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September 21, 2013

 

CHS in control

Overcomes early TD run to humble Phoenix, 49-20

FootballJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
Cortland High’s Zach Whelan breaks tackles and weaves through traffic as Phoenix’ Kameron Miller closes in during a first quarter run Friday night.

By TANEY BEAUMONT
Staff Writer

The visiting Phoenix football team, with just 19 players available, scored first and last in Friday’s Section 3 Class B game with Cortland High at Moiseichik Field.
In between, though, with the man who the field was named after — long-time and storied Purple Tigers coach John Moiseichik — in attendance, it was pretty much all CHS in what ended up a 49-20 win that pushed Coach Dave Darrow’s squad to 2-0 in the league and 2-1 overall.
Senior tailback Zach Whelan led the way on the ground, with 11 carries for 122 yards and two touchdowns, covering 18 and 14 yards. Senior tight end Jordan Smith caught a pair of passes for 25 yards and his first two varsity touchdowns — one each from each quarterback used by the Purple Tigers. He latched onto a 15-yard TD toss from senior Caden Giroux and a 10-yarder from junior Anthony Ricottilli.
With passing not a priority, Giroux went 3-for-3 for 32 yards and a TD and Ricottilli was 2-for-2 with two TDs, the other scoring strike a 20-yarder to Nate Kinsey.
Senior tailback Qadir Artis picked up 104 yards on six carries and a TD on a 50-yard run, and junior fullback Andrew Babcock scored his first varsity TD from four yards out.
Despite being without starting senior Z-back Teddy Phillips due to injury the winners had a 319-199 advantage in total yardage, including 258 yards on the ground, all while having the ball for just 14:10 to the Firebirds’ 33:50.
With starting quarterback Billy Ostrander and senior fullback Dylan Doupe out with injuries, the Phoenix offensive load was shouldered by sophomore tailback Tim Gandino who lugged the ball 21 times for a game-high 197 yards and one TD. That came on a 64-yard run that opened the scoring 8:20 in, followed by Brock Maruscsak’s conversion kick, and gave the Firebirds (0-3 league and overall) their first lead of the year.
“Our quarterbacks, tight ends and running backs were solid,” Darrow said. “After they scored first the kids focused and played hard. We executed the things we needed to, and pretty much every kid played half the game.
“We ran the things we’ll need from now on in practice this week, but tonight we mostly just wanted to run. One of Ricottilli’s TD passes was on a check-off. We need to get ready, because we’ve got some good, tough games right in a row now. We’ll see how we play,” he added.
THAT POINT WAS also on the minds of Cortland’s players after the easy win.
“We played better, but there are definitely a lot of things we can improve on,” said Whelan, who also had three solo sacks from his linebacker position and was named Special Teams Player of the Game after returning three punts for a total of 51 yards. “In a way it’s not good for us that two weeks in a row we haven’t played the best teams . It gives us confidence, but we know we’ll be playing good teams now.”
Cortland romped past Solvay 42-12 last week prior to handling Phoenix, those two foes win-less on the season.
“During practice this coming week we’ll have to work so much harder and make everything crisp,” Smith said. “We have to cut down on stupid penalties and be mentally tough.”
Cortland finishes the home portion of its regular-season schedule this Friday when it hosts Marcellus (2-0 league, 2-1 overall). The Mustangs lost 43-35 to B East powerhouse Cazenovia Thursday night.
“These last two wins were a big boost for us, but we mentally need a good week of practice to get ready for the better teams,” Giroux said. Ricottilli echoed that, noting that “It’s a confidence builder, but we have to be more mentally focused now for better teams.”
This week’s contest saw the Purple Tigers score seven straight touchdowns, and all 49 of their points, after Phoenix took the early lead. Five plays after a 56-yard scoring pass play between Giroux and Whelan was called back by an illegal motion call, Whelan scored on the ground from 18 yards out with 4:31 left in the first to cap the first possession of the game for the hosts, who trailed 7-6 after the failed conversion kick. It was the only CHS scoring drive that took more than three plays.
After Whelan fumbled into the end zone just before reaching the goal line on the next CHS possession, Giroux found Smith in the back of the end zone on the right side 2:09 into the second quarter to give Cortland the lead for good, then ran in the conversion to make it 14-7.
THE WINNERS CLOSED out the half by scoring on their final three possessions to take a 35-7 lead into halftime. Babcock scored with 6:50 left, Ricottilli hooked up with Smith 32 seconds later after Artis intercepted a Firebird pass and Whelan rambled home from 44 yards out 2:45 before halftime, the latter two scores coming on the first plays of drives. Junior Aidan Stehm added all three conversion kicks.
Artis went on his 50-yard scoring run three plays into the second half. After Phoenix went three-and-out and Whelan returned the subsequent punt 20 yards to the visitors’ 20-yard line, Ricottilli and Kinsey hooked up on a scoring strike on the first play from scrimmage. Stehm kicked both conversions to make it 49-7 just 4:58 into the third.
With Purple Tiger reserves seeing considerable time on both sides of the ball, Phoenix scored the final two TDs of the game. Junior quarterback Brock Maruscsak went in from a yard out 1:29 into the third prior to senior Ashton Morrison’s PAT kick, and with a running clock in effect late, senior fullback Mike Mironti also scored from one yard out with 2:32 left, two plays after Gandino went on a 52-yard run to the CHS five-yard line. The kick was blocked to account for the final score.
“With 19 guys, I think we got tired in the second quarter,” Phoenix coach Chad Rowe said. But they kids did a great job; we’re improving every game and getting more confidence. With Billy and Dylan injured we went old-school on offense, pro-set right and left. We put it in in three days this week and kept it simple.
“This gives us confidence going into next week’s home game with Solvay (on Friday). I think we can match up with them. We should have 22 players next week.”
In talking about his two TD catches, Smith said “They were basically both on a fly route. Caden threw it perfectly to me after I got open. I ran the same route and Anthony threw a perfect pass.
“We were surprised after their long drive for the first TD, but not worried. We were a little rusty to start.”
“My TD came on a 47-counter,” Artis said. “I got good blocks that opened a hole up the middle, and I just found it and then got outside. We thought early it might be a game. (Gandino) is a good running back. but our defense stepped up. I just go out and play my hardest to put the team in a position to win.”
Smith and Kinsey shared Offensive Player of the Game honors for CHS, while junior nose tackle Logan Root and Artis (cornerback) shared the Defensive Player of the Game award.

 

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