September 19, 2009
Friday night fight
Purple Tigers hang on for first victory, visiting Fowler falls 27-21
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Cortland High’s Alex Stacy (21) runs the ball as Malique Reaves (7) closes in Friday night at Moisechik Field. CHS captured its first victory, beating the Falcons 27-21.
It wasn’t the most artistic of wins, but it wasn’t a loss. And that was the bottom line on a night the Cortland High football team came out in what everyone involved in the program felt was a must-win situation.
The Purple Tigers had the upper hand on visiting Fowler for much of Friday night’s Section 3 Class A American Division game at Moiseichik Field, but the resilient Falcons hung tough in a game of miscues and tough, hard-hitting defense by both teams in what finally ended up a 27-21 CHS victory.
“We made it a lot more interesting at the end than it needed to be,” Cortland coach Dave Darrow said afterwards, shaking his head. “But that’s high school football. You make mistakes, and you make good plays.”
It looked like Cortland had things in hand when, with 2:49 left in the game, senior cornerback Dyquann Barlow intercepted a pass by Fowler junior quarterback Kelvin Amparo at the Purple Tiger eight-yard line.
With starting junior tailback Alex Stacy and senior starting quarterback Shane McCaskill, both of who had taken some lumps, out to prevent further damage, CHS junior fullback Shakief Rivers netted four yards on two carries before Falcons junior defensive back Daquan Coleman took advantage of some confusion on the hosts’ part, intercepting a pass by sophomore backup signal-caller Devon Darrow and returning it to the Cortland eight.
Two plays later, Amparo hit junior tailback London Odister in the end zone to make it 27-21. The conversion pass went awry, but the hosts were called for a facemask penalty. Odister then got stuffed on a run attempt by junior linebackers Justin Tabel and Luke Bush.
Fowler was then penalized for being offsides on the ensuing onside kickoff before Amparo booted the re-kick out of bounds at the CHS 40, where the Purple Tigers took over. A roughing the passer call against the Falcons for a late hit on senior quarterback Shane McCaskill on a second-down play that didn’t net any yards gave Cortland a first down and effectively ended the game.
“We needed a win, and we’re all happy we got it,” said Coach Darrow, whose squad, now 1-1 league and 1-2 overall, takes on Fulton this Friday night in Central Square as turf is being installed on the Red Raiders’ home field. “We’ll clean up the things we did wrong. Now we have some momentum we can build on going into the Fulton game.”
The Red Raiders are alone in first place at 3-0 league and overall after beating host East Syracuse-Minoa, the four-time defending league champion, 33-30 Friday night.
CORTLAND HELD FOWLER to just 30 yards of total offense in the first half, 25 of that on the ground. The Purple Tigers racked up 158 yards of their own during that time, 103 of those on 7-for-14 passing by McCaskill, including a TD, and 34 more on 10 carries by Stacy, who also had a TD.
Still, the Purple Tigers were up by just 14-7 at intermission.
Senior wide receiver Caleb Wright made a diving catch in the end zone of a seven-yard McCaskill pass to cap the hosts’ second possession of the game and make it 7-0 after Justin Burns added the conversion kick. On the ensuing kickoff, Fowler senior Joshua Cruz picked up the ball after a teammate had bobbled it, cut to his left and went 83 yards down the sideline to tie the game right back up after Odister’s kick. Stacy scored the first of his two TDs from seven yards out with 27 seconds left in the first quarter, Burns added the kick and the first-half scoring was complete, Fowler hanging in despite being outplayed.
“We told the guys that they needed to stop with all the mistakes and start executing,” said Fowler coach John Natoli, whose undermanned team (with just 23 players available Friday night) is now 1-2 league and overall. “Mistakes killed us. We made so many of them. The kids are inconsistent, and have too many mental breakdowns. But they don’t quit, and I’m very proud about that. We had the offsides and the roughing the passer after we got close the last time; again, too many mistakes. We have to minimize those, or we’re not going to win games.”
Cortland senior defensive end Cody Hartmann recovered a Falcon fumble two plays into the second half, and five plays later McCaskill threw his second TD pass, a short toss to Barlow that the senior speedster turned into a 15-yard scoring connection to make it 20-7 after a failed kick. When senior tackle Dan Catalano recovered another Fowler fumble on the visitors’ next possession, it looked like the Purple Tigers had finally seized the momentum and taken control.
But after CHS bogged down Odister took over, picking up 64 yards while lugging the ball four times in a five-play, 65-yard series, capped by a three-yard TD run. His kick was no good, but a roughing the kicker penalty enabled Odister to throw a conversion pass to senior wide receiver Dion Dixie to make it 20-15 with 1:53 left in the third.
A 32-yard punt return to the Fowler 21 by Barlow in the opening stages of the fourth quarter set the hosts up, and Stacy chewed up all of that yardage in two plays, capped by a 15-yard TD run that made it 27-15 after Burns’s kick. Tabel intercepted a pass by Amparo at the Cortland 37 on the next possession, but the hosts turned it right back over with a bad snap to Devon Darrow in the shotgun formation with 4:06 left.
THEN CAME BARLOW’S pickoff, which only wound up setting the stage for the wild finish. Two plays prior to that Tabel delivered the hit of the night when he flattened Odister, who dropped a pass from Amparo in the flat with some running room ahead of him. Barlow then sacked Amparo for a 12-yard loss and made the interception on consecutive plays.
McCaskill, who sat out last week’s 28-7 loss to East Syracuse-Minoa after suffering an opening-week concussion against Homer, went 13-for-23 passing for 180 yards and two TDs, along with one interception. His top receiver was Barlow, with six catches for 104 yards and one TD. Stacy, meanwhile, finished with 57 yards on 16 carries and two TDs. Odister was the standout for Fowler, lugging the ball 10 times for 77 yards and a TD and catching the late TD pass as well. CHS outgained its guests overall, 252 yards to 167.
“Alex played very well,” coach Darrow said. “He always works hard. We just have to keep McCaskill alive. He took a lot of punishment, but played a good game. We came out of this one a little banged up, but everyone seems all right.”“I took what the offensive line gave me,” Stacy said of his two TDs, his ribs a bit sore after taking a game-long pounding. “They played amazing. The coaches talk to us about playing 48 minutes, and it felt like we only played 36 tonight. But this was a big win; we’re not out of it. The top four teams in the league make sectionals, and we all feel we’re the team to beat. Hopefully Fulton will be banged up after playing ES-M.”
“I wasn’t nervous until the first snap. Then I had the worst butterflies,” McCaskill said. “I was facing a new defense (after a week off). Dyquann did most of the work on the TD pass we had, but I’ll take the two. It’s a great way to come back. Just off of two tough losses, we needed this win to be able to come back and play Fulton on the road.”
McCaskill and Barlow shared this week’s award for Cortland’s top offensive player, while senior linebacker Camerin Edgar was named the top defensive player and sophomore Kyle Teeter was named the outstanding lineman (Lunch Bucket). No special teams award was given.
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