September 13 , 2007
Purple Tigers, Trojans facing tough road tests
CHS set to ‘grapple’ with Red Raiders
By TANEY BEAUMONT
Two old adversaries, used to taking it to the mat, will face each other across a football field for the first time tonight.
First-year Cortland High varsity football coach Dave Darrow is also the varsity wrestling coach at the school, and has faced powerhouse Fulton teams coached by Mike Conners numerous times. Conners is also a double-duty coach, heading up the Red Raider football squad the past 14 years.
The two Section 3 Class A American Division grid squads, both at 1-1 in the league and overall, collide at 6:30 p.m. tonight at Fulton.
“Mike is a good guy, a good coach, smart and wily,” Darrow said. “He knows how to get kids ready, how to break film down and put together a game plan. His kids are tough. There are a lot of wrestlers on that team. And he’s had a good record through the years. Kids in Fulton play the same system from the time they’re in fifth grade. They run the Delaware Wing-T and know how to trap-block and sweep.
“They probably should have beaten East Syracuse-Minoa last Friday,” he added as Fulton lost 34-33 to the defending league and sectional Class A champions, who scored the winning touchdown with 43.8 seconds left. “They made lots of mistakes. They lost fumbles on their first two possessions.”
“Dave has done a great job with Cortland’s wrestling program, and the football team looks solid,” Conners said. “They were competitive against Mexico. That was a great win against what I consider one of the better teams in our league.”
After watching film of Fulton’s games this season, Darrow noted: “They’re disciplined; they have eight formations, but only run five things, all of them well. They run the veer out of the Wing-T and also hit you with traps, counters, sweeps and waggles (quarterback rollouts). Their quarterback, Mike Clark (a 5-10, 180-pound senior), fakes very well and has good footwork. They have a good big fullback, D.J. Ingham (6-2, 215 sophomore), and an average tailback, Edison Marsh (5-9, 170 junior). Their wing man, Jeff Landers (5-11, 185 senior) is a pretty decent runner.
“Defensively, they use a lot of 4-4, with some five- and six-man fronts, and they’re super aggressive. Ingham is a good, tough defensive end, and his brother, Connan Ingham (6-3, 230 senior) is a good lineman. They don’t play like anyone we’ve seen so far, and are still one of the teams to beat in the league.”
Connors mentioned Clark and the two Inghams when asked about his top players. D.J. Ingham is the league’s second-leading rusher with 254 yards on 33 carries (7.7 yards per carry), with Clark right behind with 222 yards on 18 carries (12.3). In addition, junior back Edison Marsh (5-9, 170) has toted the ball 22 times for 146 yards (6.6).
Clark has completed 7-of-11 passes 63.6 percent) for 132 yards, his top receiver being senior back Jeff Landers (5-11, 185), who has five receptions for 106 yards (21.2). D.J. Ingham is second in the league in scoring with 26 points on four touchdowns and a conversion, while Marsh is third with 24 points on four TDs. Clark has 12 points on two TDs.
“Cortland doesn’t look real flashy, but what they did (in the films he’s seen) they did well,” Conners said. “Number 80 (senior tight end-defensive lineman Matt Pitcher) is a big, athletic kid. Their lines look solid. They have some athletes, and do a good job with it. They’re just a solid team, offensively and defensively.
“A lot of kids did a lot of positive and negative things for us against ES-M. It’s a growing process. We have three or four starters back on each side. The three big things for us are special teams, penalties and turnovers. We lost all three last week, and when that happens against a good team you’re going to lose the game. Our goal for this Friday is to win all three.”
The way Darrow sees it, last week’s win over the highly-regarded Mexico team could well be, even as early as it was, the turning point of the season. “I think we’re on our way now,” he said. “What I think makes a big difference is that that win created an attitude for this team, and playing with everyone, being in it so that with a big play or two you can win, like against Mexico, is our goal. If you can hang around in the fourth quarter and be able to win, you can’t ask for any better.
“The kids are happy, working hard in practice, and for the most part we’re healthy. Martin Stark (5-10, 195 junior two-way lineman) tweaked his shoulder last week, and if he plays against Fulton it will be limited.”
Asked about Cortland’s keys to victory, Darrow said that “If we cam stop their quarterback and fullback, we can win. We still seem to do as much wrong as we do right on every play, but we’re cutting down on it a little. We have to keep being aggressive, and we have to figure out a way to score some points. We don’t exactly light up the scoreboard.”
