September 15, 2012
Sweet end for Tigers
Late TD finally finishes off Westhill in 13-0 win
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Cortland High’s Teddy Phillips (14) applies a stiff-arm to Westhill tackler Dan Gratien Friday at Moiseichik Field, where Phillips’ opening kickoff return for a touchdown helped the Purple Tigers prevail 13-0.
While the game itself wasn’t artistic by any means, the end result was sweet for the Cortland High football team against visiting Westhill Friday night.
In between Purple Tigers junior Teddy Phillips running the opening kickoff back 87 yards for a touchdown and senior tailback Andrew Potter scoring on a 36-yard run with 6:02 left in the game, there were a lot of missed CHS opportunities and penalties.
There was also a lot of rain.
There were also a lot of smiles on the faces of people wearing purple when it was over and the hosts had scored a 13-0 Section 3 Class B West victory, the team’s first in its new stadium and on its Moiseichik Field home turf after three losses going back to last October.
“A win’s a win,” said Cortland coach Dave Darrow, whose team, now 2-1 in the league and overall, lost three fumbles deep in Westhill territory with chances to put the game away earlier than it did. “We’re winning the games we can win and have to keep building from it. We’ll keep improving.
“Our defense played outstanding today. At least we were getting in position to score,” he added. “Our defense didn’t let Westhill get in that position. This team makes mistakes and plays too aggressively at times, but last year we couldn’t play defense, so I’ll take this. (Assistant coaches) Paul Thomas and Pete Reif spend a lot of time reworking our defense, and deserve credit for it.”
Cortland has given up 22 points in three games this season, including a total of six in the last two contests.
The deepest penetration by the Warriors (1-1, 1-2) was the Purple Tiger 32-yard line, where the visitors bogged down early in the second quarter. All told, the visitors had just 118 yards of total offense in the game, 63 on the ground and 55 in the air.
Cortland, meanwhile, rushed for 212 yards and picked up 61 more with their passing game for 273 yards in all.
Westhill starting junior quarterback Reed Derrenbacher suffered a knee injury, the extent of which was unknown after the game, after rolling to his left for a four-yard gain with just over three minutes left in the first quarter. He was replaced by sophomore Richie Easterly, who completed eight passes, most of them in the rain, in 21 attempts for 55 yards.
“Losing our quarterback hurt us tremendously,” said an obviously disappointed Westhill coach Gary Griffo as his players filed into two buses for the ride home. “Our defense has been carrying us all all year, and kept us in it tonight.”
FRIDAY ALSO MARKED the debut of senior Isaiah Prior as a quarterback in the Purple Tigers’ Wildcat formation, which was used until the rains came near the middle of the second quarter. In the final two drives he engineered, Prior moved CHS deep into Westhill territory, only to have fumbles give Westhill the ball back at its own 35 (after a bobble by Potter and, later, on its own 20 following a touchback after a Prior fumble went out of the end zone.
“I thought Isaiah did great,” Darrow said. “We played it safe when the rains came, but he’s a good fit for our Wildcat. ”
Still clinging to their 7-0 lead, the Purple Tigers lost the ball deep in Westhill territory for the third time in the game, on their first possession of the second half. Junior quarterback Caden Giroux led them on a drive that started with a 58-yard run by junior tailback Zach Whelan and ended when Giroux rolled to his right and lost the ball on the Warrior eight.
The winners kept the ball on the ground for the entire second half.
As noted, the game started out great for Cortland as Phillips, who was unavailable for last Friday’s 27-6 win at Solvay, returned to the lineup with a vengeance by taking the opening kickoff back all the way, 87 yards to paydirt.
“I just got the blocking,” he said with a smile. “If I hadn’t had it, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. There was just one other Westhill guy with me, and (junior Nick) Cafararo cleaned his clock so I had an open field. Once I got to about our 40 and saw that block, I knew I was going to score. Scoring first like that pumps everybody up and starts the game off on a good note.”
Phillips earned the Special Team Award for the game while Cafararo, who had two sacks and three tackles for losses, was the Defensive Award winner. The Offensive Award went to the entire front line.
“Our defense is amazing and keeps the rest of the team pumped up,” Cafararo said. “We were pretty nervous in this one, but still had the lead. If Westhill scored they could have pulled it out, and their screen passes were getting them yards. Hopefully this keeps the team positive. We don’t want to get overconfident, but if you head into a game with a positive attitude it has an effect on the other tram, too.”
AFTER PHILLIPS GAVE them the early lead the Purple Tigers fizzled on their next eight possessions, three ending with fumbles and five with punts, including a pair by senior Brian Hughes that were downed at the Warrior one-yard line.
The ninth possession, however, was short and sweet, Potter taking a pitch from Giroux, heading left and cutting upfield for his 36-yard TD run that closed out the scoring after the conversion pass failed.
“(Junior) Devon Lane pulled with (fullback) Cafararo and blasted two holes wide open,” Potter said. “It’s huge to have two straight wins heading into Cazenovia (a week from today in a non-league road game starting at 1:30 p.m.), and it would be huge if we beat them.”
“We’re looking forward to playing Cazenovia and working to try and get up to 3-1,” Phillips said.
After Potter’s TD and the ensuing kickoff, senior cornerback Pat McMahon intercepted an Easterly pass at the Warrior 49 on the visitors’ first play from scrimmage to put an end to their final serious threat.
Two-way lineman Kevin Parker, linebacker-running back Colin Walsh and wide receiver-cornerback Matt Kriever, all seniors, and sophomore running back-cornerback Solomon Pittman all missed the game due to injuries and will be evaluated for the Cazenovia game, Darrow said.
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