September 12, 2011
CHS comes up short in shoot-out
Barlow grabs state receiving record in loss to Whitesboro
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Cortland High’s Patrick McMahon (4) attempts to break free of Whiteboro special teams tackler Sean Fitts (25) during a kickoff return in the first quarter Saturday night at SUNY Cortland. Visiting Whitesboro won a wild 48-38 affair.
What looked like a football blowout ended up being a shoot-out that featured a new state record for receiving yards Saturday night at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex.
Cortland High senior wideout Qwuhail Barlow grabbed 11 passes from quarterback Devon Darrow, his classmate and friend, for a 321 yards and four TDs in a wide-open second-half comeback that fell short as the Purple Tigers fell to two-time defending sectional Class A champion Whitesboro 48-38.
According to the New York State Sports Writers Association, Barlow’s total yardage eclipsed the old record of 305 yards set by Derek Smith of Section 11’s Sayville against Harborfields back in 1972.
For his part, Darrow ended up going 20-for-38 passing for 367 yards — a top-15 all-time performance in Section 3 — the four scores and an interception.
The visiting Warriors scored 19 unanswered points in the first quarter of the non-league contest, and it looked like they might be able to name their score.
Things changed, though, when junior linebacker Colin Walsh scooped up a Whitesboro fumble after a jarring hit by senior linebacker Mike Baldassarre and returned it 39 yards for a TD. His second fumble-recovery score in as many games came with 1:35 left in the first half. That made it 19-6 after the conversion pass failed and, more importantly, gave the Purple Tigers some momentum heading into halftime.
Their running game ineffective, the hosts went to the air in the second half and grabbed the lead twice, only to end up a little short. Darrow and Barlow keyed the resurgence, connecting on aerial scoring plays covering 63, 87, eight and 48 yards.
“Our game plan was to stay balanced on offense, but when the passing started to work better we went with that,” CHS signal-caller Darrow said. “This was my best passing game. I just know where Qwuhail is going to be.”
“We’ve been doing that a long time, since sixth grade,” Barlow said with a laugh when asked about the chemistry he and Darrow have. “I used my speed to get by them, and just ran my fastest when I got the ball.”
That made for a mismatch, as on all three of the long scoring plays no Whitesboro defenders were near Barlow when he crossed the goal line.
WHITESBORO, MEANWHILE, didn’t attempt any second-half passes and picked up just 22 yards through the air on the night.
Senior halfback Steve Almond rushed for 319 yards on 20 carries with four long TDs (of 58, 69, 45 and 35 yards), while senior quarterback Adam Eberley picked up 151 yards on 20 carries and had scoring runs of 18 and 55 yards, the latter ultimately the game-winner.
All told, the Warriors, now 2-0 overall, had 590 yards of total offense, all but 22 on the ground, while the Purple Tigers (1-1) totaled 412 yards, all but 45 in the air.
“We figured out some things,” CHS coach Dave Darrow said of his 1-1 team’s second-half comeback. “The defense shored up pretty well. Offensively we knew we could throw and wanted to be able to run a little. We moved Jonathan (Prior, senior tailback) to the slot and our defense aligned better. We got a big lift at halftime, once our guys decided that their team was just kids like they were. We got ahead, but just couldn’t hold them.
“But we came back strong and hung with them, and if we’d finished a little better on defense we could have won. We’ve got big-play potential, but the problem with that is that when you strike quickly like we do you end up playing a lot of defense.”
Whitesboro scored on its first three possessions of the contest. Eberley went in from 18 yards out to cap the opening drive of the game and junior halfback Matt Felitto capped an 11-play, 90-yard drive with a two-yard scoring plunge to make it 12-0 after a pair of missed conversions. Almond then rambled 58 yards for a TD on the first play of the next drive and senior Mike Bunal’s kick made it 19-0 with 1:02 still left in the first quarter.
Walsh’s fumble return TD gave a lift to the hosts and their fans, and it carried over into the second half. Cortland received the second-half kickoff, and a 66-yard scoring strike from Devon Darrow to Prior on the first play was nullified by an ineligible receiver penalty.
Three plays later, however, Darrow hit Barlow on the Warrior 35 and the speedy receiver did the rest on what ended up a 63-yard scoring pass play. Darrow then delivered a conversion pass to junior wideout Josh Gutchess to make it 19-14. It would be the hosts’ only successful conversion, which would prove to be decisive as their five misfires would account for the final 10-point margin in the contest.
DARROW AND BARLOW then combined on an 87-yard TD pass play (Barlow hauling the ball in at the Purple Tiger 45 and doing the rest) to make give the hosts their first lead, at 20-19, with 5:10 left in the third. Whitesboro then regained the advantage on a 69-yard scoring run by Almond, Eberley finding halfback Bunal with a conversion pass to give the visitors a 27-20 lead just a minute later.
Darrow drove the Purple Tigers 60 yards in seven plays on the next possession, capped by the eight-yard TD toss to Barlow, to narrow the gap to 27-26 but three plays into the next drive Almond sprinted 45 yards to the end zone and Bunal added the kick to make it 34-26 Whitesboro after three quarters.
Two plays into the fourth Darrow found Barlow on a 48-yard scoring strike to narrow the gap to 34-32, and after Zeke McGinn recovered a Warrior fumble on the next play from scrimmage CHS embarked on a nine-play, 62-yard drive that Darrow finished by going in from two yards out to give his team a 38-34 lead.
Eberley gave Whitesboro the lead for good with a 55-yard scoring run two plays into the next series, preceding Bunal’s kick.
“I just saw a hole and knew I had to hit it,” Eberle said. “Almond was behind me to handle anyone coming up back there. I wasn’t surprised that Cortland was able to come back. They’re a great team and I have a lot of respect for them.”
After CHS bogged down in a series that included two personal foul calls on the Warriors, Almond rambled 35 yards and Bunal added the kick to sew things up. The Purple Tigers’ last possession fizzled on the Whitesboro 17 despite two more personal fouls on the visitors, Eberley then kneeling twice to end it.
“I WASN’T SURPRISED that Cortland was able to come back. They did score 70 points last week,” Whitesboro coach Tom Schoen said, CHS a 70-36 Class A American Division winner over host Fulton to open the season. “All you have to do is make a mistake. I’m happy with the win, given the alternative, but our penalties (12 for 140 yards, including two that negated TDs) kept some of their drives going and gave them another chance to hit a pass over the top, which they did.
“Steve and Adam are both athletic, strong kids, and they make us look good. But we rely on them to get the job done, and need to get more out of more players,” added Schoen.
“We knew Cortland had the potential to come back,” Almond said. “On tape they looked good. Our defense had a lot of stupid penalties. I just went where my blockers led, hit the holes and it all fell into place.”
The Purple Tigers will meet another Class A National foe when Indian River comes south this Friday for another SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex contest due to ongoing construction at Moiseichik Field, the time to be determined. East Syracuse-Minoa visits on Sept. 30, the site and time of that Class a American Division contest to be determined.
“We weren’t going to win all three of these games,” Dave Darrow said of the tough stretch that started Saturday night, his team having scored 108 points in two games this season while surrendering 84. “We know we’ll get better, and will have the playoffs so we can get another shot.”
“We’d like to see Whitesboro again, hopefully in the (Carrier) Dome,” Devon Darrow said, in reference to the sectional Class A championship game.
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