SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WKTV) - In what looked like a video game come to life, New Hartford won its first Section III football championship since 1993 Friday night at the Carrier Dome, holding off league rival Camden in a classic shootout for the Class A title 42-35.
The Spartans, seeded No. 8 but the only Section III team ranked in the state in Class A at No. 17, were unstoppable on offense in the first half, scoring touchdowns on all five of their possessions for a 35-21 lead at halftime. Camden, the No. 2 seed, held the Spartans to just seven points in the second half and none in the fourth quarter, but could not get enough out of its own offense to complete a comeback.
New Hartford, now 8-2, advances to play the yet-to-be-determined Section IV champion (either Corning West or Maine-Endwell) in the state regional round at Cicero-North Syracuse next Friday at 8:00. Camden, which was trying for its first sectional title since 2003, finishes the season 6-4. Two of those losses were to New Hartford, the first being a 41-31 defeat in the season-opener.
The game featured 866 combined total yards of offense, 574 for New Hartford (340 in the first half) and 292 for Camden. The Spartans had 221 rush yards to the Blue Devils' 108 and 353 yards in the air to 184. New Hartford quarterback Mike Doyle was 15-25 passing for 331 yards and two touchdowns to Anthony Acevedo, who had six catches for 174 yards. Running back Joe Carcone ran 28 times for 210 yards and threw a touchdown pass and John Boyle ran for two 1-yard touchdowns. Camden quarterback D.J. Forbragd threw two touchdown passes, scrambled for another and caught a fourth in his final high school game.
After Camden went three-and-out on the game's opening possession, New Hartford started the scoring with a 41-yard touchdown pass from Doyle to Acevedo. After another three-and-out by Camden, the Spartans made it 14-0 on an 85-yard drive capped by a 1-yard Boyle touchdown run. Camden answered on its ensuing possession with an 8-yard touchdown pass on 4th-and-4 from Forbragd to Nick Mitchell-Picente to make it 14-6, and from there the shootout took off.
New Hartford scored on its ensuing possession in the second quarter on a 6-yard 4th-and-goal pass from Carcone to Joe Desens to go up 21-6. Camden answered with a 60-yard kickoff return that eventually led to a 3-yard scramble score by Forbragd, and a 2-point conversion made it 21-14. The Spartans again answered with passes of 42 and 25 yards to set up a 1-yard Eric Verbickas touchdown, and the lead was 27-14. The Blue Devils wasted no time responding, using a 97-yard reverse kickoff return finished by Kyle Conniff, trimming the score to 27-21. New Hartford marched right back with Doyle hitting Acevedo for a 57-yard score and a 35-21 lead. Camden then drove for a 1st-and-goal with time running out, but could not score on 4th down at the buzzer.
In the third quarter, Camden's defense got its act together, recovering a fumble and forcing a punt from New Hartford's 1-yard line on the Spartans' first two possessions. The punt gave the Blue Devils the ball at New Hartford's 19, and they cashed in with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Forbragd to Holden Coon, cutting the score to 35-28. Camden then recovered an onsides kick that New Hartford was clearly not expecting, but the Spartans' defense held, forcing a missed 42-yard field goal attempt by Forbragd. New Hartford then scored again on another 1-yard Boyle run, taking a 42-28 lead into the fourth quarter.
Early in the fourth, Camden got a big break when Carcone broke loose for what might have been a 95-yard score, but the Blue Devils forced him to fumble at their 33-yard line and Forbragd recovered it. After trading punts, Camden used a trick play to find the end zone again, with Forbragd tossing the ball to Evan Birmingham then cutting downfield to catch a pass from Birmingham for a 29-yard score and a 42-35 deficit with 5:57 remaining. But that would be as close as the Blue Devils would get, as their final two possessions resulted in a turnover on downs and an interception by Nick Horth.
Acevedo and Forbragd were named the game's Most Valuable Players; Doyle and Camden's Tyler Renk received the sportsmanship awards.