September 01 , 2007
Purple Tigers, Trojans drop debuts
CHS hangs tough before 15-8 loss to Chittenango
CHITTENANGO — A new era for Cortland High football started Friday night where the previous one ended.
Unfortunately for the Purple Tigers, the end result was the same — a close loss.
Coach Dave Darrow began his tenure as CHS head coach with a 15-8 Section 3 Class A American Division loss to host Chittenango. The Bears turf field had also been the site of a 27-24 overtime loss to Oneida last fall in a crossover contest in Jim Brown’s final game as Cortland head coach.
Friday’s end result, while disappointing for the Purple Tigers and a loyal following that made the trek north for the contest, was something of a vindication for the visitors. Chittenango has been touted as one of the favorites in the league this season, and it took a touchdown with 8:44 left to give the Bears what proved to be the winning points.
“The kids showed a lot of heart,”Darrow said. “They didn’t give up, and believed they could win. They played good defense, and if not for a couple of dropped passes in the first half it could have been a different game.
“We were in the game,” he added. “One of our goals this season is to be in every game with a chance to win. We’ll keep working hard. There’s some adjusting to do. But we have to be able to run the football. We just could get our running game going.”
“The kids played with heart,”Cortland defensive coordinator Tom Murphy said. “We’ve got a lot to build on. Obviously were not satisfied with this. Chittenango is a really strong, physical team, but our guys stayed together and didn’t quit.
“Cortland did a great job of adjusting to our pro-set (offense),”Chittenango coach Jack Hayes said, “with a lot of stunts, blitzes, twists and stunts from the defensive ends. They have some great athletes. They’ve been down a little, but they’re going to win some games.”
THE BEARS SMOKED host Cortland 48-6 last season, and in its early stages Friday’s game looked like it would be more of the same. The Purple Tigers failed to do anything after receiving the opening kickoff, and when senior punter Levi Walrath kneeled in the end zone to field a low snap the hosts had a 2-0 lead just over two minutes in.
Chittenango set up on the CHS 33 after the resulting free kick and needed four plays to score, junior quarterback Jonathan Stevens connecting with senior tight end Shaun St. Onge on an eight-yard touchdown pass to make it 8-0 for minutes in after the conversion run failed.
“We shot ourselves in the foot early but came back,” Darrow said. “There was a little bit of the jitters. We could have folded; a lot of teams would have turned tail and run right there.”
“Cortland didn’t give up at all,” said Hayes, who lost his starting tailback, senior Joe Martins, to a knee injury (the severity unknown) on the hosts’ first offensive play. “We went to a sophomore backup (Kyle Mills), and fortunately we’re a little deep at that position.”
Mills was the winner’s workhorse, carrying the ball 23 times and picking up a total of 123 yards.
Cortland was able to tie the game after getting a field position advantage of its own, pinning the Bears deep in their own territory and starting its next drive on the Bears’ 30-yard line. After CHS was penalized for an illegal block and got one yard back, junior tailback Brandon Fitzgerald went right with a handoff, then cut back diagonally to the left and went untouched into the end zone on a 40-yard TD run. Fitzgerald then got wide open on the left side and gathered in the conversion pass from senior quarterback A.J. Meldrim to tie the game at 8-8.
Chittenango was rolling on its next drive before Purple Tiger junior linebacker Josh Morehouse intercepted a Stevens pass at the 24. The visitors got to the Bears 47 before bogging down on the subsequent possession, and the hosts then ran out the clock to end the half.
Chittenango received the second-half kickoff and used its rugged offensive line to eat up yardage on the ground, moving to the Cortland 43 with nine running plays in a row before a fourth-down pass by an off-balance Stevens fell short.
“WE WANTED TO get out of the pro set and go double-tight (ends) so their defense couldn’t pick a strong side,” Hayes said of his teams second-half ground success. “We just wanted to go smash-mouth.”
“They pounded on us,” Darrow said, “and we stopped them. With the success they had with the run, I don’t know why they’d ever think of passing.”
Hayes noted that he and his staff wanted to mix up offensive sets a little, and after a scoreless third quarter the eventual winning points came through the air.
Chittenango senior Nick Boysen’s pooch punt was downed on the Cortland one-yard line a minute into the fourth quarter and after the visitors picked up one yard in three plays Walraths punt was returned to the CHS 15.
On the first play from scrimmage, Stevens swung a pass to junior wide receiver Andy Moth, who went around the right side and scored, kicker Brandon Raymond then closing out the scoring.
“We didn’t run a lot of pro-set, because it hurt us, but on that play we did because we noticed the cornerback was deep,” Stevens said. “It was an iso pass.”
“I did a square-out, and I thought I was going to get crushed,” Moth said with a grin. “Once I got the ball I wanted the end zone and knew I was going to get there.”
Chittenango was plagued by injuries last season, and Stevens was starting in only his second game last season when the Bears came to Cortland and left with an easy victory. Moth had also been called up to the varsity the week before, but had broken his leg in that first game and was unable to play against the Purple Tigers.
