October 17, 2009
Early Stacy touchdowns spark CHS to ‘bowl’ win
MEXICO — If nothing else, the Cortland High football team can say it won a bowl game this season.
The Purple Tigers were the designated opponent for host Mexico Friday night in the Apple Bowl, which takes place every year as the Oswego County squad’s Homecoming game. After scoring on each of their first two possessions and looking like they could name their own score, the visitors became mistake-prone and had to hold off a furious Mexico rally for a 14-12 win.
CHS thus ended its league season at 2-4, good for a tie for fifth in the seven-team league, and is 2-5 overall heading into next week’s season-ending crossover contest gainst an opponent to be determined Sunday.
Mexico wound up league play at 0-6 and is 0-7 overall, its losing streak now at 16 games.
“A sloppy win is better than a loss.We’ll take it any way we can get it,” said Cortland junior tailback Alex Stacy, who was named the winners’ MVP in the contest after rushing for 170 yards on 25 carries. He scored both of the winners’ touchdowns in his first full-time offensive duty in three games after suffering a wrist injury against Fulton.
“It was good to be able to give something back to the seniors on this team, who along with the coaches have worked so hard. Expectations were high coming into the season, and we felt we owed something to the seniors,” added Stacey. “I just followed the blocks from Nick Reynolds, Caleb Wright, Camerin Edgar, Brian Strough, David Fernandes, Kyle Teeter and Cody Hartmann; Brian Pristash also played a great game for us defensively, at free safety. Next year expectations are going to be even higher; we’ll have a good solid group of returning players and some good kids coming up.”
“We’ve been inconsistent all year. Everyone played hard. We haven’t really done well, though last week the score was close,” said Cortland coach Dave Darrow, referring to a 13-3 loss to visiting Jamesville-DeWitt last Friday.
“We put pressure on Mexico, but made some mistakes and gave them a lot of opportunities in the second half. But it was their Homecoming, and we won it. If we’d have lost we might as well not have gotten together until Thursday and just given it (crossover contest) a try,” he added.
AS NOTED, CORTLAND scored on its first two possessions, senior Justin Burns adding what proved to be the winning point with a pair of conversion kicks. Stacy banged in from five yards out to cap a 15-play, 62-yard drive that took 7:31 off the clock, ending with 1:24 left in the first quarter. After junior Brian Strough partially blocked a Mexico punt on the Tigers’ next possession, it took two runs by Stacy to get another TD, the first up the middle for two yards and the second a pitch to the right that he took before cutting back left to go 32 yards for the score.
The visitors were forced to punt the next time they had the ball, and started their downward spiral of miscues by fumbling it away 1:03 before halftime. In the second half the Purple Tigers lost three fumbles, were intercepted once, stopped on downs once and missed a field goal. Junior tackle Strough recovered a fumble on Mexico’s first second-half possession, and after the hosts punted on their second, leading to a missed CHS field goal, junior Greg Congdon picked off a pass by senior quarterback Jimmy Loomis, Mexico’s game MVP, with 8:45 left in the game after it was tipped by Hartmann. The visitors promptly fumbled the ball back, and Mexico finally came to life.
On the first play after the fumble, Loomis threw the ball laterally to his left to sophomore Mitchal Pettit, who in turn found junior tailback Austin LaBouef with a 39-yard pass to the Cortland 26. Two plays later Loomis scampered 25 yards around the right side for a TD that made it 14-6 after a failed conversion kick. The Purple Tigers then went on a prolonged drive that ended when they were stopped on fourth down at the Mexico 15-yard line with 4:28 left.
That set the stage for a wild ending. The hosts marched the 91 yards they needed to traverse in 11 plays, aided by two facemask penalties in three plays on CHS, and got to within 14-12 when junior fullback Troy Benjamin crashed in from a yard out with 1:20 left on a fourth-and-goal play after CHS had stopped Mexico for no gain on two straight plays from the one-yard liner.
THE TIGERS USED their last time out to discuss strategy for a potential game-tying two point conversion, but Hartmann came in on the blitz and forced Loomis to throw low, senior Jake Robillard with good coverage on the intended receiver.
Cortland senior Camerin Edgar fell on the subsequent onsides kick after it hit a Cortland player and caromed away, but due to what Darrow said was some confusion on the CHS sidelines, instead of just kneeling the Purple Tigers ran two handoffs, losing the second with 17 seconds left. Loomis hit sophomore tailback Ray Eastman with an 11-yard pass on first down, but when Eastman was called on to throw another running back option pass on the next play, he came under Cortland defensive pressure and intentionally grounded it. A last-ditch Loomis pass fell incomplete, and the game was over.
“Our biggest problem was that we didn’t play for four quarters, but only for a quarter and a half,” Mexico coach Tee Murabito said in the silence of his team’s post-game locker room. “No disrespect to Cortland; in fact, it had a lot to do with the way they played. They handed us our butts over the first two and a half quarters. Once they got up 14-0, they had enthusiasm that we couldn’t match. They dictated how the game played out until our guys woke up in the fourth quarter.
“A good blitz on our second conversion saved the game for them. They put pressure on Jimmy, and he had to get rid of the ball before he wanted to. I respect coach Darrow for not kneeling down at the end. He basically said, with both teams out of the playoffs, ‘We’re going to run the ball to decide the game instead of just playing it out.’”
All told, Cortland only outgained Mexico 278 yards to 210, Loomis the hosts’ leading rusher with 82 yards on 12 carries with the TD. He also completed five passes for 50 more yards.
“It’s a relief,” Darrow said with a smile of the final outcome. “You have to beat the teams you’re supposed to. We’ll work hard this week and see if we can win a second one in a row to end out the season. We didn’t play to our strengths. We need to do different stuff next year, and we’ll work on some of it next week. “
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