October 24, 2008
CHS ready for playoff test
First round game repeat of 2003 Whitesboro visit
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Cortland High head coach Dave Darrow (left) watches as defensive coordinator Tom Murphy calls a play during the season. The Purple Tigers host Whitesboro tonight in a first round Class A sectional game.
History will repeat itself tonight at Moiseichik Field when the Cortland High football team hosts Whitesboro in the first round of the Section 3 Class A playoffs in a 7 p.m. start.
It will be the first home playoff game for the Purple Tigers since 2003, when they hosted and beat Whitesboro 33-27 — also on Oct. 24 — in the semifinals.
CHS comes into this one with a 6-1 record and is ranked 24th in the state in Class A, while the Warriors are 3-4 after losing at Camden 35-21 last Friday in a showdown for first place in the Class A National Division and tumbling to third in that league.
“I think they’re the best of that group for us to play,” Cortland coach Dave Darrow said. “They lost to Camden and (defending sectional Class A champ) Carthage, and New Hartford was down to their third-string quarterback when Whitesboro beat them. It seems the other three teams in their league are better, but we’ll see.”
In addition to the Camden setback, the Warriors lost to visiting Carthage 28-21, and also fell at Class AA Rome Free Academy 41-27 in their season-opener and to Section 4 Class AA power Binghamton 54-25 in a home game. In addition to a 22-21 victory over visiting rival New Hartford, Whitesboro also won 19-18 at Watertown and 41-8 at home against Nottingham, the latter coach Tom Schoen’s 200th career victory.
“They’re athletic, and pretty good. They’re a lot like we are. They’re pretty quick and not very big, and they have a real good quarterback,”said Darrow, referring to 5-11, 150-pound senior Junior Woodard. “He got hurt against Camden, but I’m sure he’ll play Friday. His backup (6-1, 160 junior Chris Gibbs) is good, too.
“They go out of the shotgun a lot with a single back, double slots, two receivers or sometimes three on one side. They can also go with a T backfield or double tight ends. Both of their running backs are among the top six or seven in the league, and they have a couple of receivers in the top four or five.
“They use a 4-4 defense, and come to the ball pretty quick. Overall they’re a pretty well-schooled team.”
Schoen is in his 35th year as the head coach of the historically strong Warriors program, having compiled a 200-107-4 record in that span — the fifth coach in Section 3 history to reach that number of triumphs.
“Cortland is a disciplined, power-oriented team,” he said. “They have so many players with speed, but still they’re a pretty fundamental, straight-ahead team offensively. They’ve got a tough defense that’s very quick up front, and overall they’re a well-coached, real good team.
“We use a four-back offense, using multiple sets, and option the ball enough to cause our opponents concern. I haven’t been pleased with the way we’ve played defense — we use multiple fronts — this year. In most of our losses we scored enough that we could have won, but didn’t play great defensively. We’ll need to improve in that area against Cortland. This year has been a little frustrating; usually we don’t lose close games, but this season’s been a little different. We don’t have a lot of takeaways this year.”
AS FOR HIS TOP players, Schoen mentioned 5-7, 155-pound senior Z-back Jordan Smith, senior quarterback Woodard and senior halfback Jim Klauser (5-8, 165) on offense. He added that Woodard suffered a shoulder bruise in the loss to Camden and is “questionable” for this week.
Woodard has completed 35-of-72 passes (48.6 percent) this season for 44 yards, and is the Warriors’ leading rusher with 734 yards on 85 carries (8.6 yards per carry) and three touchdowns. Smith has picked up 449 yards on 68 carries (6.6) and has also caught 12 passes for 173 yards (14.4) with six TDs in all. Klauser has snagged seven passes for 109 yards (15.6), while junior halfback Nick Mauro (5-10, 160) has lugged the ball 46 times for 323 yards (7.0).
Noting that defensively “We’ve been pretty unstable. The front kids have changed quite a lot,” Schoen singled out linebackers Matt Tutino (5-10, 200 senior) and Dave Fasolino (6-0, 200 junior) as his standouts on that side of the ball. Tutino, who plays fullback on offense, has scored six TDs and two conversions for 40 points this season, while fellow senior fullback Sean Wlock (5-10, 205) has scored three TDs.
“The big keys to winning in the playoffs throughout the years, I’ve found,” Schoen said, “are offensive penalties that stop drives, defensive penalties that give your opponent first downs and keep drives going and, of course, the big one, turnovers, which can change a game.”
“We’ll have to score at least three touchdowns,” Darrow said in looking ahead to Friday night. “If we can do that, we can beat them. We’ll do what we can do. We’ve added some things on offense. It should be a close game, and will probably come down to a turnover. I also think that maybe we can do something on special teams, returning a punt or kickoff to get good field position.
“We seem to be healthy, over the illness that spread and gave us problems last week, and the team is working pretty hard. The guys love to play at home and deserve to after being one of the top two teams in the league,” he added, CHS 4-0 at Moiseichik this season.
Cortland finished 4-1 in league play, the only loss at undefeated top sectional seed East Syracuse-Minoa, 14-7.
THE PURPLE TIGERS opened with a 32-26 overtime home victory over Homer, then journeyed north to Mexico and came away with a 21-8 win. A 21-6 home win over Fulton preceded the loss to ES-M, and Cortland then beat Oswego 20-0 and Jamesville-DeWitt 16-6 in a pair of home games before eking out a 12-6 win at Fowler last Friday in what amounted to a meaningless league game. The only award given by the coaching staff after last week’s regular-season finale was Defensive Player of the Game, with the entire defense honored.
Asked if he had any lingering concerns heading into tonight’s game about his team’s overall performance against a 2-5 Fowler squad, Darrow laughed and said that “I ‘d be really concerned if we hadn’t won that game. These kids don’t remember things, and even though we had a lot of players sick we played well enough to win. We beat an athletic team in a close game, and now we’ll get ready for a playoff game at home. There should be a decent crowd.”
The Cortland ground game is led by senior tailback Corby Reynolds, who has lugged the ball 155 times for 689 yards (4.45 yards per carry) and a team-high eight TDs for 48 points, also the best on the team. Brandon Fitzgerald, another senior tailback, had picked up 389 yards on 76 carries (5.12) with one TD.
Senior quarterback Matt Porter has completed 12 of his 43 passes (.218) for 137 yards, with five interceptions. Dyquann Barlow has caught four passes for 55 yards (13.75) and a TD, and Justin Guerin also has four receptions for 44 yards (11.00). Barlow is second on the team in scoring, having also scored two rushing TDs (16-for-116, 7.25) and one TD each returning a kickoff (95 yards against Fulton) and a punt (48 yards against Mexico).
The Whitesboro-Cortland winner will advance to the Class A semifinals against the winner of tonight’s contest between seventh-seeded Jamesville-DeWitt (2-5) and second-seeded host Camden (4-3).
Also tonight, ES-M (7-0) entertains No. 8 New Hartford (5-2) while No. 4 Carthage (-2) hosts No. 5 Fulton (3-4), the winners to clash in the other A semifinal. The dates and sites of the Class A semis have yet to be determined.
To read this article and more, pick up today's Cortland Standard
Click here to subscribe