September 28, 2013
Warriors hold off CHS
Razzle-dazzle & D tame Purple Tigers
A little razzle-dazzle and some stout defense late were the keys Friday night as the Marcellus football team beat Cortland High 19-14 in a Section 3 Class B West Division slugfest on Senior Night at Moiseichik Field.
Cortland senior tailback Zach Whelan scored from five yards out with 8:07 left in the game, and after junior Aidan Stehm added the conversion kick the Purple Tigers led 14-13.
That set the stage for the razzle-dazzle.
Mustangs junior Aaron Cusik fielded the ensuing kickoff at the visitors’ 22 and pitched it back on a reverse to classmate Will Coon, who swept around the right side to the CHS 40-yard line before being knocked out of bounds.
It took Marcellus two plays to cover the remaining distance, as senior quarterback Tom Keegan first rambled 37 yards down to the three on a counter and then went in on the next play.
After the conversion run to account for the ultimate final margin, Cortland embarked on a drive that took it to the Marcellus 20, where it faced a 4th-and-2 situation.
Then came the stout defense.
Whelan, who as the hosts’ workhorse carried the ball 33 times for 160 yards and the TD on the night, was stopped just short of a first down — so close it required a measurement — and the Mustangs were able to hold on to the ball the rest of the way. The visitors picked up three first downs, the first on a 14-yard counter by Keegan on the first play of the drive, and ran out the clock.
“At first I thought I made it, but then I looked again and just hoped that I had,” Whelan said. “We came out and played as hard as we could. It was Senior Night and maybe our last game ever on this field. Unfortunately we didn’t win, but I think I left my mark on the field.”
“I THOUGHT WE had it on that fourth down,” Purple Tigers coach Dave Darrow said, his team now 2-1 in league play and 2-2 overall to Marcellus’s 3-0, 3-1. “We got the play we wanted and were running behind who we wanted. We still had a chance to get the ball back after that, but that quarterback counter got us every time.
“Everyone says Marcellus is one of the top four or five teams in the section in Class B, but we should have won this one. We need to coach a little better, play a little better and make some plays. We do things poorly at bad times,” he added.
A good example of that came just past the halfway point in the third quarter. Whelan went left, got outside, broke one tackle and hurdled another defender to pick up 28 yards to midfield, but the play was nullified by an illegal, and unnecessary, block.
“Zach did a phenomenal job,” Darrow said. “He made a lot of tough yards, and they had a lot of guys in the box. He’s a gamer. Our defense played well. We worked hard on that this week in practice and they did a nice job for the most part.
“Marcellus is a good, well-coached team, with a big, strong offensive line, a good quarterback and fullback and a solid defensive line.”
Missing from the hosts’ defense due to injuries were senior starters Tyrmaine Dugger (defensive end), who has yet to play this season, and Teddy Phillips (middle linebacker). Junior fullback/linebacker Andrew Babcock left the game in the first quarter due to an injury but returned after some repairs and played the entire second half, and junior two-way lineman Alex Reynolds was hurt as well.
THE MUSTANGS LOOKED to be an aerial threat coming in, Keegan having thrown for 706 yards and seven TDs in three games. Junior tailback Ian McGloon also presented some concern to CHS, as he had rushed for 447 yards and five TDs in that trio of contests.
The CHS defense was up to both challenges. Keegan completed 8-of-20 passes for 96 yards with two TDs, while top receiver Coon caught just three passes for 27 yards to add to the 15 grabs for 404 yards he had coming in. In addition, McGloon was held to just 13 yards on 13 carries for the night. As noted, though, Keegan was successful in running the counter, finishing with 158 yards and the TD on 18 carries.
Marcellus finished with 267 yards of total offense to 251 for Cortland.
“I think they were so concerned about Ian — they blitzed to his side all night — that the counter worked for us,” Keegan said. “We’re a good team, and good teams rebound like we did tonight. If you’re going to write about me, mention our offensive line. It’s one of the best around, and our heart and soul.”
“They keyed on Ian and Tom made great audibles,” Marcellus coach Joe Fiacchi said. “That counter was dynamite. We have good senior leadership; they’re doing a great job. The reverse on the kickoff return was put in by Mike Weiskotten, our special teams coach.
“Cortland came off the ball and went downhill on us. Their runners are fantastic. Whelan kept drives alive and ate up the clock for them. I know they’ve had some injuries, especially number three (Phillips).”
THE FIRST HALF ended with the teams tied 7-7. The hosts were rolling on their first possession until senior quarterback Caden Giroux was forced from the pocket, pressured and finally sacked for a 31 yard loss to stall the momentum. The Mustangs opened the scoring on their first possession of the second quarter as Keegan found senior tight end Mike Hastings in the left rear of the end zone for a TD 2:53 in and sophomore Ross Filtch added the conversion kick.
The Purple Tigers needed just three plays to event the the score, the TD coming on a 64-yard hookup down the left side from Giroux to junior wideout Nate Kinsey, who outsprinted a defender the final 20 yards to the end zone prior to Stehm’s PAT kick.
The visitors took a 13-7 lead on their first possession of the second half, Keegan finding freshman receiver Tom Fiacchi, the coach’s son, alone in the right rear corner of the end zone with a 29-yard TD toss on a busted play to cap a nine-play drive.
Filtch intercepted Giroux at the Cortland 33 on the next Purple Tiger possession, but three plays later senior linebacker Nick Cafararo intercepted a Keegan pass at the CHS 22 after it was tipped by senior defensive back Quinn Mulherin.
Cortland went three-and-out on its next possession and, after starting at the CHS 35, the Mustangs got down to the Purple Tiger eight before linebacker Whelan ripped the ball loose from McGloon and junior linebacker Kaleb Wingard fell on it back at the hosts’ 15.
That began the 14-play drive that saw Cortland take the lead on Whelan’s TD and Stehm’s kick, and set the stage for the exciting finish on a night when all of the CHS senior players and cheerleaders were honored, along with their parents, in pre-game ceremonies.
WHELAN AND SENIOR right tackle Paul Sabin shared Cortland’s Offensive Player of the Game honors and Cafararo was named the Defensive Player of the Game.
“We have to win three in a row now if we want a home playoff game,” said Darrow, that challenge starting this coming Friday when CHS visits Westhill in a 6:30 p.m. start. The Warriors are now also 2-2 league and overall after falling 41-7 to host Homer Central Friday night.
After the Westhill game, Cortland visits Chittenango on Oct. 11 and Homer on Oct. 18 to close out the regular season.
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