ELMIRA - Elmira used a strong second half to earn the right to play in its eighth-straight Section IV Class AA finals Saturday with a 28-12 victory over Horseheads.

With the Express leading 14-6 at the break, Horseheads came out of the half and put together a 5-play 70 yard drive, all Gavin Elston runs, capped off by an Elston 8-yard touchdown that cut the lead to just two points and seemed to swing the momentum to the Blue Raiders.

At halftime, with a chance at competing for a third-straight sectional title on the line, head coach Jimmy McCauley gave some advice to his team.

“How do you want to be remembered,” McCauley said. “It’s plain and simple -- we have pictures in our locker room of our championship teams. I said, ‘if you want to earn your spot on the wall, we got to come out here and have a great second half.’”

The Express responded, shutting out Horseheads the rest of the way, limiting the Blue Raiders to just 40 yards of offense after the first drive.

Elmira scored on its second offensive possession of the second half, a 53 yard drive powered by a Nate Latshaw run of 23 yards and a 9-yard score.

The ensuing Blue Raiders possession, Latshaw stepped in front of a Grayson Woodhouse pass and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown that put Elmira up 28-12 in a span of two minutes.

“I just read my key, got the pick and we ran into the end zone as a team,” said Latshaw of the interception.

Latshaw fueled the Express offense with 127 yards on 25 carries that included two touchdowns on the ground and the interception.

Horseheads stormed out to an early 6-0 lead when the Blue Raiders recovered an onside kick to open the game and took it 29 yards for a score capped off by a Woodhouse 10-yard touchdown throw to Ryan Scott.

Elston led the Blue Raiders with 15 carries for 110 yards.

Elmira scored its first touchdown on a five-minute drive that spanned 70 yards that Latshaw punched in from 11 yards out.

The Express added to their lead with 6:57 to go in the second quarter when Garrett Johnson broke free on a 40 yard score on fourth-and-11 that gave Elmira the halftime advantage.

“Garrett is one of our guys, no if ands or buts about it,” said McCauley. “I thought it was a chance for him to get a touch, and he showed you what he’s capable of.”

Elmira will travel to Corning for the Section IV Class AA finals Friday at 7 p.m. Elmira will be looking for its fifth sectional title in the past seven seasons.

Horseheads finishes its season 6-3.