October 11, 2012
Unbeaten Bears to test CHS
Coach Dave Darrow knows the difficulty of the task his team faces this week.
His Cortland High football team, 3-1 in Section 3’s Class B West Division and 4-2 overall after a playoff-clinching 12-7 win at Marcellus, closes out the regular season Friday on Senior Night by hosting defending sectional Class B champion and state semifinalist Chittenango at Moiseichik Field in a 7 p.m. start.
The Bears, who return six players on offense and seven on defense from 2011, are undefeated in six games this season, four of them B West contests. They’re ranked third in the state among Class B teams and head south fresh off a 27-26 home win over defending sectional Class A champ East Syracuse-Minoa this past Friday.
“They have two 1,000-yard rushers in senior tailback Kyle Zimmer and Joe Gilona,” Darrow said, Zimmer a 170-pound tailback while Gilona is a 200-pound senior fullback, “plus a first-team all-state middle linebacker, Aaron Jones (6-4, 230 senior), who at right tackle is also an important of a big strong offensive line, along with junior left tackle Brett Buyea (6-6, 285 junior). Their quarterback, Devon Phelps, is without a doubt one of the top two or three quarterbacks in the section.
“We have to be able to stop Phelps, keep the pressure on him, because he can run really well and throws well too,” added Darrow of the 5-10, 150-pound senior signal-caller. “They have so many weapons, and deserve to be the third-ranked B team in the state.”
A win would give Cortland a share of the league championship with Chittenango and Homer — barring a Trojans’ upset loss to Marcellus on Friday.
“We know what we’re up against.” Darrow said. “It would be a huge coup for us, with the way we started, to get a share of first. To be able to do that would be pretty amazing.”
“Cortland has a pretty good running game, and stopping it is the key for us this week,” Chittenango coach Jack Hayes said. “They have several athletes who are pretty good, and good team speed. It will be a pretty good challenge, especially since it’s on the road and their Senior Night. The bottom line is that we’re playing to win the league outright. We don’t plan to share it. We have to be focused and take care of business.
“It was huge for the school for us to beat last year’s A champions at home. We’re feeding off that right now and don’t want our momentum stopped in the last regular-season game. If you slip up once you can share the title; slip up again and you’re handing in your equipment. We want to keep our momentum heading into the playoffs.”
The Bears use a pro-set offense out of the I-formation and shotgun, according to Darrow. Junior tailback Connor Mills (5-10, 190) is also a key component of the powerful backfield, while the the favorite aerial targets for Phelps are twin junior wideouts Josh Cretaro (5-8, 140) and Matt Cretaro (5-9, 155) as well as senior tight end Steve Billington (6-1, 190). Phelps has completed 20-of-35 passes for 442 yards (22.1 yards per completion) and three touchdowns, and has carried the ball 45 times for a team-high 618 yards (13.7) and nine TDs. Zimmer has picked up 595 yards on 88 carries (6.8) with 11 TDs, and Gilona has 64 carries for 461 yards (7.2) and seven TDs. Josh Cretaro has caught six passes for 199 yards (33.2) and two TDs; Billington has five receptions for 110 yards (22.0) and no TDs.
Chittenango has rolled through the B West this fall, beating Solvay 49-0, Marcellus 29-6, Homer 42-0 and Westhill 43-14. In addition to ES-M, the Bears also downed South Jefferson 48-6 in another non-league contest.
Chittenango’s offensive line consists of junior right guard Casey Placito (5-11, 240), senior right tackle Aaron Jones (6-4, 230), senior center Jonathon Simmons (6-2, 250), junior left guard Jonathan Guignard (5-10, 220) and junior left tackle Brett Buyea (6-6, 285).
The Bears go with the 3-5 as their base defensive set — “The same defense we use,” Darrow noted — built around senior left tackle Brian Perriello (6-2, 190), but also utilize the 5-3 look at times. Senior Cody Rupert (6-2, 305) and junior Mitch Mahosky (5-8, 160) both see time at nose guard, with Jones and Placito sharing the right tackle position. In addition to Jones, Gilona and Billington are the inside linebackers while Zimmer and Mills man the outside linebacker slots. The Cretaro twins are both cornerbacks and Phelps is the safety.
Billington is the all-purpose kicker (kickoffs, field goals and conversions) while Phelps punts and is also the primary return man.
As noted, Chittenango won the sectional Class B championship last fall and made it to the state semifinals before falling to eventual champion Hornell. What are the keys to the Bears’ recent success?
“None of it would happen without the great kids we’ve had the last two years,” Hayes said, “and I have the greatest staff a head coach could ask for. They’re dedicated to coaching and to teaching the kids to live in the right way; they’re great people and work their tails off. With our success, participation in our off-season lifting and the passing leagues we’re in has been greater than ever. I can’t say I’m a better coach than I was two years ago.”
For playoff purposes, Darrow noted that the most likely scenario has the Purple Tigers seeded third by either standings or first-place tie-breakers. That would mean a visit to B East runner-up Oneida a week from Friday in the first round of the Class B sectionals.
“And if we’re lucky enough to go to Oneida and win, we’d play Chittenango again,” Darrow said with a laugh. “We won the game we had to (against Marcellus); it was a good win. Oneida should be ready to play; their last two games are easy ones.”
The Indians (4-2) walloped South Jefferson last week and visit 0-6 New Hartford this Friday to close out the regular season.
Senior tailback Andrew Potter leads the Cortland ground attack with 525 yards on 91 carries (5.8) and four TDs. Junior quarterback Caden Giroux has completed 30-of-71 passes for 479 yards and eight TDs. Senior running back Teddy Phillips has eight receptions for 134 yards (16.8) and three TDs, and senior wideout Pat McMahon has five grabs for 118 yards (23.6).
Cortland and Chittenango both go into Friday’s game healthy, and Darrow said that “We’ve had a good week of practice and want to stay healthy through this game. I’d like to have this team win five games; at this point the worst we can do is 4-4.”
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