September 12, 2009
Moss too slippery for Purple Tigers
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Cortland High’s Ejekial McGinn (76) and Caleb Wright (10) team up to bring down ES-M ball carrier Dustin Moss (32) Friday night at Moiseichik Field. Moss ran for three TDs in a 28-7 Spartans victory.
Dave Darrow almost called it, long before it happened.
The Cortland High football coach, looking ahead to Friday’s Section 3 Class A American Division contest with visiting East Syracuse-Minoa, said early this week that Spartans senior tailback Dustin Moss would carry the ball 30 to 35 times in the contest.
As it turned out, Moss was even busier as he lugged the ball 40 times for 298 yards and scored three touchdowns — on runs of 40, 34 and 60 yards — to lead the visitors to a 28-7 win on a rainy night made for a strong ground attack.
In fact, “lead” may not be an effective enough description of what Moss means to the Spartans.
When he left the game after scoring his final TD with 4:35 left and kicking his second extra point, he had carried the ball for all but eight of ES-M’s offensive plays in the contest and wound up scoring 20 of the winners’ points. Five runners combined to pick up a total of 31 yards on 10 carries and account for the rest of the offense, as sophomore quarterback Tyler Johnson threw just two passes — an incompletion in the first half and an interception by senior cornerback Jordan Prior late in the third quarter.
“Their system is built around that guy,” Darrow said of Moss, “and they had Matt Cushing before him in the same spot, the same kind of runner, both built like bowling balls.
“We came in with half a deck of cards and the kids played hard,” he added, CHS missing three players due to injuries sustained last week in a 35-28 season-opening non-league loss at Homer. “If they play like that the rest of the year we’re going to win some games.
“Our future’s good. The young kids are playing hard, and we’ll have (defensive end) Cody Hartmann and (quarterback) Shane McCaskill back next week. We made a few mistakes tonight, but made some plays, too, and didn’t quit. We completed some balls and had a good drive at the end.”
Cortland running back Alex Stacy scored in the waning moments to avert a shutout.
“This team’s going to win some games. We’re going to go on a run at the end,” concluded Darrow.
“EVERYONE KNOWS what we do. For eight years now we’ve been facing nine men in the box,” said ES-M coach Kevin DeParde, his team now 2-0 in the league and overall. “The thing is, we can throw when field conditions warrant, but when I saw the weather report in the middle of the week I told Dustin to be ready to get the ball a lot. That’s the most carries he’s had in his career. You don’t want one guy to carry it that many times, but if you have to, you do.
“We played ES-M ball, grinding it out; it’s who we are, everyone knows it, and that’s OK. Our program is built on strength and conditioning. We knew Cortland was banged up some, but didn’t tell the players, and they still don’t know. We didn’t want them to feel too good about themselves.”
Another Cushing, Matt’s younger brother Eric, a 5-9, 265-pound senior guard, was literally a big contributor to Moss’s success, as was the offensive line as a whole.
“Cushing’s our horse, he’s our big guy,” the 5-7, 175-pound Moss said with a laugh. “It’s nice to follow him because he’s right in there, up for the challenge and a big guy to make holes. Our line did a good job. We practiced hard Monday through Thursday. We worked on formations all week to get ready for this game, called out their plays, knew what they were going to do and worked hard.
“It’s my senior year, so I’m ready for the end, for the final, the state championship; whatever we’ve got to do to get there, I’m ready for it.”
Moss carried the ball for the Spartans’ first eight offensive plays after receiving the opening kickoff, the drive bogging down at the Cortland 33-yard line. After the hosts went three-and-out, ES-M embarked on a seven-play, 66-yard drive, Moss getting all but three of those yards on five carries, including a 40-yard TD jaunt, after which he missed the conversion kick.
The Purple Tigers then went on a sustained drive of their own, getting to the Spartan five-yard line late in the first quarter before two sacks and two penalties forced them to give the ball up on downs back at the 30. ES-M then made it 14-0 as Cushing finished off an eight-play, 70-yard drive by going in from 34 yards out, Johnson finding sophomore receiver Bob Campese with a conversion pass to make it 14-0, where it stood at halftime.
THAT SECOND SCORING drive by the visitors featured a pair of apparent TDs, including a 34-yard run by Moss, that were negated by penalties. Cortland then got to the ES-M 10 on its final possession of the half before another sack and an incomplete pass ended the threat.
Neither team scored in the third quarter, Prior’s interception at the hosts’ 15 snuffing a Spartan threat at the hosts, and ES-M put the game away midway through the fourth when a bit of offensive misfortune turned fortunate. From the Cortland 12, Moss looked to be on his way to his third TD when he fumbled the ball into the end zone, where senior lineman Andrew Kirkpatrick fell on it for a TD that made it 21-0 after Moss’s kick.
Three plays into the hosts’ ensuing drive, senior linebacker Connor FitzPatrick recovered a fumble at the visitors’ 40, and on the next play Moss went up the middle, cut left and was gone, adding the kick and calling it a night.
Cortland lost another fumble on the ensuing possession, wasting a 61-yard kickoff return by senior Dyquann Barlow, but averted the shutout on its final possession as senior tailback Stacy went in from a yard out with two seconds left, Justin Burns tacking on the kick. That drive, which started with 45 seconds remaining, featured three completions for 48 yards by sophomore quarterback Devon Darrow, who was the second-half signal-caller after senior Brian Pristash played the position in the first half.
Stacy led CHS in rushing with 95 yards on 15 carries with the TD, while Pristash completed 4-of-6 passes for 14 yards and Darrow went 4-of-8 for 56 yards. Wide receiver Barlow, who left the game for a while in the third quarter with a stinger on his left arm but is fine, according to Darrow, led CHS with three catches for 35 yards.
All told, ES-M outgained its hosts 329-148 while possessing the ball for 30:12 of the game’s 48 minutes, including 17:05 of the second half. The Spartans didn’t punt in the contest.
“SOMETIMES ADVERSITY shows you what you’re all about, what you have in the tank,” said Darrow, whose team hosts Fowler at 7 p.m. this Friday, the Falcons 1-0 heading into this afternoon’s game at Nottingham. “The kids did pretty well, tried hard and didn’t quit. We’ll be all right.”
Game awards went to Stacy on offense, senior tackle Dan Catalano on defense, senior punter Jake Robillard on special teams and junior offensive tackle Jon Reynolds among the linemen (Lunch Bucket).
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