October 26, 2007
Season finale fun: Cortland vs. Homer
Purple crew exceeding expectations
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
The Cortland High offense will try to move the football against a Homer Central defense that includes Chris Crossway (79) and Franco Giordano (80). The two rivals meet tonight at Butts Field in Homer, kickoff at 7 p.m.
The Cortland High football team is living out its best-case scenario, in more ways than one.
The Purple Tigers going against Homer Central — the opponent the players and coaches wanted for the final week of the season — at Butts Field tonight at 7 p.m. after both squads were eliminated from sectional competition last weekend. And they have made more progress this season than head coach Dave Darrow expected when he took the team over this past summer.
“I think we’re a year ahead of schedule,” he said earlier this week. “I didn’t think we’d make the playoffs this year (losing at top-ranked Carthage 28-13 on Friday after leading 13-7). The guys are finally starting to pick things up, and they want to play. We have a good coaching staff (also including Tom Murphy, Pete Reif and Dan Pitcher at the varsity level), and everyone, players and coaches, is putting a lot of time in. We also have a lot of support from the school and the community.
“We played so many good teams in a row, it was tough,” he added. “We snuck one out against Mexico, which was state-ranked, in our second game, then played three more ranked teams in a row (Fulton, East Syracuse-Minoa and Class C Mt. Markham), then after two weeks played another ranked team in Carthage. It raises the bar. You have to play well just to live. Most kids don’t see it that way, though; they just want to play. But the coaches know.”
Overall, Darrow noted that he figured it would take until the end of next season for his team to be where it is now. “We hope to improve next year,” he said. “We have a lot of good kids coming back (with 26 underclassmen on a 40-man roster), and a whole off-season to clean up the little things we want to change. We won’t have to install a whole new offense and defense again; those are in place. And we’ll have the entire off-season to work on fundamental development, the lifting program and things like that.”
As for the immediate task at hand, Darrow said: “I think Homer is a good team. They’re well-coached, with a good system and history. I think it’s a toss-up. I don’t know if we’re better or not, it’s like apples and oranges. At least we’ll have a decent surface to play on — our field is beat up — and it’s better than traveling somewhere like South Jefferson, Camden or Holland Patent.”
Cortland athletic director Jeff Johnson gave up a home game to make this match-p happen, too.
“It all won’t matter anyway,” said Darrow of where this game is played. “It will be like any Cortland-Homer contest. Momentum will be big, and we’ll have to be able to run the ball like we have lately, ball control with new turnovers. Hopefully we can keep running. We’re getting better on the line, and the backs are getting better. We’ll do whatever we need to. If we have to throw, we’ll do that. We’re healthy and ready to play. A cross-town game like this, how could you not be ready?”
In talking about Homer’s players, Darrow said: “I like Mike Carboine (6-5, 225-pound senior tight end), and they have a good set of running backs who head to the hole, including Kevin Reese (5-8, 190 junior); he’s good. Talon Sprouse (6-1, 190 senior) is a good split end, and Mike Park (6-0, 175 junior) is a good fullback, and Brandon Simonetta (5-8, 140 junior), a wide-receiver-running back, is tough. I don’t know if Will Connery (5-8, 160 senior) or Joey Rivers (5-10, 175 junior) will start at quarterback for them. And they have some big linemen, too, like (seniors) Chris Crossway (6-3, 310) and Kyle Sandy (5-11, 265).
“Most of those guys play on defense, too, and Franco Giordano (6-1, 180 senior), a linebacker, is a pretty good player, too.”
Darrow said that his starting lineup will be the same as last week against Carthage If will include, on offense, junior Will Fickenscher at 2-back, junior Justin Guerin at tight end, senior Matt Pitcher and junior Kyle Field at tackle, sophomore Camerin Edgar and senior Brett Miller at guard, senior Brad Rogers at center, senior Stephen Wright at split end, senior A.J. Meldrim at quarterback, junior Josh Morehouse seeing time at both fullback and tailback and junior Corby Reynolds at tailback.
On defense, senior Coty Cute and Guerin will be the ends, Foster and Pitcher the tackles, Morehouse the nose guard, juniors Jake Bryson (middle), Garrett Wyatt and Fitzgerald the linebackers, senior Nate Thomas the safety and senior Lane Day and Reynolds the cornerbacks.
