October 13, 2011
Plenty of playoff implications
CHS seeking Class A home game
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Jonathan Prior is the leading Cortland High rusher heading in to Friday’s hosting of J-D in a second place showdown.
The implications of Friday’s 7 p.m. Senior Night football game between Cortland High and Jamesville-DeWitt at Moiseichik Field are clear-cut.
The winner finishes in second place in the Class A American Division and hosts a first-round sectional playoff contest next Friday. The loser finishes third and heads north on a long road trip.
Both teams come into the game with 2-1 league records; the Purple Tigers are 3-3 overall and the Red Rams 4-2.
There is also a second-place showdown in the A National Division Friday, with Indian River visiting Watertown. The winner there hosts the loser of Friday’s J-D/Cortland game; the loser hits the road to meet the winner of the Moiseichik Field clash.
“It’s an important game, and it should be a good one,” Cortland coach Dave Darrow said. “We’re going against a very good opponent, a little better than we have been playing (in road wins over Homer and Fowler ). It should be a good test for us. They’re a little bit bigger and stronger than those teams, and do what they do pretty well. And their counter can cause you to miss.
“We’re starting to play better defense; the kids have stepped it up a little bit, be very disciplined, play their gap responsibilities and our ‘robber’ has to hit the quarterback,” added, referring to 5-foot-10, 168-pound junior Pat McMahon. “This will be a good test for us.It will show us how much we’ve improved. If we win we deserve a home sectional game, because we’ll be in the top two in the league. We have to make some plays on offense, stay healthy and keep getting better.”
“I think our kids are very well-grounded and focused,” J-D coach Eric Ormond said. “We played East Syracuse-Minoa last week in a game with first-place implications and flopped (losing 48-6 as the Spartans clinched the league’s top seeding for sectionals). It was a real eye-opener for the kids; for a day or so afterwards there was a little bit of doubt. But like Lou Holtz said, things are never as good or as bad as they seem; the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
“We have to come off the ball on offense, and run to it on defense. A home playoff game is on the line, and we haven’t had one since 1997.”Last year’s Purple Tigers, on the other hand, had a home first-round playoff game — albeit at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex due to renovations at Moiseichik Field — and blanked Camden 22-0 to avenge a 35-25 road loss earlier in the season
“J-D is pretty good,” Darrow said in addressing Friday’s game. “Their quarterback, Eric Thompson (5-11, 195-pound senior) is a good runner I also like Will Sterriker (5-10, 146 wide receiver), Amani Jackson 5-10, 165 senior halfback), Taumeras Howard (5-9, 148 junior wide receiver), Jake LaRussa 5-10, 175 senior fullback) and Rasheed Baker (5-9, 180 sophomore halfback).
“They go out of the double wing on offense with a lot of motion, the same as they’ve done (recently), and defensively go with a a 3-5 or 5-3, depending on what you play. Thompson gets the ball to other people pretty well on the pitch, and they run nice counter stuff. The key will be stopping their inside running game and Thompson. They use LaRussa on the dive with Thompson in the hole behind him and go with a true option. If you go to sleep stopping the dive, they’ll get you. Both of their lines are OK.”
“Cortland is dangerous,” Ormond said. “They have big-strike capabilities any time, on any play. Jonathan Prior (5-11,1 75 senior tailback) and Qwuhail Barlow (6-0, 168 senior wide receiver) are big-time athletes, and we have to keep them penned up.
“Devon Darrow (5-10, 175 senior quarterback) is the guy who makes it all happen; he’s like another coach on the field. He’s really good at elongating plays, being chased by the defense while a kid like Barlow runs across the field. Then (Darrow) has the presence of getting the ball to them. He’s very good at getting to the edges. Last year (in a 36-26 Cortland road win) he made the right plays at the right time and made plays in the clutch, including a key first down where he had poise as we were blitzing.”
Ormond noted that his top defensive players are LaRussa at linebacker, Jackson at safety and, both at defensive back, Howard and Sterriker.
Both teams come into the game in pretty good shape health-wise, though Ormond noted that “We’ve lost a couple kids to season-ending injuries, which is always tough, but they’ve been out for a few games and we’ve become acclimated.”
“We’ll have a little more depth and continuity,” Darrow said. “Two kids, Corey Brown (5-10, 235 junior) at center and Justin Travis (5-10, 230 junior) at right tackle, deserve special kudos for the phenomenal job they did stepping in against Fowler. It was a good job by coach (Pete) Reif and the entire line.”
Prior is Cortland’s leading rusher with 634 yards on 87 carries (7.3 per carry) and four TDs. Devon Darrow has completed 65-of-120 passes (54 percent) for 942 yards (14.5 yards per completion) and 10 TDs. Barlow is the top receiver with 22 catches for 582 yards (26.5 yards per grab) and eight TDs and is also the leading scorer with 66 points on 10 TDs overall plus a trio of two-point conversions.
Prior was named Cortland’s top offensive player of the game in the 36-21 win at Homer on Sept. 30, while juniors Colin Walsh and Andrew Potter shared defensive honors. Devon Darrow won top offensive recognition in last Friday’s 34-18 win over host Fowler, with Barlow the defensive standout.
Thompson is J-D’s leading ground-gainer with 580 yards on 66 carries (8.8) and 10 TDs, and has completed 20-of-42 passes (47.6 percent) for 354 yards (8.4) and five TDs. Howard has grabbed 11 aerials for 213 yards (19.4) and two TDs as Thompson's top target.
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