KINGST0N, N.Y. - Joe Clarke scored on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Khalil Edney with 30 seconds remaining in the game to lift New Rochelle into the New York State Class AA championship game with a thrilling 28-21 victory against previously unbeaten Shaker of Albany Saturday at Dietz Stadium.
The Huguenots (10-1), will represent Section 1 against Section 6's Orchard Park at 6 p.m. Saturday in the Carrier Dome at Syracuse University in the Class AA title game. New Rochelle last won a state championship in 2003.
"My coaches always tell me I can be a big-time player, so I look for opportunities to make plays," said Clarke, who also made an interception with 15 seconds remaining in the game to stop Shaker's last attempt to score. "I'm so happy to be able to go to Syracuse to play for a championship, for my team and my coaches."
New Rochelle led 20-0 late into the third quarter before Shaker scored twice to cut the score to 20-13 with less than four minutes left in the game. The Huguenots could not move the ball on their next possession and Shaker drove the field, scored and made a two-point conversion to take a stunning g 21-10 lead with 1:35 to play.
"We let them back into the game and they played really well to go ahead," Edney said. "We went into our two-minute offense. I have to be the one to lead the team and I stayed poised. Coach (Lou DiRienzo) said we had time and me and Joe made the plays we needed."
Edney took control 54 yards from a winning score. First, he ran a quarterback keeper for 18 yards and then hit Clarke with a pass to give New Rochelle the ball on Shaker's 19-yard line with 45 seconds remaining. Edney hit Clarke with the winning touchdown pass and then passed to Jason Ceneus for a two-point conversion and a 28-21 lead.
"This is why we practice two-minute drills and do all the things we do all year in practice," DiRienzo said. "Joe Clarke is a special athlete. Khalil has matured with each game, and these kids stayed poised and got us a great win. It's a special group of kids."
Ceneus scored from seven yards out early in the first quarter and Clarke kicked the point after to give New Rochelle a 7-0 lead. Jon Forrest ran one in from a yard out to make the score 13-0 and Clarke's kick made it 14-0 at halftime. Ceneus ran in another score form 10 yards out to give New Rochelle the 20-0 lead.
New Rochelle's Terrance Holder was named the game's Most Valuable Defensive Player and Edney the Most Valuable Offensive Player, but it was Clarke who made five plays late in the game to steal the win away from Shaker.
DiRienzo, who led the Huguenots to the 2003 title with the help of now Baltimore Ravens star running back Ray Rice, reached the finals in 2004 and 2009 before injuries to Rice and quarterback Lewis Edney (Khalil's brother), respectively, led to tough losses.
"It's good to have another chance to win a championship," DiRienzo saId. "Shaker really played a great game and pushed us to the limit. We are a team and a family. We did this as a family."