“We weren’t overlooking Cortland, but last year we killed them and I think we thought we’d jump all over them again,” Stevens said. “But it wasn’t as easy this time. We played pretty sloppy.”
CHS HAD TWO more possessions after falling behind again. The first was four-and-out, but after getting the ball on their own 16 with 4:01 left the visitors were able to drive to the Chittenango 37 before Bears junior defensive back Adam Wayne picked off a Meldrim pass at the hosts 15 three minutes later to close things out.
Meldrim had completed four passes in the drive, but the big play, a 28-yard hookup with Wright to the Bears38 five plays into the drive, had been wiped out by an illegal shift penalty.
On the night, Meldrim went 8-for-22 passing for 81 yards but was picked off four times, two in each half. CHS picked up 81 yards in the air to just 56 (on 24 carries) on the ground, Fitzgerald lugging the ball seven times for 38 yards and Morehouse picking up 37 yards on 11 carries.
Cortland’s had 137 yards of total offense to 177 for the hosts, who were of course spearheaded by the fill-in running of Mills.
In addition to Morehouse’s interception, junior cornerback Will Fickenscher had a first-quarter fumble recovery.
Cortland’s next game is its home opener, against Mexico at 7 p.m. this Friday at Moiseichik Field. Mexico opened with a 42-14 win over Fowler, which hosts Chittenango this Friday.
Homer can’t control Ross in lopsided 61-7 setback
Dale Ross showed why he could be the best running back in all Section 3 and Westhill displayed why they are the team to beat with a record-setting performance Friday in the Section 3 B West Division football opener.
Ross rushed for 342 yards and six touchdowns on 22 carries to lead the Warriors to a 61-7 romp over Homer Central on Hall of Fame Night at George W. Butts Field.
The points are the most ever given up by a Trojan team, eclipsing the 55 points scored by Jamesville-DeWitt in 1997. The 54-point margin of defeat replaces the prior 52-point setbacks to J-D (1997) and Newark Valley (1952).
“We got beat by a better team,” said Homer head coach Gary Podsiedlik. “Westhill was very physical and they really ran to the ball well defensively. They executed well on both sides of the ball and shut down our running game.
“There are some positives that we will take forward,” Podsiedlik continued. “Mike Carboine and Will Connery played their hearts out and I hope the rest of the guys pick up on that. Brandon Simonetta gave a great effort on kickoff returns and ran the ball well in the fourth quarter. Kyle Griffin showed real good intensity at times. Aleks Glover kept running hard after contact.”
It took just two plays for Westhill to get on the scoreboard as Ross broke a couple of tackles, found an open lane and dashed 66 yards for the touchdown 28 seconds into the game.
After Homer went three plays and out on its first possession, the Warriors marched 69 yards in six plays with Ross capped the drive on an 18-yard scamper for a 14-0 lead with 7:14 left in the quarter.
The Trojans were stopped in three plays on their next possession, but the defense rose to the occasion by forcing a fumble that Chris Crossway recovered on the Westhill 35-yard line with 13 seconds left in the quarter. Unfortunately, the Trojans fumbled the ball back to Westhill two plays later as quarterback Will Connery was sacked for a 20-yard loss. Toss in a questionable personal foul for a late hit and Westhill was back in business at the Homer 33.
The three-play drive ended with Mike DeCarr tossing a 15-yard scoring strike to Jake Burgess for a 21-0 lead with 10:11 left in the first half.
The Warrior defense held again as Westhill took possession at its own 19 after a punt by Talon Sprouse. Ross took the handoff cut outside and raced 81 yards on the first play from scrimmage and the lead grew to 28-0.
Ross added runs of 26 yards, 30 yards and 26 yards to close out the half with Westhill on top 47-0. Ross had 341 yards on 19 carries for the half.
“DALE IS A VERY good runner,” said Westhill head coach Gary Griffo. “Everyone knows that he is blessed with outstanding speed, but he is also very strong and able to break tackles and keep going.
“The linemen did a great job of blocking and gave us a great effort as well,” Griffo continued. “Our defense gave us a lot of momentum early and things just snowballed from there.”
That snowball turned into an avalanche, with a little luck thrown in. That luck came on the first Westhill possession of the third quarter. The Warriors faced a third-and 19 at their own 15-yard line after a holding penalty. DeCarr was under pressure and lofted a ball towards midfield. Trojan defender Talon Sprouse got a great break on the ball and tipped it high in the air. Before he could get a second chance at the ball, Burgess snared the pigskin, turned and dashed the final 50 yards to complete an 85-yard touchdown play.
That was the only score in the quarter as both teams would begin to empty their benches.
Homer got on the board with 7:39 left in the game as Simonetta broke free on a 47-yard touchdown gallop. The previous play put the Trojans across midfield on a pass interference penalty.
