Hutch-Tech and South Park pitched low-scoring shutouts Saturday to earn tickets to the 99th annual Harvard Cup championship game at All High Stadium on Thanksgiving Day at 11 a.m.
Hutch-Tech scored on its first offensive play of the second half and then stopped three McKinley drives deep in the red zone to gain a 6-0 victory in the first semifinal game at All High.
South Park defeated Burgard, 8-0, in a game that officials stopped with 1:24 remaining after several fights broke out.
Hutch-Tech (9-1) has now blanked its last six opponents while scoring 180 points during the stretch. The last team to score on the Engineers was South Park (8-2) in a 36-6 Sparks' win.
Senior running back Farrod Muhammad got the Engineers' touchdown on a 39-yard run 1:24 into the second half. The two-point conversion failed on a dropped pass. The scoring drive came after defensive lineman Jeff Moore blocked a McKinley punt.
"It was the time as a senior to realize that this would be the last game if we lost," said Muhammad. "I give everything to our line. They did a wonderful job up on the front. They got the blocks made and we got the touchdown, baby. That's all that matters because now we're playing for the Cup."
The rest of the day belonged to the Engineers' stout defense. One crucial stand came midway in the fourth quarter, after the Macks drove to the Hutch-Tech 9.
On first down, McKinley quarterback Michael Gates was sacked for a 6-yard loss. Then came two incomplete passes. On fourth down, Engineers linebacker Ramon Suarez tacked Demettrius Patterson at the 9.
The game was sealed with 1:30 left when Gates fumbled away the ball while being sacked near midfield.
"The kids really played hard down inside the 20 today," said Engineers defensive coordinator Tim Delaney. "They busted a couple of plays and really made tackles."
South Park also struck in the third quarter of a scoreless game. Quarterback Jason Truman faked a handoff and then hit wide receiver Justin Bartlomiejczak with a 23-yard scoring pass with 5:33 left in the period. The touchdown capped a nine-play, 62-yard drive that ate up almost 6 1/2 minutes. Running back James Henley ran for the two-point conversion.
Burgard hung tough but early in the fourth quarter the Bulldogs were stopped on a fourth-and-3 play near midfield when tailback Darrius Connor was stuffed on the line of scrimmage. With 5:18 left, Burgard defensive lineman David Sanders blocked a punt which allowed Burgard to start a drive at the South Park 43. But quarterback Adrian Dixon fumbled a few plays later and Sparks defensive back Randy Calloway recovered to kill the drive with 4:30 remaining.
Things got nasty in the waning moments of the game.
With 2:32 left, Truman was apparently stopped for a loss on a fourth-and-1 run from the Burgard 33.
One official appeared to be whistling the play dead, but Truman jumped forward and was awarded the first down.
The call incensed the Bulldogs' sideline and several Burgard players were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, moving the ball to the 4. Then the Bulldogs were flagged for a face mask call on a Henley running play. Suddenly the entire Burgard team approached the South Park sideline and a few fights broke out in what developed into an ugly and chaotic scene.
After the game was called, more fights broke out. Security guards ordered the Burgard contingent to the bus and ushered the Sparks to their locker room. Guards also ordered the fans to clear the stadium.
Burgard soon left the stadium while the Sparks waited for their transportation.
"Our goal was to try and run the ball as much as we possibly could. Then we wanted to get them with a play-action pass," said Sparks head coach Ken Pope.
"The weather out there was horrible. We are a throwing team. We got Truman, who I will put up there with any quarterback in Western New York. But we couldn't throw the ball because of the weather conditions. We were able to run and our guys were blocking well. We set up the play-action with the run and then hit Justin with the touchdown pass and that was it.
"We stopped their run well. We discovered a young man named Prentiss Washington who is a sophomore. It took him until the eighth week of the season to get in shape to play. He is 380 pounds and so large that he stops up three people in the middle and they weren't able to get through because he was taking on the guard, center and tackle by himself," Pope continued.