Junior fullback Josh Morehouse is Cortland’s leading rusher, having picked up 58 yards in 23 carries (2.52 yards per tote) so far this season with one touchdown, against Mexico. Senior quarterback A.J. Meldrim has completed 18-of-39 passes (.462) for one TD, the game-clincher against Mexico, and has been intercepted five times in two games. The top Purple Tiger receiver is Fitzgerald, with four catches for 72 yards (18 yards per reception) and one TD, the aforementioned score against Mexico that put CHS ahead for good. Fitzgerald also leads the team in scoring with 20 points (tied for fourth in the league) on three TDs and a conversion.
Homer seeks first victory at Marcellus
When Homer Central travels to Marcellus tonight for its Section 3 Class B West Division clash with the Mustangs at 7 p.m., the Trojans find themselves in unfamiliar territory.
Homer stands at 0-2 in division and overall play after a tough 12-6 loss at Solvay. Unbeaten Marcellus (2-0) shares the division lead with Solvay and Westhill, who face each other tonight. This is the best start for the Mustangs since 1996.
Marcellus won a tough 34-33 double overtime season opener against Phoenix before rolling to a 56-0 romp over LaFayette/Fabius-Pompey last week.
“We have done what we needed to so far,” said Marcellus head coach Joe Goss of his team’s 2-0 start. “Phoenix surprised us and was a much tougher game than expected. LaFayette is a young team, so I thought we would be fine there.
“Tonight, we start to get tested,” Goss continued. “Homer is a good football team. I know Coach (Gary) Podsiedlik will have those guys ready to play. It should be a tough game.”
“This is the one team where we really are gearing up for a different style,” said Coach Podsiedlik. “Marcellus is an 80-percent passing team. They are in the shotgun much of the time, but they do use the lineman (guard, tackle) from the weak side to pull and will run their power running game that way.
“The advantage Marcellus has tonight is that they have played two run-oriented teams, which really has been our strength. If we can get our passing game going, we could forced them to change their defensive approach.”
Running the high-powered Mustang offense is sophomore quarterback Will Fiacchi (6-foot-3, 185 pounds). Fiacchi has completed 37-of-53 passing attempts (69.8 pct.) for 532 yards and 10 touchdowns.
His favorite targets have been seniors Jeff Watson (6-1, 180) and Mark Rudy (6-0, 180). Watson has 14 catches for 177 yards (12.6 avg.) and six touchdowns with Rudy hauling in 12 passes for 153 yards (12.8 avg.).
Fiacchi has throws to junior starting wideout Joe Cornish and senior tight end Dan Knickerbocker (6-1, 175), plus a number of other receivers who enter the game, depending on the circumstances.
“Fiacchi really had seven of eight possible targets,” said Podsiedlik. “They run three-receiver, four-receiver and even five-receiver sets from the shot gun. It really is the West Coast-style of play.”
Andy Caster (6-0, 210) is the starting senior tailback. Caster has rshed for 246 yards on 30 carries, an average of 8.2 yards/carry, with classmate Sean Conners (6-0, 200) his back-up.
The offensive line has senior Eric Wagner (6-3, 185) at center, juniors Tim Koes (6-2, 225) at left guard and Tom Selesky (6-1, 215) at right guard, plus senior Marshall Merritt (6-0, 220) at left tackle and junior Greg Kelly (5-11, 250) at right tackle.
Defensively, Marcellus uses a five-man front with a number of different odd looks. Senior Sean Cookhouse (6-3, 260) in the noseguard, Jim Larose (sr., 6-1, 250) and Allen Masters (soph., 6-5, 210) are the tackles with Scott Cotter (sr., 6-3, 205) and Corey Bice (jr., 6-2, 190) at the ends. Senior Jesse Marshall (6-0, 200) is the middle linebacker with Knickerbocker and Conners on the outside. The cornerbacks are junior A.J. Mitchell (5-10,1 55) and senior D.J. Merriman (5-10, 160) with Cornish at safety.
Senior Matt Weeks handles to place-kicking duties for Marcellus.
Junior Brandon Simonetta continues to be the most effective weapon that the Homer has for moving the ball. Simonetta has 312 all-purpose yards (169 kickoff returns, 143 rushing yards) with senior Talon Sprouse closest to him with 102 all-purpose yards (89 kick return, 13 punt return yards).