Westhill closed out the scoring when Derek Kurtz broke free on a 30-yard touchdown jaunt. The snap was high on the extra-point kick, but Sam Penizoto pulled the ball down, spun around and ran into the end zone for the two-point conversion. Westhill sealed the 61-7 contest with 3:07 left.
IN ADDITION TO the big Ross game, DeCarr completed six of seven passing attempts for 163 yards and two touchdowns with Burgess catching four balls for 139.
In addition to 114 return yards, Simonetta did rush for 89 yards on 11 carries to lead the Homer ground attack.
Homer Central will look to regroup as the Trojans travel to Solvay Friday night for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
“We will get back to the basics this week in practice,” said Podsiedlik. “We will look at the game films and move forward to prepare for Solvay.”
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Homer honors new Hall of Famers
Evelyn Sammons sort of scoffed at being considered a pioneer.
As one of six members of the Homer Central Class of 2007 Hall of Fame inductees taking bows Friday evening at Butts Field, the past coach and athletic director was not all that fond of the term.
“It makes you feel old,” she said after being honored at halftime of last night’s Homer vs. Westhill football game along with past athletes Colette Dafoe, Emerson Avery, Jr., and Mike Jasper; along with brothers Bill Lindberg in the Athlete-Coach category and John Lindberg as an Athletic-Contributor for the Trojans.
Still, Sammons was among the minority, was a pioneer of sorts, when she was named the athletic director at Homer. She remembers being one of just three women in Section 3 in that role at the time, soon joined by Carol Moss of Solvay to create a foursome.
“That was an interesting time,” she recalls with a smile of interloping into a world that had been predominately male-oriented. “The guys,” as she referred to her cohorts then, had ideas and theories and notions that “were a little different than ours.”
Now, relatively new to retirement after 33 years of working in the school district including her final stint as a vice principal, Sammons still is part of the Section 3 Athletic Committee and also serves for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association. And she is happy to find an abundance of women in administrative roles these days.
Still, one simple goal has always been the same in all of Sammons’ endeavors. “Its always been about the kids, always about the kids,” she says.
It was all about family and friends for Dafoe, the former softball, basketball and soccer standout. She led the Trojans to a Section 3 softball title pitching for a team that advanced to the state semifinals in 1997, and was also a point guard on a basketball outfit that played for a sectional title.
Avery, a 1972 graduate and two-time Section 4 wrestling champion for the Trojans who went on to be a lawyer and judge in Cortland before tragically passing away this past year, was Dafoe’s uncle. He joins a Hall of Fame group that already has younger brother Bob Avery, also a wrestling champion and record-setting football tailback, enshrined.
This was also a special family moment for the Lindberg brothers. Both were former all-around athletes and soccer standouts in the early 1950s for the Trojans, Bill Lindberg coming back to teach and coach sports for 26 years at his alma mater.
John Lindberg will be honored later this month at SUNY Brockport during their Homecoming festivities. He was an All-America soccer player at Brockport who has contributed to Homer Booster Club and the Homer Athletic Department.
Currently living in Bonners Ferry in Northern Idaho, John Lindberg coaches girls’ soccer and is on the Board of Education there and was unable to attend the festivities. “He had a full menu,” Bill Lindberg noted, elated to be going into the Hall of Fame side-by-side with his younger brother.
Also unable to attend last night’s festivities was Jasper, the all-state inside linebacker and offensive tackle for the undefeated Homer football team of 1985 that was ranked the No. 1 Class B team in the state.
Jasper, who later when on to be a captain and defensive sparkplug for Colgate University, was coaching his Sherburne-Earlville grid squad to a season-opening 21-6 victory over Ilion last night. To keep in the family mode, his kids Courtney and Austin were on hand to accept his Hall of Fame plaque.
Being back in his hometown was a special experience for Floridian Bill Lindberg, who played soccer, basketball and track at Homer and went on to be an All-America honorable mention soccer play in college at Albany. Most notably a basketball coach at Homer, he offered his thanks to the community.
“To have been here 13 years as a student and to come back for 30 more years as a coach and a teacher, seeing people now that you haven’t seen in years, it’s a very humbling and a wonderful experience. I’m very appreciative,” said the 74-year-old Lindberg, who graduated from Homer in 1951. “I’m thankful of this community, too. Not only did it give me the experience of growing up in a great community, but my kids, too.”
This is an extra special time for Dafoe, now a lawyer in Boston. She will be getting married this weekend, too.
“I looked up and saw so many family and friends, it was incredible,” she said, Dafoe spending most of her time after the ceremonies being hugged by wellwishers. Standing next to her cousins — Emerson Avery III and Michael Avery — on the track during the proceedings was special in her heart, too.
“It was a great feeling having Tripper (Avery III) and Mike right there next to me,” said Dafoe, thinking of their deceased father. “My uncle can’ t be there for my wedding, but tonight brought him to the wedding for me.”
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