October 3, 2008


Cortland facing another big test as Oswego visits


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Dyquann Barlow hopes to provide problems for Oswego taccklers tonight at Moiseichik Field.

Staff Writer

The result has no bearing on the post-season, or even the league standings. But when the Cortland High football team hosts Oswego at 7 p.m. today at Moiseichik Field in this year’s Homecoming contest, it will, for the third week in a row, be playing its most important game of the season.
“We can’t afford to lose two in a row, no matter who we’re playing,” Purple Tigers coach Dave Darrow said, his team now 2-1 in the league and 3-1 overall coming off a hard-fought 21-14 loss at East Syracuse-Minoa last Friday in a battle of Section 3 Class A American Division unbeatens.
“We’ve had two tough games in a row, and got by one of them but not the other,” he added, CHS beating Fulton at home 21-6 two weeks ago. “We want to get back on track, get a win streak going and get a home playoff game.”
As part of the Homecoming festitivies, fabled CHS grid coach John Moiseichik and a number of his former players are slated to attend the game, sit together in a special section of the stands and be introduced at halftime.
The rejuvenated Buccaneers come into the contest at 3-1, already with the most wins the program has managed since 2000. The last time the Class AA program, which is playing down in Class A and rebuilding and thus ineligible for the league title or sectionals, had a winning record was 1995.
“They’re a little better than they have been,” Darrow said. “Damian Williams (5-7, 150-pound junior halfback) is pretty solid, and a good runner for them. They have another good halfback in Adam Johnson (5-10, 170 senior), their quarterback (6-1, 175 junior Mike Brown) is pretty good, they have a solid defensive end and tight end in Ryan Burger (6-1, 225 senior) and their fullback (5-8, 188 senior Matt Demm) is good.
“They run the Delaware Wing-T offense, with a lot of power, traps and waggles, a lot like we do, and defensively they put a lot of people in the box,” he added. “They used a six-man front a lot against Fowler (in a 40-20 win last Friday) with four linebackers, forcing people to throw. We’ll have to poke holes in that.”
“I think we have to slow down their power running game,” Oswego coach Dave Gryczka said in assessing Cortland. “They like to come out and pound away at you. They have three good backs and a lot of speed. We have to shut down their ground attack, which definitely won’t be easy.
“They’re fast on defense, and get to places in a hurry. They close down the passing lanes real well, and fly to the football. They’re strong, too, and do a nice job of controlling the line of scrimmage.”
In addition to the players Darrow mentioned, Gryczka also said that junior split end Dan Cirino (6-0, 150 junior) is a key to the offense. Defensively, he cited juniors Matt Howard 95-9, 165 free safety), Troy Norton (6-1, 190 lineman) and Shane Bartrum (6-0, 207 lineman) and senior Abe McAndrew (6-0, 190 linebacker) as the Bucs’ top players.
So what have been the keys to the resurgence for Oswego, which went 0-9 last season playing a brutal schedule that included trips to sectional Class A champion Carthage and Whitesboro plus home games with A American co-champs ES-M and Fulton?
“It’s been a matter of installing a system,” Gryczka said. “This is my third year with a lot of the kids; I had the juniors on the JV team when they were freshman two years ago. They have a pretty good understanding of what we run, and what we’re trying to accomplish week in and week out.
“You can see it around the school; the kids are prouder to be part of the football team. They have always worked hard, and now they’ve got experience. They’re battle-tested.”
Oswego’s only loss came in its season-opener, 42-6 at ES-M. Since then the Bucs have won home games against Jamesville-DeWitt (24-0), Mexico (35-18) and Fowler. They trailed the latter 12-0 before scoring the next 40 points, including a 33-point third quarter. Williams ran for a school-record 268 yards on 24 carries in that game, and scored four touchdowns.
“I don’t see the fact that we’re playing on the road this week as any problem at all,” Gryczka said. “Cortland’s a little farther away, but we’ve had a good stretch at home and, after this, have another home game (against Section 4’s Newark Valley) and then go to Fulton, which is as close to a home game as possible for us.”
“We have to get it done this week, get back on track after a tough loss,” Darrow said. “If we’d been blown away, whatever. But it was close, and we had our chances. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. There’s another game coming up.
“I think we played flat in the first half against ES-M. By the time we figured out we could win, we didn’t get it done. This week is Homecoming, and we play pretty well at home, which will help us. I think a lot of people will come to watch, unless the weather is absolutely horrible. We want to make it exciting,” added Darrow.
Cortland, back among honorable mentions in the state Class A poll after being ranked 25th last week, is currently tied for second in the league - the last spot to host a sectional game - at 2-1 with Jamesville-DeWitt. The Purple Tigers host the Red Rams next week before closing out the regular season at Fowler. J-D hosts New Hartford from the Class A National Division tonight in a non-leaguer, and Fowler, currently 1-1 in the A American, could make it a three-way tie for second by beating host Fulton tonight.
“We don’t have a team left on the schedule that we can’t beat,” Darrow said. “We want to win six games and play a sectional game at home. Those were our two major goals, right from the start.”
Both coaches said that their squads come into the game healthy, with only the usual dings that are to be expected four games into the season.
The two teams have played a couple of times in recent years. In 2002, host Cortland won 32-14 in a season-ending crossover game, when Oswego was still in Class AA. In 2006, the visiting Bucs, playing down in Class A, scored a 28-14 regular-season win over the Purple Tigers.         
Senior tailback Corby Reynolds continues to lead Cortland’s ground game with 368 yards on 77 carries (4.78 yards per carry), and a team-high five touchdowns and 30 points. Brandon Fitzgerald, another senior tailback, is next with 242 yards on 50 carries (4.84) and one TD. Junior slotback-kick returner Dyquann Barlow is second on the team in scoring with 24 points, having scored TDs on a run, a pass reception, a kickoff return and a punt return.
Senior quarterback Matt Porter has completed 10-of-32 pass this season (.313) for 188 yards and the TD to Barlow, plus three interceptions. Barlow is the top receiver with three catches for 44 yards (14.67 yards per grab) and the TD.
Williams leads Oswego in rushing with 613 yards on 58 carries (10.56) and seven TDs, while Johnson has picked up 172 yards on 40 carries (4.30) and scored four TDs and Demm has lugged the ball 28 times for 162 yards (5.78).
Brown has completed 25-of-48 passes for 353 yards and three TDs with five interceptions. Cirino is his top receiver with 15 catches for 235 yards (15.67) and two TDs.