Morehouse is Cortland’s leading rusher, with 435 yards on 99 carries (4.39 yards per carry) and nine touchdowns. Meldrim has completed 52-of-101 passes (50 percent) for 647 yards and four TDs, with 15 interceptions. Junior back Brandon Fitzgerald is the leading receiver with 126 yards on eight receptions (15.75 per catch) and two TDs coming out of the slot position. Walrath caught three passes for 92 yards and a TD last week from tight end as the CHS staff tweaked the offense a bit.
Trojans’ captains seeking to keep the Jug
There is not any extra motivation needed for tonight’s opponent for Homer Central boys, who play their final football game of the 2007 season at George Butts Field.
The Trojans (4-4 overall) will host neighboring rival Cortland High at 7 p.m.
While both teams would rather be playing in Section 3 semifinal contest, the Home-Cort Jug will be up for grabs for the 30th time. Homer holds The Jug after a 25-12 win at Butts Field in 2006 and the Trojans hold a 26-12-1 edge in the series. Cortland (3-5) last held The Jug after a 26-14 win in 2004.
The two teams did not play in 2005.
“Having a rivalry game to close out the season is good for both communities,” said Homer head coach Gary Podsiedlik. “I told the guys that they needed to work hard in practice this week because this game does mean something.
“Cortland gave up a fourth home game to play us,” Podsiedlik continued. “That means they are confident that they can win this game. They are much improved this season. I expect a physical game and I know they have a very aggressive 5-3 defense that always has at least six guys coming after you on every play.”
Offensively, Coach Podsiedlik sees a lot of similarities between his team and the Purple Tigers. Josh Morehouse (5-11, 180) is the leading rusher with 435 yards, but three other runners each have between 249 and 270 yards each.
“Like us, Cortland mixes the run and pass well,” said Podsiedlik. “They run a variety of formations, but are solid in the I-formation with good runners at fullback and halfback. The Morehouse kid has really stepped up and can run out of the fullback or tailback spot. They also have some big guys on the line and get off the ball well. If we can gang tackle and get after the guy with the ball every play, we could force some turnovers and come away with the win.”
For the Homer seniors, this is the final game at Butts Field. For one of the tri-captains, it is his final football game.
“It is going to be an emotional game for me,” said Mike Carboine, the 6-5 tight end-defensive end who will play lacrosse at LeMoyne College after graduation. “I am looking forward to playing Cortland for the final time. I hope I have a good game and I hope all our guys step up for this final time. I have had a great three years of playing football here with some great guys. It has been a great atmosphere to be around and we have really become a family.”
Carboine is the leading receiver with 20 catches for 392 yards and seven touchdowns.
While Carboine has been the emotional leader, Kyle Sandy has been Mr. Dependable. Sandy is the 5-11, 265-pound right tackle and the anchor for the offensive line all season long. In fact, he is the only lineman to start in the same position all season.
“I could not imagine a better match-up for my final game at Homer,” said Sandy. “The team is really fired up. We had some good practices this week and we are ready for this game. As captains, we have had to rally the guys together after a tough start, but we have been playing well and we are looking for one more win.”
The final senior captain is Will Connery. This 5-8, 160-pounder has earned the title of Mr. Unselfish. Connery was slated to share much of the quarterbacking duties with junior Joey Rivers, but he moved to starting halfback-wingback to help the team improve overall. He had much more flexibility at that position because he lined up in the slot often and brought another weapon to the attack. This week, Connery will share the tailback duties with K.J. Reese since Brandon Simonetta is nursing a nagging hip injury and may see limited duty. Connery has also been an anchor at safety with two interceptions and a fumble recovery. He plays wherever the coaching staff needs him.
“I am really excited to play tailback this week,” said Connery. “I am excited about any position I am asked to play. The coaches are moving me around to find ways to get the ball to me and I am trying to do whatever it takes to help our offense. I am not the kind of player to just go through the motions. I give it all I have and, if I need to fire up my teammates, I will do that to.
“This is not a meaningless game,” Connery added. “I know it would be nice to still be in the playoffs, but this is the second best thing that we could do by getting to play Cortland one more time.”
“All three captains are different people,” said Podsiedlik. “I think that it was good for the coaches that the players picked the three guys they did. They are all different personalities, which really it a lot like our coaching staff. Each captain has a little different approach to reaching the end goal. When you put all together, it works out well.
“Will has been tremendously unselfish for us all year,” Podsiedlik added. “He is the vocal leader on the field. Michael is the all-work-it-out leader. The guy who asks what do we need to do make this work better. Kyle has been steady in the trenches on both sides of the ball. He has played through all the little nicks and dings. These three guys, with their three different styles, are a big reason that this team did not pack it in after the 0-3 start. These three leaders have done a great job for their teammates this season.”
