AMHERST, N.Y.-Sweet Home is back in the state championship game for the first time since 2009. This time around it's a different cast of players looking to make their mark in the history books.
"It's a dream come true. It's something me and my teammates have been working for since we were freshmen, actually since eighth grade" says senior quarterback Mike Torrillo. "We're just thankful for the opportunity and excited to play."
"Just the chance to be in the dome and play for a state championship; it's awesome," says senior defensive end Josh Roe. "It's the epitome of your success as far as winning games and division titles and sectional titles; this is the ultimate. Winning a state championship," says Head Coach John Faller.
They'll have the chance this Friday against Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, the team that the Panthers defeated when they won their state championships in 2008 and 2009. This will be the fourth time in five years that Burnt Hills is in the championship game, although they have lost the previous three. "They're due I just hope it's not this weekend," says Coach Faller. "They're very well coached; they've got some good athletes. They do a lot of things well. They've been pretty much dominating everybody they've played all year." "They're solid at every position," says Torrillo. "It's going to come down to who executes their game-plan the best and who comes out and plays. It's going to be a good game."
The Panthers will hope to come ready to play from the beginning although they are getting used to coming from behind. They've trailed by 14 points in their two previous games only to come back and win. "Myself and the coaches we have to keep that calmness and that focus from us and down to the kids because they only feed off of what we're doing," says Coach Faller. "I think after being together for so many years and being in those types of situations we're able to give the kids good direction and talk to them in a way that will keep them poised in the game."
"I think a big thing is the coaches. They never get down. They're always positive, keeping us up," says Torrillo. "Another thing is the players. No one has any quit.""We all know we're going to come ready to play," says Roe. "We could go down 14; we could be up 14. We're going to play one hundred percent every week and we all pick each other up."
A big part of the comeback victory last week was sophomore standout Brad Zaffram who has been all over the field for Sweet Home. "He's our leading receiver, he's one of our leading tacklers; defensive point getters. There's not much he can't do," says Coach Faller. "When you see him get in there and put a good hit on somebody the next minute he's reaching with both hands and hauling down a pass...right now the game doesn't faze him as far as being young." "He's awesome. He's real good," says Roe. "I knew he was gonna do good so we're glad to have him."
With the tremendous play of this 2012 team the comparisons to the teams of 2008 and 2009 are inevitable. "This team here plays a little bit better together. I think we're more well-balanced as far as run and pass," says Coach Faller.
"I've heard and saw that they were great," says Roe. "We made it here but we still got to win it." "If we can complete the task Friday then we can go down as one of the top three teams in Sweet Home history since no one else has gotten to this point," says senior quarterback Mike Torrillo.
That opportunity will come Friday, November 23 at 3-p.m. in the Class A championship game against Brunt Hills at the Carrier Dome.