 52-6, in the other semifinal.
"The younger guys, first-year starters, worked hard in the offseason and it's showing up now," Jones said. "Chatham doesn't care about any streak. We have to get ready and prepare ... think about [the streak] after the season."
Matatt said the team is ready for their 5th straight Super Bowl on Saturday.
"It's something special, not a lot of teams get to do this," Matatt said. "We just have to work hard in practice and play Hoosick Falls football next week."