SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The Herkimer Magicians won a third consecutive Section III championship Saturday. Now, they want more.
“I’m excited but the ultimate goal is to win a state championship,” senior Ryan Fahy said following Herkimer’s 43-14 win over defending Class D champion Sandy Creek in the Carrier Dome. “I think this team has the potential to compete in the state playoffs.”
Fahy, a fullback-turned-center on offense, was a starter on the Magicians’ last state tournament team in Class C in 2011 and started on both sides of the ball for the Class C-2 sectional champions last year. He made 14 tackles from his middle linebacker position Saturday and helped Herkimer shut Sandy Creek out in the second half after the Comets had come back from a 14-0 deficit to tie the game before halftime.
Cameron Hall ran 17 yards for a Sandy Creek touchdown in the first quarter and quarterback Kyle Fayette ran 14 yards for the tying score in the second. The game would remain tied for exactly three offensive plays: a short run started the next Herkimer drive and was followed by a 10-yard gain by Zach Steele on a screen pass from Austin Mills; Brennen Thompson broke loose on a 33-yard run on the next play then raced 16 yards to the left pylon for the go-ahead touchdown.
“Our kids just went out there and it was back to business,” coach Alan Steele, Zach’s father, said.
“We wanted to get the momentum back,” Fahy added. “We knew if we could get the momentum back we’d be in control of the game.”
The momentum shifted more to the Magicians’ favor a short time later. The Comets handed the ball to Hall twice following the change of possession and their 1,000-yard rusher went down with an injury to his left knee on the second carry. Hall had to be helped off the field and did not return to action after that.
Sandy Creek (8-2), a come-from-behind winner over West Canada Valley and Dolgeville in its first two playoff games, would not see the end zone again against a determined Herkimer defense that took the ball away five times.
“We played a pretty good half of football,” Alan Steele said, “almost the best half you can play.”
Herkimer (9-1) missed a chance to extend its lead when Fayette intercepted a pass from Mills in the end zone with 1:16 left in the half. Herkimer’s Eric Johnston picked off a Fayette pass at the Magicians’ 4 on the final play before halftime.
Sandy Creek had the ball to start the second half but fumbled it away with defensive end Adam Kirkpatrick pouncing on the ball for Herkimer. Starting at midfield and overcoming two penalties, the Magicians drove for another score on Mills’ 28-yard touchdown pass to Johnston.
Page 2 of 2 - Mills ran nine yards for a touchdown late in the third quarter and did so again early in the fourth. The Magicians added a 34-yard Matt Borek field goal following an interception by Mills.
Herkimer recovered Sandy Creek’s onsides kick to start the game then scored on a 63-yard Mills-to-Thompson pass on the first play from scrimmage.
“That wasn’t even the designed play,” Mills admitted. “They covered the play perfectly. Brennen just got open (on the other side).”
Mills’ six-yard touchdown run put Herkimer up 14-0 following Fahy’s recovery of a Sandy Creek fumble at the Comets’ 33-yard line.
Herkimer will play a regional playoff Friday at 5 p.m. at Union-Endicott High School against Tioga, the Section IV champion. Tioga scored 43 points in the second quarter Saturday and defeated Unatego 80-53 for its third consecutive sectional title; the Tigers led 59-12 at halftime.
HERKIMER 43, SANDY CREEK 14
Sandy Creek 7 7 0 0 — 14
Herkimer 14 7 12 10 — 43
HERK — Brennen Thompson 63 pass from Austin Mills (Matt Borek kick), 11:44.
HERK — Mills 6 run (Borek kick), 3:47.
SC — Cameron Hall 17 run (Tyler Swarthout kick), :31.
SC — Kyle Fayette 14 run (Swarthout kick), 4:52.
HERK — Thompson 16 run (Borek kick), 3:35.
HERK — Eric Johnston 28 pass from Mills (pass failed), 8:40.
HERK — Mills 9 run (pass failed), 1:06.
HERK — Mills 9 run (Borek kick), 10:38.
HERK — Borek 34 field goal, 6:55.
Records — Sandy Creek 8-2; Herkimer 9-1.