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Purple Tigers, Trojans roll into semis
Muka hat trick as CHS thumps ES-M
DRYDEN — Natalie Muka came to play Thursday evening.
The senior forward for the Cortland High girls’ soccer team scored three goals as the second-seeded Purple Tiger beat No. 7 East Syracuse-Minoa 4-0 at Tompkins Cortland Community College in a Section 3 Class A tournament quarterfinal game. CHS, now 14-5, will face No. 6 Carthage (9-5-4) in the semis Tuesday after the Comets upset third-seeded New Hartford 3-2 Thursday afternoon.
“Natalie knew that we needed her to play well tonight, and she brought it,” Cortland coach Abbey Albright said of her team’s high scorer, now with 27 goals and eight assists. “We worked a lot on our offense in practice, especially our shot selection in the attacking third. The whole team made it happen tonight.”
“As a team, we came in really pumped,” Muka said. “We knew what we had to do and did it; it’s a great feeling. We couldn’t have done it without every player on the field. We win and lose as a team.”
Muka made sure that the former was the case, scoring fairly early in each half to keep the Spartans, who finished 9-8-2, back on their heels.
She opened the scoring 5:23 into the contest, out-scrapping an ES-M defender for the ball on the left side in the box, turning it and putting a low shot home on the near side. She made it 2-0 just 1:36 into the second half, junior midfielder Casey Marks serving a direct kick from just outside the 18-yard line across to Muka, who redirected it home from close range on the left side.
Sophomore forward Aubrey VanGorder scored on a breakaway with 24:38 left, coming down the near right side and putting a shot into the left corner. Muka closed things out with 3:57 left, taking a pass from junior forward Hannah Dovi and scoring low to the far (right) side.
“The defender was right on my back on the first goal, I turned it and shot and it went in,” Muka said. “Casey served the perfect ball on a free kick, and I redirected it in. Hannah gave me a short pass in front on the third one, and I hit the far right corner.”
The winners’ defense, meanwhile, was stingy, allowing the Spartans to take only seven shots in the game, including just two in the final 40 minutes.
“Our defense did a great job,” Albright said, “especially in the second half. We knew that (senior midfielder) Stacie Wall and (senior forward) Alicia Vasiloff would be very solid while attacking, and our defense worked very well together to ensure the shutout.”
First half goals lift Homer past Oneida
Speed kills and Homer Central girls used their quick front line to pressure Oneida all night long.
With Erika Trivisonno and Morgan Osborne each scoring in the first half, the top-seeded Trojans rolled to a 2-0 Section 3 Class A quarterfinal-round soccer victory at Butts Field Thursday.
Homer (14-5) will meet fourth-seed Whitesboro (12-5-2) in the semifinals Tuesday. The other semifinal will have second-seed Cortland (14-5) facing sixth-seed Carthage (9-5-4), see related story.
“We create a lot of scoring opportunities,” said Trojan senior midfielder Kaylee Benz, who assisted on both goals. “With the speed of Erika and others up top, we try to push the ball up the middle or along the sides and then make good runs at the goal.
“We expected a different Oneida team than we saw,” Benz continued. “That does not change how we approach a game. We still have to come out hard every game. We can expect every game to be tough and we need to be ready.”
“I thought that we were in control most of the game,” said Homer coach Jim Baranello. “We created a lot of opportunities tonight. That was important and we will build on that for the next game. We played the ball up the flank better than we have been lately.
“I also thought that there were moments that we got a little sloppy,” Baranello added. “We lost our rhythm when that happened. Part of that came from the fact that this was the first time, since the beginning of the season, that we have more than two days off between games. That may have hurt us a little.”
Benz set-up the first goal with a nice move around one Oneida defender. She pushed the ball to her left and Trivisonno finished off the play by running onto the ball and striking it solidly with 24:33 left in the half.
The second goal came with 4:31 left in the half. The scoring sequence started with a long direct kick on goal by Emily Swisher. Oneida goalkeeper Beth Kann (nine saves) made the initial stop. The ball deflected towards Benz, but Kann got her hands on that shot as the ball again rolled away. Osborne, who pushed forward from the back line, did not miss her scoring chance and drove the ball into the goal.
“We did a good job of pressuring the goal in the first half,” said Baranello. “The second goal was a product of that pressure. We did apply good pressure everywhere in the attacking third. When you see a center back score a goal inside the six-yard box, that tells you the kids are going forward and attacking the goal. That was a nice finish by Morgan Osborne.”
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