October 22, 2011
Better showing not enough for CHS
WATERTOWN — It wasn’t as easy for the Indian River football team against Cortland High the second time around.
The sixth-seeded Purple Tigers, who had lost 48-0 to the Warriors back on Sept. 16 at SUNY Cortland in a regular-season non-leaguer, trailed by only six — 22-16 — at halftime of Friday night’s Section 3 Class A quarterfinal game at Watertown High.
Third-seeded Indian River came out strong in the second half, however, and finally took control in dealing CHS a season-ending 43-22 setback.
“We didn’t do anything different this time,” said Cortland coach Dave Darrow, whose team finished the season 3-5 overall.
“We didn’t have people go out with injuries like the first time,” he added, that including his son and senior quarterback Devon Darrow in the previous meeting. “We should have played a game like this the first time, but we’d played the Saturday before and didn’t beat Whitesboro (losing 48-38), then had to play Indian River the next week. They have great backs, a good quarterback and good defensive players, but I would have liked to play them the first time with my quarterback not on the sidelines but playing.
“We did a lot of things well tonight, but just made a lot of little mistakes that led to big things. When push came to shove, we’d commit a penalty to keep a drive going or something like that. But I’m proud of the kids. They gave Indian River a good run,” the coach concluded.
It didn’t look like it would be that way early on.
The Warriors (7-1) received the opening kickoff and needed nine plays to go 78 yards, freshman tailback Jason Smith going in from three yards out and junior quarterback Kody Smith adding the conversion kick to make it 7-0 just 3:34 in.
The Purple Tigers then embarked on a long drive of their own following the ensuing kickoff, getting to the Warrior four-yard line before disaster struck. On fourth-and-goal from the four, junior defensive back Darrius Bryant intercepted a Devon Darrow pass at the goal line and ran it all the way back for a 100-yard interception return, Kody Smith again adding the kick to make it 14-0 Indian River with 4:10 left in the first.
Cortland bogged down at the Warrior 48 on its next possession, and Indian River got the ball down to the CHS 20 before Purple Tigers junior linebacker Colin Walsh made the first of what would be his three fumble recoveries on the night. The teams traded possessions before Walsh came up with his second recovery.
On the very next play Darrow hit senior tailback Jonathan Prior with a swing pass to the right that Prior was able to make into a 67-yard TD hookup before Darrow also found Prior with the conversion pass to make it 14-8 four minutes into the second.
“IF WE HADN’T fumbled on the next possession after the interception return it could have been the game,” Warriors coach Cory Marsell said, his team now 7-1. “But give them credit. Their quarterback was on the money and they applied some good pressure. We definitely have to tighten up, like we’d done all year before this game, and hold on to the ball. One of the keys we talked about was not letting them have big plays, but we gave up two.”
The other was a 32-yard scoring strike from Darrow to senior wideout Qwuhail Barlow just 25 seconds before halftime, which made it 22-16 Indian River after Darrow connected with junior wide receiver Josh Gutchess on a conversion pass. That was set up by CHS junior defensive end Paul Turco’s interception at the Indian River 30 two plays before.
The hosts for the game — which was played in Watertown because the Indian River field was unplayable — had gone up 22-8 three minutes before that as Jason Smith went in from 15 yards out and Kory Smith added the kick to cap a drive added by two drive-saving offsides
calls on CHS and a 15-yard personal foul flag on the visitors.
After Cortland bogged down with the opening possession of the second half Indian River went up 29-16 on Bryant’s three-yard run and Kody Smith’s kick 4:03 into the third. Cortland answered with a five-play, 46-yard drive in which Prior lugged the ball three times to account for all of the yardage (to go with two incomplete passes), including the last 14 for the TD to make it 29-22 after Darrow was sacked on the conversion.
Bryant went in from six yards out and Kody Smith converted to make it 36-22 Indian River with 1:11 left in the third. Walsh’s third fumble recovery of the game stopped the winners’ next drive. Jason Smith went in from seven yards out and Kody Smith converted to close out the scoring with 2:40 left.
All told, the Warriors had 413 yards of total offense in the game. Junior quarterback Kody Smith attempted just three passes in the game, all in the first half, with two incompletions and an interception.
Cortland gained 149 yards on the ground while Darrow went 8-for-13 passing for 146 yards, the two TDs and the interception. Prior led CHS in rushing with 129 yards on 26 carries and the TD, and was also the leading receiver with three catches for 72 yards and another TD. Jason Smith picked up 136 yards on 27 carries and scored three TDs to lead the winners offensively.
“THEY MADE THE choice to take the pass away, with five or six men in the box. Our game plan was to run strong inside, and that’s what we did,” said CHS coach Darrow. “Jonathan had a great day. Colin (Walsh) is a football player. He doesn’t leave anything on the field. He loves the game, gives his all and then some and is going to be a great player.”
“Individual stats haven’t been my focus all season,” Prior said. “We didn’t come up with the win, and I couldn’t care less about individual stats right now. I wish it could have worked out better.”
“Because I rallied to the ball and ran to cover, I was in the right position to recover the fumbles,” said Walsh. “Indian River focused more on dive plays in the second half, some of our moral got lost and things fell apart.”
The Warriors will face second-seeded East Syracuse-Minoa, now 8-0 after a 40-6 win over Carthage Friday, in a neutral-site Class A semifinal this coming weekend. Top-seeded Whitesboro (8-0), the two-time defending sectional A champion, rolled over visiting No. 8 Fowler 50-8 Friday and will meet fifth-seeded Watertown (5-2) in this weekend’s other neutral-site semi. The visiting Cyclones were 22-14 winners over No. 4 Jamesville-DeWitt Friday.
Bryant and Jason Smith both said when asked after the game that they’d like to face Whitesboro for the title in the Carrier Dome No. 4, looking to avenge a 41-29 season-opening road loss.
“We had quite a few injuries early in the season and had to fill things up,” Dave Darrow said in looking back over the CHS campaign as a whole. “We played with consistency, were a little healthier and played better toward the end of the season.”
— A moment of silence was observed prior to the start of the game in honor of Ridge Barden, the Phoenix player who passed away last Friday after being injured against Homer. Both teams wore stickers on their helmets that displayed the initials “RB” in orange inside a black circle in honor of Barden and in Phoenix’s colors.
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