September 24, 2012


Caz spoils Purple Tigers’ upset bid

Staff Writer

CAZENOVIA — The momentum of Saturday afternoon’s Section 3 Class B non-league football contest between Cortland High and host Cazenovia had shifted on one big play.
Another big play shifted it back, this time for good, in what would ultimately be a 31-13 victory for the Lakers over CHS.
The 19th-ranked Class B team in the state had taken a 6-0 lead into halftime and held it until two plays into the Purple Tigers’ first possession of the third quarter, when junior quarterback Caden Giroux and classmate Teddy Phillips — a running back turned receiver — connected on a 50-yard scoring pass play. Phillips covered the last 30 yards down the right sideline after hauling in the throw before junior Mike Southwick’s conversion kick made it 7-6 Cortland just under three minutes into the third quarter.
Cazenovia then went on a long drive and appeared to have gotten the lead back on a three-yard run by tailback Jake Wilson. A holding penalty negated the touchdown, however, and a CHS sack by junior linebackers Phillips and Zach Whalen followed by a personal foul on the hosts made it 3rd-and-goal from the Purple Tiger 34-yard line.
Then came the play of the game, as Lakers junior quarterback Kevin Hopsicker hit wide-open senior wideout Joe Colligan at the 15 and he went the rest of the way into the end zone untouched to put the hosts up for good, 12-7.
A two-yard scoring scamper by junior running back Andrew Vogl, an 18-yard TD run by Hopsicker (followed by senior Alex Sullivan’s conversion kick) and a 65-yard interception-return TD from senior defensive back Mark Dewan — the PAT kick blocked by senior linebacker Andrew Potter — made it 31-7 for Cazenovia.
Giroux finished the scoring with a three-yard TD run before a conversion pass by junior Brian Hughes off a fake kick failed.
“If we make the play on third and goal......” Cortland coach Dave Darrow said, shaking his head after his team had fallen to 2-2 overall and surrendered nine more points than it had in its first three games combined. “Cazenovia had their heads down. We had them on the ropes, starting to doubt themselves. We made some mistakes, like a ball bouncing off our receiver’s hands right to one of their players. But our penalties were good (three for 35 yards after double-figure flags the last two games), we played hard and executed well.
“Cazenovia is a really good football team, and our kids busted their humps and played really well. It was closer than the score shows. We’ll be ready to play the next two games (against Fowler at Nottingham and at Marcellus), then Chittenango (at home Oct. 12 in the regular-season finale). If we’re good enough to play with Cazenovia we can beat the second or third seed from the other division in sectionals.”
The Purple Tigers and Homer are both 2-1 behind first-place Chittenango in the Class B West.
“THIS WAS NOT AN easy game,” said Lakers coach Tom Neidl, his team atop the B American standings at 2-0 and 3-1 overall, while reflecting on the final score. “We knew from the films that Cortland has a high-pressure defense, the kind that can force you into one, two or three negative plays in a series. We went to a tight end set to spread their defense, and it helped us.
“The big play was just a little double move by Joe, while Kevin stayed alive under pressure and made a nice throw. We rotate Kevin in at quarterback with Alex in different situations to give opposing teams a different look. A game like this is good because it brings the team together and gives them experience for down the road.”
“I faked a throw and knew Kevin would be open over the top,” Hopsicker said in recounting the game’s turning point. “I saw him, and it worked out. We knew Cortland was tough. They surprised us a little, but we finished it out.”
“I thought they’d bite on a fake, and Kevin had a great pump fake that left me wide open,” said Colligan, who also had the tipped interception that Darrow referred to, late in the third quarter. “He put the home run ball up there and it came right to me. We were pretty sure beforehand that the play would go for a touchdown.”
Neither team was able to get much going in the first half. The only points came on a 78-yard pass play from Sullivan, who started the game at quarterback, and senior wideout Chad Warren, who snagged a ball down the left sideline at the hosts’ 45 and went the rest of the way untouched on his team’s second offensive play of the game prior to a missed kick.
CHS finished the half with 85 total yards, just 33 on the ground, to 123 for the Lakers, who picked up 90 in the air.
“We couldn’t run against their big defensive line, couldn’t get enough drive,” Darrow said, his team with 11 second-half rushing attempts for 54 yards and 7-of-18 passes completed for 116 yards.
Cazenovia picked up 143 yards on the ground in the second half and 57 in the air and had 319 total yards of offense in the game to 255 for Cortland.
INDIVIDUALLY, GIROUX carried the ball 12 times for a team-high 45 yards and a TD and was also 10-for-30 passing with two interceptions for 146 yards and the other TD. Hughes completed both of his pass attempts, both off fake punts, for 12 yards. Phillips caught five passes for 88 yards and a TD.
Hopsicker, meanwhile, gained 58 yards on eight carries with a TD as the winners’ top rusher and went 3-of-5 passing with two interceptions (by Hughes in the first half and Potter in the second, at the Cortland 10- and 12-yard lines, respectively). Sullivan went 2-for-3 in the air for 77 yards and a TD, Warren the hosts’ top receiver with two catches for 102 yards and a TD.
Cazenovia had possession of the ball for 18:22 of the 24 minutes in the second half and for a total of 29:03 in the game to 18:57 for Cortland.
The Purple Tigers were without senior tight end-defensive lineman Kevin Parker for most of the game after he was flagged for a personal foul and ejected late in the first quarter, meaning that he’ll miss the Fowler game on Friday.
“Kevin does a good job and plays a million places,” Darrow said. “He gives us balance, but we’ll be all right.”
The Lakers were playing with heavy hearts due to a death in assistant coach Jay Steinhorst’s family earlier this week. “You never know how something like that is going to affect a team,” Neidl said. “We all went right from the funeral to the game.”
“We dedicated the game to coach Steinhorst, and it’s great to get a win for him and for our season,” Hopsicker said.
“We went to the funeral before this game and it brought us together as a team,” Colligan said. “It feels good to get the win for coach Steinhorst.”
— Cortland coaches settled on their game awards over the weekend. Potter was the specialty team player of the week for his blocked kick and a couple of tackles on Caz kick returns, while QB Giroux was the offensive player of the week. The entire ‘D’ earned the defensive honors, though Coach Darrow singled out Zach Whelan, Paul Turco, Eric Richardson and Colin Walsh.

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