TROY - The Amsterdam Rugged Rams have been waiting for this opportunity since Oct. 6.
Immediately after they lost their regular-season game to Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake by 10 points, the Rams have been focused on getting another shot at the Spartans in the Section II Class A championship game.
Part of that mission has been accomplished as the Rugged Rams punched their ticket to their second straight title game with a 40-21 win over the Troy Flying Horses in Friday night's semifinal game at Troy High School.
Amsterdam’s Geo Rodriguez runs through the tackle of Troy’s Nick Mariano during Friday’s Section II Class A semifinal game at Troy High School. (The Leader-Herald/Mike Zummo)
"We'd love another shot at [Burnt Hills-Ballston?Lake]," Amsterdam coach Doug Edick said. "They're a great team and they've been on top for the last five or seven years. We're going to give it our best shot."
Things didn't look so good at the end of the first quarter, however, as Amsterdam found itself trailing 14-0 after its defense had difficulty adjusting to the Flying Horses' offense.
The Flying Horses (6-3) got off to a running start as Rayshawn Johnson, Dan Reichelt, Nick Valenti and Maurice Jones helped take nearly 4 minutes off the clock in a drive that ended with Johnson's 36-yard touchdown run, giving Troy a 7-0 lead.
Amsterdam's ensuing drive lasted all of three plays as quarterback Geo Rodriguez was intercepted by Troy's Pat Chamberlain, who ran the ball back 45 yards, giving the Flying Horses a 14-0 lead.
"That was the worst moment ever," Rodriguez said. "I threw an interception and the guy runs right by me and scores. I was down on myself."
It was starting to look a lot like the Rugged Rams' loss to Burnt Hills, where they fell behind 19-0 in a game they would eventually lose 32-22.
But the Rugged Rams (6-3) started clawing themselves back in the game after getting Brett Stanavich back in the game after he rolled his ankle earlier.
"I couldn't put too much weight on it, but [trainer] Carla [Pasquarelli] took care of me and she taped it up and I was able to go after that," Stanavich said.
The Rams ended the first quarter with a 15-yard pass from Rodriguez to Rob Sherlock that brought them to the Troy 11.
Four plays into the second quarter - on fourth down -Stanavich ran five yards into the end zone, cutting Troy's lead in half.
"I didn't want to panic," Edick said. "I think the kids were getting a little jittery. I said, 'Let's settle down; let's stay the course.' We did that against Burnt Hills. We played them a tough second half. We didn't beat them, but ever since that second half, we've been on a roll."
The defense followed that with another stop and forced a punt after Rodriguez sacked Chamberlain, who was constantly under pressure from Amsterdam defensive ends Isaiah Martin and Ken Garcia.
"Pat couldn't get the ball off," Troy coach Jack Burger said. "We've had some injuries at the wideout position. The guys that are our go-to guys were hurt. They've got good speed back there and they've done a good job covering our guys."
Then, late in the second quarter, the Rams tied the game with a swinging gate. With most of the line and wideouts to his left, Rodriguez was all alone when he took the snap on the Troy 36-yard line. He lofted the ball into the air for Julian Gallup, who made a leaping catch and fell into the end zone.
Marcus Pritchard's kick tied the game at halftime.
"I knew exactly where he was supposed to be but I did not have a clue where he was," Rodriguez said. "As soon as I threw it, I knew he was going to go up there and snag it."
With the game tied, Martin, a senior captain, rallied the team during the break.
"We didn't want to let the opportunity go to waste," Martin said. "We're all out here; we're all fighting for the same thing. Keep fighting. Don't go down and don't cower down just because they're the favorites to win."
Amsterdam struck quick in the second half as Rodriguez hit Stanavich for a 57-yard touchdown pass and a punt block, set the Rams up on the Troy 1-yard line.
"That's when things started to unravel," Burger said. "That punt block was huge. At that point, it was still a pretty darn good football game and I think it would have been down to the end. That one really hurt us."
Three plays later, Stanavich scored on a 3-yard run, giving Amsterdam a 27-14 lead. After a Troy three-and-out, Stanavich scored on a 75-yard run to further break the Flying Horses' back.
Troy cut the lead to 34-21 on a 2-yard run by Jones, after being set up by Da'Quann Mosely's 75-yard kick return. Then with 1:46 to go, Rodriguez got some revenge on Chamberlain, picking his pass off at the Troy 35 and returned it for a touchdown.
Now, with the Flying Horses behind them, the Rams are setting their sights on Burnt Hills, who defeated Queensbury, 36-20, in the other semifinal, and a Section II Class A championship.
The Rams and Spartans will meet at 7 p.m. next Saturday at Shenendehowa High School.
"We're going to celebrate tonight and have some fun, but Sunday we'll be back in the weight room watching film, focused and ready to go," Martin said. "We're not going to let this opportunity go to waste like last time."
Amsterdam 40, Troy 21
Amsterdam 0 14 20 6 - 40
Troy14 0 7 0 - 21
T - Johnson 36 run (Mekhaldi kick), 8:10
T -Chamberlain 45 interception return (Mekhaldi kick), 6:55
A - Stanavich 5 run (Pritchard kick), 9:40
A - Gallup 36 pass from Rodriguez (Pritchard kick), 1:35
A - Stanavich 57 pass from Rodriguez (Pritchard kick), 10:40
A - Stanavich 3 run (kick blocked), 6:09
A - Stanavich 75 run (Pritchard kick), 3:40
T - Jones 2 run (Mekhaldi kick), :47
A - Rodriguez 35 interception return (pass failed), 1:46