Coach Podsiedlik said there would be a change this week as junior Joey Rivers will get the starting nod at quarterback. Rivers and senior-tri-captain Will Connery shared the duties the first two weeks with Connery starting. Both should see time calling signals behind center Sean McSherry. Rivers and Connery have been in the secondary defensively, but not at the same time. That will also change this week as Homer goes to its 40-defense. Connery will be the free safety with Rivers at strong safety. Connery will keep a starting role as he moves to the halfback spot with sophomore Aleks Glover at tailback and junior Mike Park at fullback. There could be a lot more rotating of players at many positions this week to keep bodies fresh.
“Will Connery has taken on different roles this season and he has taken them well,” said Podsiedlik. “He really has become a teacher in the huddle for the younger players and is really helping them out while also stepping up his play as well. While Joey stepped in at quarterback at Solvay, Will picked up his defense with a fumble recovery and an interception, plus he was picking up tackling assists from 20 yards away by getting to the ball carriers and helping take the guy down before the whistle blew. He is really a leader on the field for us.
“It has been a good week of practice,” Podsiedlik added. “There was good intensity. Our scout team was the highlight of the week. They really began to take their role much more seriously and began pushing the Blue (starting) team around. That is a big leap for them. We did improve from week one to week two and that needs to continue this week.”
What do both coaches see as the keys to a victory for their team?
“We need to stop the Homer running game,” said Goss. “It may not have the one big back like Mark Brenchley last year, but they can move the ball. We need to be efficient on offense and keep possessions, plus we need to protect Fiacchi so he can throw the ball.”
“There are really three things that we need to do,” said Podsiedlik. “First, we need to get after the punter on special teams and try to force him into mistakes to improve our field position. Second, we need to find the ball when it has been released on pass plays. Move to the ball and make good contact. Third, we need to get more balance on offense. We need more consistency running the ball and we need to score points. If we do that, we will open up the passing game more.”
Trojan Tidbits: Homer holds a 12-3 advantage in the series record, including 38-20 win at Butts Field in 2006. Mark Brenchley ran for 410 yards and six touchdowns, both school records, against the Mustangs. The Trojans have won five straight meetings with the Mustangs. The last Marcellus win was 20-18 in the 1996 season finale... Asa Spencer is the A Pizza & More Practice Player of the Week for Marcellus and will be the game captain Friday night... Will Connery was the A Pizza & More Player Game Player of the Week for the Westhill game... Blue Collar Awards were given to Kane Hartnett (non-lineman) and Kyle Sandy (lineman)...For fans wishing to drive to the game, here are the directions provided by the Homer School District athletic web site. Take Route 41 North to Borodino. At Borodino, turn right on Route 174 and on Route 174 to Marcellus. When Route 174 goes North in Marcellus, it is also North Street. The High School is a few blocks from the middle of town on the left.
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Cortland repeats as league champion
The Cortland High golf team put another trophy in the case Thursday afternoon.
Led by Mike Congdon and Jeff Brown, both of whom shot 40s, the Purple Tigers wrapped up their third straight OHSL Freedom National Division championship with a 204-213 win over Syracuse CBA at Cortland Country Club.
All that stands between coach Kevin Cafararo’s squad (7-0) and a third consecutive perfect league season since fall golf started in 2005 is a 3:30 p.m. match today at Cortland CC against Fulton. The Purple Tigers beat Fulton by 32 strokes on the road on Sept. 4.
“Our success (in the fall) is a product of the kids having the opportunity to play all summer, so they’re at the top of their games on September 1,” Cafararo said. “They’ve also been involved in tournament play, which gets them used to competition. They’re not easily swayed or intimidated by other teams, and they’re all pretty good friends. Some of them have been with me for five years now.
“They understand what a team is all about. Golf is primarily an individual sport; the only time it’s not is when you’re on a high school or college team. Confidence is also a big factor. The kids know they’ve been successful against the teams they play, and that those teams also have the same players year-to-year, so when the opponents get better, so do they. It seems that the last few years, every match that has been decided by three, four or five strokes has gone our way.”
Matt Porter and Steve Stowell both had 41s for the Purple Tigers Thursday, while Chris Pace totaled 42 to round out the scoring and Nick Decker had a 43. Chris Webber led CBA with a 40, while Dan Lambert had a 42.
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