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October 1, 2011

 

Late roar by resilient Purple Tigers

TigersBob Ellis/staff photographer
Jonathan Prior (15) of Cortland High tries escaping Homer tacklers Chris Estep (68) and Anthony Contento (32) Friday at Butts Field. Prior ran for two touchdowns as CHS rallied to win 36-21.

By TOM VARTANIAN
Staff Writer

One team was looking to keep its momentum going, while the other was just seeking a way to start building momentum.
Cortland High, reeling from three straight losses, was the team looking to get something going. But there was a special spark when the Purple Tigers headed to the halftime intermission tied 14-14 going up against football rival and host Homer Central in the 33rd battle for the Home-Cort Jug at George Butts Field Friday night.
Though CHS had run just seven offensive plays over those opening 24 minutes, the Purple Tigers were still in the hunt.
When the fourth quarter arrived, the Purple Tigers finally broke free.
Behind the legs of Jonathan Prior and Qwuhail Barlow, Cortland put up 22 points in the final 12 minutes to pull out a 36-21 non-league triumph over their I-81 neighbors and claim “The Jug” for the 15th time before an overflow crowd.
Cortland improves to 2-3 overall, Homer falls to 3-2.
Prior rushed for a game-high 188 yards on 15 carries and scored two touchdowns while Barlow hauled in quarterback Devon Darrow’s only pass completion of the night for a 62-yard catch-and-run and six more points in the final quarter explosion.
“A rivalry game is always going to be tough,” Prior said. “It doesn’t matter what class you’re in. The game was going to be a momentum change for us, win or lose, so it was a season-changer. I’m glad we came out on top and won the jug.
“The offensive line gave me the holes where I could use my speed and get to the sidelines,” he continued. “I can’t take all the credit because it was the offensive line. It was their best blocking game of the season.”
“It was positive for us to get this win tonight,” Cortland coach Dave Darrow said. “We made some mistakes. I don’t know where they are coming from, but we need to stop them.
“We’ve been patching the defense together because of injuries,” he added. “We just have not really had the combination we’ve wanted together this season. We are going to keep working to get better. We still to win some football games.
Prior use cut-back moves and counters very effectively to set-up some very long runs.
“I’ve been working on that play,” he said. “There have been games where I haven’t been able to do that. We’ve worked hard on the counter treys in practice. Tonight the holes were there.”
“We wanted to establish a running game this week,” Coach Darrow said. “We know we can throw the ball, but what if it rains? You can’t predict the weather. We had to work on our run game and we made good progress tonight.”
HOMER HOGGED THE football for over 20 minutes in the first half and ground out 194 yards on the ground — 151 of those coming on 24 carries by Austin Recor. The tailback opened the scoring with a two-yard blast with 11:54 left in the first half.
The Trojans’ two opening drives that took 10:23 off the clock, while the defense held Cortland to a three-and-out on its first possession. Recor’s TD run provided the early 6-0 after the failed two-point conversion try.
The lead was short-lived when the first Homer miscue resulted in the first big play of the game. The kickoff was suppose to be a bouncing, squib kick, but it hung in the air and Barlow took the ball at his own 12-yard line. He found a seam and raced 88 yards for the touchdown and the game was tied at 6-6 with 11:37 left in the half. The Trojans blocked the extra-point kick.
Homer kept with what was working. The Trojans marched 70 yards on 10 plays and used up another 5:18 of clock time to retake a 14-6 lead. Recor carried the ball eight times on the drive, but it was a one-yard quarterback sneak by Thomas Austin that got the six points. Recor ran the two-point conversion and Homer had an eight-point lead.
Cortland pulled even at 14-14 in just four plays.
Prior broke free on a 60-yard gallop from his own 38-yard line and was pushed out-of-bounds at the Trojan two. Two plays later, Devon Darrow used a one-yard sneak for the touchdown in the one-minute, 28-second drive. Darrow flipped the two-point pass to Joshua Gutchess and a 14-14 tie.
