October 4, 2008
Bucs shut down by Purple Tigers
Second place showdown next after 20-0 CHS win
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Damian Williams (left) of Oswego beats Cortland High’s Josh Morehouse to the ball as he recovers a first half fumble. The CHS defense blanked the Bucs 20-0.
A Homecoming shutout victory Friday night moved the Cortland High football team closer to a more important home date — one of the post-season variety.
The Purple Tigers blanked Oswego 20-0 before a large and boisterous Moiseichik Field crowd, improving to 4-1 overall on the season.
While the game didn’t count in the Section 3 Class A American Division standings — Oswego is a Class AA team playing down while rebuilding, and can’t win the league title or go to sectionals — it demonstrated the ability Coach Dave Darrow’s team has to snap back from adversity.
Cortland was coming off a 14-7 loss at East Syracuse-Minoa the previous Friday that was, in effect, the league championship game. At 2-1 in the league, CHS is tied for second with Jamesville-DeWitt, which comes to call at 7 p.m. this coming Friday. The winner all but wraps up the runner-up spot in the league, and the first-round sectional home game that goes with it.
“This was a big week for us,” an obviously relieved and pleased Darrow said after his team had dropped the Buccaneers to 3-2 with its first shutout since a 50-0 dismantling of Fowler on Oct. 12 of last year. “We practiced well this week, and the kids, especially the offensive line, made some nice adjustments on the fly. We’re starting to get a little smarter. We’re coming along. The defense played well again.
“We should have scored some more points, but it was a good game. We got everyone in. Dyquann Barlow made some big plays, he’s dangerous, while Brandon Fitzgerald made some nice moves. Corby Reynolds had another nice day. Our goals were to get six wins and get a home playoff game. If we win our last two (the finale Oct. 17 at Fowler) we’ll achieve both. We play well at home, and we get a lot of support.”
It didn’t take the Purple Tigers long to get the home crowd stirred up this week.
Two plays into Oswego’s first possession (after CHS bogged down with the opening kickoff), after an incomplete first-down pass, senior linebacker Reynolds picked off a throw by Oswego junior quarterback Mike Brown and returned it from the visitors’ 45-yard line down to the five. On fourth-and-goal, senior fullback Josh Morehouse plunged into the end zone, senior kicker Matt Porter added the conversion kick and the hosts had all the points they’d need.
IT DID NOT LOOK like that would be the case after Oswego senior defensive back snagged a tipped Porter pass near the goal line on the Purple Tigers’ next possession and returned it to the Bucs’ 24 with 2:38 left in the first. The visitors then embarked on a drive that ate up 6:36 but ended up doing little else, Brown stacked up at the Cortland six on an attempted fourth-and-one quarterback sneak.
Cortland then moved methodically down the field, eating up the 94 yards on 12 plays that took 5:37 to unravel.
A key to the drive was senior tailback Fitzgerald’s 41-yard run from the Cortland 21 to the Oswego 38. Junior slotback Barlow picked up 15 yards on third-and-five from the 33. One play after an apparent nine-yard TD run by senior fullback Dan Foster was wiped out by a procedure penalty, Barlow went untouched on a 14-yard scoring jaunt around the left side on an option reverse. Porter’s kick made it 14-0 and completed the first-half scoring.
The hosts closed out the scoring on their first possession of the second half after a bad Oswego punt snap set them up at the Buccaneer 35. Eight plays later Reynolds took a pitch from quarterback Porter heading right, cut up and scored from five yards out. Porter’s kick was blocked after an unsportsmanlike conduct call against CHS following the TD pushed the conversion try back.
Oswego moved the ball on its next possession, the key play a 31-yard aerial from Brown to senior wideout John Berkley, but junior tailback Damian Williams fumbled the ball as Oswego operated from the Purple Tiger six and senior lineman Ian Spafford recovered. The Bucs were able to get to the Cortland 29 late in the game, but three straight incomplete passes ended the drive.
Williams, who the previous week had set a school record by picking up 268 yards on 24 carries with four TDs in a 40-20 win over Fowler, was held to just 72 yards on 17 carries by the Purple Tiger defense, a good chunk of that after the hosts had started running reserves in.
“Williams was the best running back we’d seen on tape, and we game-planned for him,” Cortland defensive coordinator Tom Murphy said. “We challenged the defense to stop him, and they all played well. They stepped up to the challenge, and bent but didn’t break.”
“CORTLAND HAS A god defense, but we didn’t score because of mistakes we made,” said an obviously disappointed Oswego coach Dave Gryczka, who in his second season has led the program to its first three-win season since 2000. “We missed a wide-open receiver on our first play with 11 guys in the box for them. That could have been a score and started the momentum in our direction. If you can’t throw with 11 guys in the box, you’re going to have a long night running the ball. We had the ball down deep in their territory twice and didn’t take care of business.
“We played at home for three weeks, and the guys have to get on the bus and realized that our white (road) jerseys aren’t made of kryptonite, that we can win here or there. Some of these guys don’t understand that we’re a good team, and let too much self-doubt creep in,” he added.
The Purple Tigers had 265 yards of total offense in the game to 114 for Oswego. All but 11 of the winners’ yards came on the ground, Fitzgerald leading the way with 85 yards on 10 carries, with the 41-yarder and a 32 yard gain in the second half the big plays. “The offensive line did a great job. Give them all the credit,” he said. “There’s a big difference between being 3-2 and being 4-1; that’s what I kept telling everybody. We didn’t want to be 3-2. Winning gets us closer to the second seed, and a home game in the first round of sectionals. That’s a big thing for us. We learned a lot going up against ES-M. We’d like to see them again. I think we can beat them.”
In addition to his pivotal interception, Reynolds also picked up 77 rushing yards on 21 carries with the TD. “If not for the line, in fact all 10 of the other guys, it wouldn’t have happened. Everyone played with a lot of heart, and did their job. The key to shutting Williams down was working together as a team. We stuck together as a family,” he added. “This was a real big win for us. We worked hard all week and played with a lot of heart and pride. If we keep winning, we’ll get that home playoff game.”
For the fourth week in a row, Cortland will face its biggest game of the season when J-D visits this Friday, the Red Rams now 2-3 overall after a 44-27 loss to visiting non-league loss to New Hartford of the A National.
“WE HAVE A lot of work to do to get ready for J-D,” Murphy said. “They have a good quarterback in (senior) Joe Daddario, who’s going to throw 35 to 40 times, and some talented kids for him to throw to.”
This week’s Offensive Player of the Game award went to the offensive line as a unit, while senior “Owl’ linebacker Garrett Wyatt was the Defensive Player of the Game and senior long snapper Justin Guerin earned Special Team honors. Junior Camerin Edgar, who played both tackle and guard on the night, earned the Lunch Pail emblematic of the outstanding offensive lineman.
The win was tempered somewhat by a knee injury suffered by sophomore running back Alex Stacy, who was hurt, along with Cirino, as the latter returned the kickoff following Cortland’s last TD. The extent of Stacy’s injury was unknown as of press time.
A highlight of the Homecoming festivities was the presence of former Cortland High football coaches and players, sitting in a group in the stands. Among them was legendary coach John Moiseichik, for whom the Purple Tigers’ field is named.
“I’m quite impressed with the way they’re playing,” Moiseichik said at halftime when asked about the current CHS squad. “I like their attitude, and the large number of players out there is good. I’m very pleased. They remind me of some of the old Cortland teams.”
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