October 2, 2010
Purple Tigers all alone in first
EAST SYRACUSE — With its offense in first gear, the Cortland High football team took over sole possession of first place in the Section 3 Class A American Division Friday night.
The Purple Tigers rolled up 722 yards on offense, 484 of those on the ground, and rolled over host East Syracuse-Minoa 54-35.
That result, coupled with Mexico’s 29-20 loss at Jamesville-DeWitt, means that CHS is the only unbeaten Class A American team after three weeks of league play, ES-M and Mexico a game back at 2-1. Cortland visits Mexico at 7 p.m. a week from today and can wrap up the top seed from the league for the upcoming Class A sectionals with a win.
“We’re getting better. This was a fun game to watch,” Purple Tigers coach Dave Darrow said. “I said going in that we wanted to be in every game, with a chance to play for the league title. That’s what we’re working for.
“Devon is really smart,” he added of his son, Devon Darrow the team’s junior quarterback. “He reads defenses well and changes plays. He makes a big difference. Plus we have two of the better tailbacks in the league, a great fullback and receivers who no one can cover; everything we need to win the league title.”
Junior tailback Jonathan Prior rushed for 217 yards on 18 carries and scored one touchdown to lead the winners on the ground, while senior tailback Alex Stacy lugged the ball 23 times for 184 yards of his own and a TD, in addition to three interceptions as the Robber (free safety) on defense.
Darrow scored three TDs on quarterback sneaks and also completed 13-of-18 passes for 217 yards with two TDs and one interception. Junior wide receiver Qwuhail Barlow was on the receiving end of both of those TD aerials, and finished with six catches for 112 yards as well as one interception.All told, the Purple Tigers had 11 possessions in the game, scoring eight TDs while losing one fumble and having the clock run out on them in each half, including three kneel-downs by Devon Darrow to end the game.
The offensive line won CHS’s Offensive Player of the Game Award, and Stacy was the Defensive Player of the Game. No Special Teams Award was given.
“We came here two years ago and lost 14-7 to ES-M,” said Dave Darrow, whose team, now 3-2 overall, led by just 28-20 at halftime despite outgaining its hosts 373-154. “If we had won we could have taken the league championship, so this is some redemption.”
“BASICALLY, WE’RE A second-half team,” Prior said. “We came out (for the second half) on fire and the line led well. I have a never-day-die mentality; every play has to be a touchdown. I was a little surprised (by the margin of victory). But we had a good week of practice; everyone was on time and worked hard. We had fun before, but this past week everyone was focused.”
“Our offense is legit and can play,” Devon Darrow said. “Our two losses to start the season (against Watertown and Camden of the Class A National Division) got us thinking. We want to win. The offensive line was a machine tonight, but we have to work on defense.”
And what of his three TDs?
“We’re really good with quarterback sneaks,” Darrow said with a smile. “We’re in first place, and that’s how it’s gonna stay.”
ES-M actually got on the board first after taking the opening kickoff, junior quarterback Tyler Johnson connecting on a 43-yard catch-and-run scoring play with classmate Buddy Frigon, a wide receiver, 3:36 into the game to make it 6-0 after a failed conversion kick. The Purple Tigers then scored on each of their first three possessions to go up 20-6, as Darrow and Barlow connected on scoring pass plays of 16 and 10 yards, sandwiched around Darrow’s first keeper for a TD, from one yard out. Darrow found Justin Hogan with the conversion toss after the first score.
With his team trailing 20-6, ES-M sophomore running back Jeffrey McDuffie returned the kickoff 64 yards to the visitors’ 18-yard line after Barlow’s second score. Four plays later, Johnson went in from two yards out and then hit sophomore tight end Mike Gorney with a conversion pass to cut the ES-M deficit to 20-14.
The teams traded TDs to end the half. Stacy went in from four yards out for his first TD of the night and Darrow added the conversion run before McDuffie took a short pass from Johnson and turned it into a 55-yard scoring play, the kick blocked by Cortland senior lineman Nick Reynolds, to make it 28-20 Cortland at the half.
“We’re a second-half team and know what it feels like to rally, which we did after trailing 18-6 at halftime against J-D (in an eventual 36-26 victory),” Stacy said. “We made it look easy, but ES-M is a great team. This was the best week of practice we’ve had all season. The offensive line is getting better every game; they’re the best in the league if not the section.”
“ES-M is a good team, but I have faith in our team to win,” Barlow said. “The two losses made us work harder, with no fooling around. (Personally) I know I can get past defenders; nobody’s faster than or can guard me.”
CORTLAND RECEIVED the second-half kickoff but fumbled it away at the ES-M 20 three plays into the drive. After the Spartans went nowhere and punted, Stacy capped off the next Cortland drive with a 15-yard TD jaunt making it 34-20 Purple Tigers midway through the third after the conversion run failed.
What proved to be ES-M’s last gasp came as Johnson and Gorney combined for a 60-yard scoring play before Johnson hit McDuffie with the conversion pass to make it 34-28 with 5:51 left in the third.
The Purple Tigers were up to the task.
Darrow went in from a yard out to finish the ensuing drive and found Prior with the conversion pass to make it 42-28 Cortland and close out the third-quarter scoring.
Prior then tipped a Johnson pass in the end zone and Stacy made a diving interception early in the fourth, leading to another Darrow TD plunge, this one from three yards out, with 6:25 left to make it 48-28 CHS after an unsuccessful conversion pass.
Stacy then snagged his third interception of the night, at the Cortland 18, and Prior accounted for 46 of the 82 yards on the ensuing drive, including the last 26 with 2:21 left, Darrow kneeling with the conversion snap. ES-M closed out the scoring with a late score against Cortland’s reserves, Johnson connecting with junior wide receiver Bobby Campese with 1:20 left before Dean Squires added the conversion kick.
Stacy is back at free safety, where he played the past two seasons, after starting this season at linebacker and shifting back due to a teammate’s injury.
“Our defensive coach, Paul Thomas, did a great job of getting us in good position before plays,” Stacy said. “We had gone over what we wanted to do.”
“Cortland did a nice job, but we didn’t get the job done,” Spartans head coach Kevin DeParde, his team also 3-2 overall, said quietly afterwards, surrounded at a table by his glum assistant coaches. “They didn’t do anything we didn’t prepare for. Our linebackers weren’t making the plays, and we tackled poorly. Usually when you score 35 points you win. We’re a young team, with one senior on offense and one on defense, but this time of year that’s not an excuse. And that’s taking nothing away from Cortland.”
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