SYRACUSE – They did it.
It took nearly every single one of the 49 points they put on the scoreboard Friday at the Carrier Dome, but the South Park Sparks completed their march toward history by becoming the first Buffalo Public Schools football program to win a New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association championship.
South Park defeated Section I champion Our Lady of Lourdes, 49-46, before an estimated 3,000 in the Class A final, as the Sparks used an avalanche of big plays from quarterback Tyree Brown to overcome incredible performances from Lourdes’ record-setting quarterback Dean Rotger (28 of 45, 408 yards) and all-world receiver Luke Timm (18 catches, 277 yards).
Brown passed for touchdowns of 40 and 57 yards and rushed for scores of 63, 27, 38 and 44 yards en route to securing game most valuable player honors, and a trophy even more precious to the Sparks.
His biggest plays though came on the final drive as he connected on a 7-yard pass on third-and-7 to David Thomas to milk the clock to the point where the Warriors were helpless to stop it any more. When Brown took a knee for the last time wearing a South Park uniform with under 20 seconds left it sparked one heck of a celebration.
Player of the game: Brown who rushed 11 times for 217 yards and completed 7-of-15 passes for 140, two TDs and three interceptions. Still, when South Park needed a big first down on the game’s final drive on third down, it called a pass play without hesitation.
Play of the game: Anyone of Brown’s six touchdowns would do but we’ll select his inspiring 38-yard run off left tackle with 3:08 left in the third quarter. He had just returned to the game a play earlier after missing two with a leg cramp following a 13-yard run. He broke a couple tackles during that jaunt down the sideline to not only increase South Park’s lead to 35-26 but also show his teammates that he was fine, there’s no need to panic.
Play of the game II: Austin Neal’s 49-yard touchdown run up the middle to increase South Park’s lead to 43-32 with a minute and change still left in the THIRD quarter.
Play of the first half: Brown 40 pass on fourth down to Moore to get South Park on the board. That was Brown’s first completion of the game after he had been picked off twice during a first quarter in which he was slightly long with his throws. That long TD opened the floodgates as the Sparks.
Defensive stands: In a game where teams combined for 1,060 yards (543 on 82 plays by Lourdes and 517 on 45 for South Park), the Sparks defense bought time for its offense to get settled down by repelling the Warriors by forcing two turnovers on downs and recovering a fumble at their own 8 with 1:10 left in the first quarter.
A Brown interception on South Park’s ensuing possession opened the door for Lourdes to strike first during a 41-point second quarter. Still, the Sparks led 29-12 at halftime.
Unsung hero: Austin Neal at running back who rushed for 141 yards on 12 carries. He rushed for 14 yards on two carries with Brown on the sideline due to a leg cramp, including one violent, tackle-breaking run to pick up a first down.
N.Y. State Sportswriters poll: South Park entered the final ranked first in the state, Our Lady of Lourdes third.
Records: South Park 12-1. Our Lady of Lourdes 10-3.
Next: Season’s over for both teams.