September 3, 2011
Purple Tigers blitz Fulton, 70-36 —
Season opening CHS scoring spree
FULTON — It’s no secret that the Cortland High football team has some serious offensive weapons.
The Purple Tigers used them all and threw in some defensive fireworks for good measure Friday night in opening the season with a 70-36 romp over Class A American Division host Fulton.
Senior tailback Jonathan Prior led the way, scoring five touchdowns, each in a different fashion. He scored on an 18-yard pass play with senior quarterback Devon Darrow, a 43-yard run, a 33-yard fumble return and a 68-yard punt return in the first half, which ended with CHS on the long end of a 34-16 score after trailing 8-0 and 16-14. Prior then took the second-half kickoff back 82 yards for his fifth TD to make it 42-16 after Darrow’s conversion pass to junior wide receiver Josh Gutchess. From there it was only a question of what the final margin would be.
All told, Prior carried the ball six times for 104 yards and the TD and caught four passes for 18 yards and another six points.
For his part, Darrow completed 15-of-24 passes for 179 yards and the TD to Prior, and scored three rushing TDs while gaining 84 yards on 13 carries. Senior wide receiver Qwuhail Barlow had an 80-yard kickoff return TD, and junior linebacker Colin Walsh got into the act with a 45-yard fumble return TD. Walsh also recovered another fumble, after Cortland’s only punt of the night was mishandled, to set the offense up five yards from paydirt early in the fourth quarter.
The winners’ quick-strike capabilities are underlined in the fact that, despite the lopsided final score, Fulton had the ball almost twice as long as Cortland (31:24 to 16:36). The Purple Tigers rolled up 425 yards of total offense, including 246 on the ground, while the Red Raiders rushed for all 285 of their yards in the contest.
“I can’t take all the credit for any of them,” a smiling Prior said of his busy scoring night. “The line did a great job on the run, Devon gave me a great pass, there was a great tackle to cause the fumble and the special teams looked great on the kickoff and punt returns. It was a result of all of us working hard and playing together.”
“We have a lot of really good athletes who can make good plays,” Purple Tigers coach Dave Darrow said. “Even if we hadn’t scored all the special-teams touchdowns on the returns, if they hadn’t gone all the way we still could have ended up scoring offensively. We’re going to score points — 70 is the most I can remember in the 20 years I’ve been at the school — but we have to improve on defense.
“We had some different kids playing after a couple went out with cramps, and there were some first-game jitters, especially with an away game. We had poor positioning on their first drive, and generally looked to be a bit out of shape. Barlow (at cornerback) was a man out there, by far our best tackler.”
IT LOOKED EARLY on as if that defense might prove to be CHS’s undoing, as the hosts took the opening kickoff and marched down the field 65 yards in 12 plays, capped by a one-yard plunge by junior quarterback Jake Crucetti, sophomore tailback Mark Pollock adding the conversion run to make it 8-0. The visitors didn’t hit the scoreboard until Darrow hit Prior with the scoring toss 18 seconds into the second quarter, the conversion failing.
After Fulton bogged down on its ensuing possession, Prior went up the middle untouched on his 43-yard scoring jaunt to give CHS its first lead, Darrow hitting Barlow with the conversion to make it 14-8. The Red Raiders went back up 16-14 as senior fullback Joe Cortese hammered in from four yards out and Crucetti added the conversion run.
Cortland took the lead for good on the next series as Darrow hit three passes ion a row for first downs to start the drive — two to Barlow, one to senior tight end Dylan Stafford — and then covered the last 15 yards himself to make it 20-16 after the conversion run failed.
Prior scooped up a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and returned it 32 yards for a score to up the score to 26-16 after another unsuccessful conversion. He then closed out the first-half scoring with his punt return for six after Fulton stalled on its next series, Darrow hitting Barlow with the conversion pass to make it 34-16. The same pair hooked up on a 34-yard pass to the Fulton 10-yard line on the final play of the first half, Barlow just tripped up en route to what would have been another score.
“We have quick hitters on offense and we all made plays,” Devon Darrow said. “It was fun to watch. The line blocked great all night; they were making cutback blocks so we could cut at 45-degree angles ourselves and weren’t getting touched. Seamus Fields, Jacob Mitchell, Kyle Teeter, Zeke McGinn (all seniors), Kevin Parker and Eric Richardson (juniors) were making huge holes for us that anyone could run through.”
“THEY HAVE MORE weapons than we could answer,” Fulton coach Mike Conners said quietly, outside the locker room after the game. “One problem was that we lost three players to injuries this week, all in the secondary — but they would have beaten us anyway.
“When you give up five special-teams touchdowns to a very good football team, you’re not going to win. We talked about special teams, penalties and turnovers before the game, and didn’t win any of them tonight. We’re a young team. Pollock did a good job for us, and the offensive line did some decent things for us. The defensive line didn’t.”
Pollock led all rushers in the contest with 166 yards on 23 carries and two TDs, both in the third quarter. His first score, from five yards out, came on the next series after Prior’s kickoff return TD and made it 42-22. After Barlow took the ensuing kickoff back 80 yards for a score and Darrow hit Stafford with the conversion pass for a 50-22 count, Pollock capped the next drive by going in from 12 yards out and Cortese added the conversion.
Darrow’s 10-yard keeper last in the third made it 56-30 before Walsh took over. His recovery of a muffed punt at the Fulton five early in the fourth set up Darrow for another scoring keeper and his pass to Josh Gutchess for two more points made it 64-30. Walsh then picked up another fumble after a hard hit by defensive end McGinn and rambled 45 yards to the end zone to close out the Cortland scoring after the conversion run came up short.
Senior lineman Matt Tuning squelched Fulton’s next scoring threat, recovering a fumble at the Cortland 17. Crucetti closed out the scoring by going in from one yard out with 39 seconds left, the conversion pass going awry.
Cortland now turns its attention to a brutal three-game stretch, starting Saturday when two-time defending Class A sectional champion Whitesboro visits in a 6:30 p.m. start. The game will be played at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex due to ongoing renovations at Moiseichik Field. Whitesboro opened the season by beating Indian River 41-29 Friday night.
That Indian River squad comes south on Sept. 16, and the Purple Tigers then host East Syracuse-Minoa (a 40-15 winner over Section 5’s West Seneca West in the Carrier Dome Friday) in a key Class A American contest Sept. 23. Both games are tentatively set for 7 p.m. starts at Moiseichik Field
“We have a lot of work to do heading into the next three games,” Dave Darrow said.
Individual awards for the opener went to Prior on special teams and Devon Darrow on offense, while Walsh and Barlow shared the defensive honors.
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