SYRACUSE — Playing in its first game at the Dome in approaching three decades, Friday was a new experience for the Beaver River football team.
Yet Dolgeville, led by Jared Bilinski, followed a familiar script in winning Section 3’s Class D championship game.
Bilinski ran for four touchdowns, including two in each half, as the top-seeded Blue Devils powered their way to a 44-24 triumph over the second-seeded Beavers to secure another sectional crown at the JMA Wireless Dome.
“Their game and the way they play was not unexpected,” Beaver River coach Matt Lyndaker said of Dolgeville. “They’re just a really strong football team, but I’m proud of the way our guys played, there was no quit in us.”
Bilinski, a senior running back, rushed for churning, bruising yards on 20 carries to propel Dolgeville’s power game.
“It’s great to win this one as well as last year to end that drought,” Bilinski said. “We’ve been working all summer and last year at the end of the season to come back strong.”
Junior quarterback Cade Mosher ran for a touchdown and also passed for a score for the top-seeded Blue Devils (10-0), who secured their second consecutive sectional crown.
Junior quarterback Derrick Zehr threw three touchdown passes to lead second-seeded Beaver River, which finishes its season at 8-2.
“It was incredible,” Zehr said of the experience. “Just getting to play in the Dome and getting the opportunity is amazing.”
The Beavers, which had won their past six games to reach the title game, competed at the Dome for the first time since 1995.
With Dolgeville leading 8-6 in the second quarter, it executed a 14-play scoring drive that covered 54 yards, capped by a 10-yard scoring run by Bilinski, who bulled his through the middle and into the end zone.
Bilinski then ran in the conversion and Dolgeville led 16-6 with 5:18 left in the half.
“He’s just an animal, he’s tough,” Lyndaker said of Bilinsky. “And you can tell they have a very good offensive line, I think they really put the time in to be successful.”
The Blue Devils also converted on three fourth-down attempts in the drive.
“We always like to be physical, so we don’t like backing down, that’s the last thing we wanted to do,” Bilinski said. “So it was nothing new for us to go on fourth down. Our mind-set is ‘pride is forever, pain is temporary.’”
Beaver River responded with a 14-play possession of its own to the Dolgeville 21, but turned the ball over on downs with four seconds left in the quarter.
“That was huge,” Lyndaker said. “And then their drive to start the third quarter with them marching down the field, that was a big momentum swing.”
Bilinski followed with back-to-back three-yard scoring runs to open the second half.
“You get tired here and there, but you just learn to fight through it,” Bilinksi said.
“They’re a great football team,” Zehr said of Dolgeville. “They kind of did everything we thought they were going to do. They do just about everything as well as you can.”
After finishing off a lengthy drive, Bilinski scored his first touchdown of the quarter for a 22-6 advantage and three plays later intercepted a Zehr pass.
Two plays later, Bilinski scored on a three-yard sweep to the right side and the Blue Devils led 30-6 on Dager’s conversion catch on a pass from Mosher with 4:08 left in the quarter.
“Just we work hard together and I can’t do anything without my line,” Bilinski said. “So we rely equally on each other, without our line, we can’t run the ball. So I work with my line the best and talk with them to see what is happening, so we can make plays.”
Beaver River trimmed the lead to 30-12 as Brit Dicob hauled in a 45-yard strike from Zehr with 2:42 left.
But Dolgeville responded on tight end Kamryn Comstock’s touchdown reception with 8:40 remaining in the game.
“They just wear you down, they were physical,” Zehr said. “They were able to get the best of us today.”
The Beavers kept battling as Bush caught a three-yard scoring pass from Zehr to pull within 36-18, but Bilinski added a 12-yard touchdown run and Michael Blaskey made the conversion catch for a 44-18 lead with 2:17 left.
Beaver River capped the scoring on Gavin Fowler’s three-yard scoring run with 18 seconds left.
Zehr, who also threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Boliver in the first quarter to draw his team within 8-6, was honored as the team’s most outstanding player for the game.
On the day, Zehr completed 17 of 29 passing attempts for 271 yards, with 181 of them coming in the second half.
“Like I told the kids, all you can do is have no regrets and just leave it on the field,” Lyndaker said. “Just to see them after the game, just physically and mentally drained, they did everything they possibly could. We just got beat by a better team today.”
Also for Beaver River, Dicob, a sophomore wideout, totaled 131 receiving yards on six catches.
The Beavers’ only other loss this season was to Dolgeville, 48-7, on Sept. 23.
“It’s very tough,” Zehr said. “It’s just such an incredible senior class, I’m really going to miss all of them. But just the experience of this, I think we’re going to be really hungry this offseason because we’ve tasted it and we want to get back here.”
The Beavers, who came into the game ranked No. 12 in the state in Class C, reached the sectional final after winning only two games last year.
“I told the kids be proud of yourselves,” Lyndaker added. “But this is where we want to be every season and it starts with our offseason if we want to get back here.”