Homer closed out the quarter with a 4:51 drive that stalled at the Purple Tiger 12-yard line. Mike Hartnett attempted a 29-yard field goal on the last play of the half, but came up short.
More importantly, Recor was injured on a 10-yard run with less than a minute to go in the half. He came out of the game with concussion-like symptoms and never returned.
“Austin had a bit of a headache and wasn’t feeling right,” Homer coach Gary Podsiedlik said. “After halftime, he was feeling better. All the tests the trainers did didn’t lead them to believe he had a concussion, but it was just the sense that something more could happen so he was kept out of the game. Austin was disappointed, but he understood a run at a sectional title was more important.”
THE ONLY TURNOVER of the game came in the third quarter when Austin was hit from behind on a a blind-side blitz by Andrew Potter who knocked the ball from the quarterback. Mike Baldassarre recovered the ball for Cortland at the Trojan 31, but could not capitalize — a holding call on CHS wiping out a Prior end zone visit.
Homer got the ball back with 4:52 left in the quarter. With the aid of a roughing the kicker call on fourth down, the Trojans marched 82 yards in seven plays to take a 21-14 lead.
The big play was the touchdown run of Mark Dove. The junior tailback appeared stopped at the line of scrimmage on third down, but suddenly broke out of the pack as raced 37 yards to the end zone. Hartnett kicked the extra point with 1:30 left in the third quarter.
After an exchange of punts, Cortland got the ball at their own 38-yard line with 9:38 to play and the comeback began. On the first play from scrimmage, Darrow saw Trojan defender fall down and lofted the 62-yard bomb to Barlow for the touchdown. The extra was missed, but the Purple Tigers were right there, trailing 21-20.
“Devon did a great job on that play,”Podsiedlik said. “He didn’t get excited and made a nice throw. The tendency is to get pumped up and ovethrow the ball when you see a guy open like that. He made a nice throw, let Barlow run under and make the catch.”
The Trojans took three minutes off the clock, but were forced to punt as the Cortland defense stiffened. It took the Purple Tigers just five plays to take its first lead of the game. The five-play, 69 yard drive was capped by Prior, who cut back and raced down the sideline for a 32-yard touchdown run. Darrow tossed the conversion pass to Dylan Stafford and Cortland led 28-21 with 4:29 to go.
A personal foul penalty on Homer during the conversion try allowed Cortland to kick the ball off from the Trojan 45. The first kick went out-of-bounds and the Trojans elected to make Cortland kick the ball again. Several kicks during the game went out of bounds and the receiving team opted to take the ball at their own 35, that was not the option for the Trojans has the rule states the ball is placed 25 yards from were the kickoff took place. Because the ball was already kicked from the Trojan 45, Homer could not get the ball at the 35, it would have been the 20, so that’s why Podsiedlik had Cortland re-kick at that time.
THE TROJANS FINALLY started their drive at their own 25-yard line on the next kick return, but were stopped on fourth down after only reaching their own 45 — the Purple Tigers stuffing short-yardage attempt on fourth down.
Cortland took possession with 1:52 to play. After a procedure penalty on CHS moved the ball back to the Trojan 49, Prior broke free on a 38-yard gallop to the Homer 11 yard-line with 1:26 to go. After another procedure penalty, Prior took a hand-off at the Trojan 16 and raced into the end zone for the clinching score. Darrow tossed a conversion pass to Barlow for the 36-21 cushion with 1:08 to play.
Homer’s final drive got to the Cortland 10-yard line before time ran out.
“Cortland did not quit,” Podsiedlik said. “They played physical. This game meant a lot to them. Hats off to Cortland. They played their best fourth quarter of the season and they earned this win.”
CHS returns to Section Class A American action Friday with a 7:30 game against Fowler at Henninger High School in Syracuse. Homer will return to Class B West Division play with a 7 p.m. game Saturday night in Mexico.

 

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