October 30, 2010
Second half CHS doom
Whitesboro pulls away to tame Purple Tigers 49-13
CHITTENANGO — Things were looking pretty good for the Cortland High football team Friday night as the second half of its Section 3 Class A semifinal game with defending champion Whitesboro got underway at Chittenango.
Despite losing senior tailback and free safety Alex Stacy to what coaches said was a concussion with just over five minutes gone in the game, having other players hobbled and giving up a 103-yard interception return for a touchdown to Warriors junior defensive back Mike Bunal, the Purple Tigers were down by only 21-13 when the first-half clock finished draining.
Junior defensive tackle Kyle Teeter had helped see to that, falling on a mishandled Warrior exchange in the end zone for a touchdown with 10 seconds left in the first half to close the gap to eight after a failed conversion pass. And CHS was also set to receive the second-half kickoff.
What followed were 24 minutes that Cortland coach Dave Darrow and his staff would love to forget. A delay of game penalty slowed the Purple Tigers’ opening drive of the third quarter, and it stopped completely when Bunal intercepted a pass by CHS junior quarterback Devon Darrow at the Warrior 30.
Whitesboro then proceeded to score on its first four second-half possessions while holding Cortland to 97 yards of offense and no points en route to what ended up a 49-13 victory that ended a six-game CHS winning streak.
The Warriors will next face Watertown, a 42-22 winner over Indian River in the night’s other semifinal, for the title at 7 p.m. this coming Friday in the Carrier Dome.“It was just a war of attrition,” said Purple Tigers coach Dave Darrow, who in addition to Stacy lost senior tight end-defensive end Justin Tabel (back) and senior wideout-cornerback Justin Hogan (leg) for good chunks of the game due to injuries and whose team finished at 6-3. “It changes what you can do. It hurt to lose Alex on defense, though (sophomore) Andrew Potter did a good job in his place. Whitesboro is tough, and they didn’t change anything because we lost people. They just did what they do, what they’re good at.”
In the second half, at least.
“I thought that in the first half we were playing against us,” said Warriors coach Tom Schoen, now 219-111-4 in his 37 years on the job and seeking his eighth sectional title. “We had some penalties and a couple of turnovers and couldn’t establish a tempo, and at halftime we had a discussion about effort. In the second half we were able to establish our tempo and were doing what we do better. When it happens, you can see and feel it. The backs hit the holes better and the linemen hold their blocks longer.
“Our defense played bend-but-not-break at times, but did a good job against a good offense. Cortland is a good football team, and this one wasn’t as easy as the score makes it look, They absolutely deserved to be here, I think.”
“WE WERE UP, but down, at halftime,” said senior z-back Mike Sullivan, who led Whitesboro’s ground attack with 109 yards on 12 carries and two TDs, both in the third quarter. “We came out in the second and played Whitesboro football, thankfully, and finally started firing on offense while the defense shut them out.”
“We didn’t put a lot of pressure on them in the first half,” said Warriors junior running back Steve Almond, who picked up 106 yards on 21 carries and scored three TDs, two coming in the second half. “We didn’t work as a team, and there was miscommunication. We felt like we should have been up by a couple more TDs at halftime. In the second half we played better and harder than they did.
“This wasn’t my best game. I could have done a little better. All the credit for what I did goes to the offensive line and the quarterbacks.”
Almond picked up 30 yards on five carries on the opening drive after his team received the kickoff, capped by a nine-yard scoring run, after which junior Mike Bunal kicked the first of seven flawless extra points.
Cortland lost a fumble on its first play from scrimmage but stopped the Warriors on downs at the Purple Tiger 22. Stacy then carried the ball twice and was lost for the game after a jarring hit on the second carry. CHS went four-and-out, but two plays later Teeter scooped up a Whitesboro fumble and returned it 12 yards to the Warrior 26.
Cortland then drove to the Warriors 10, but on fourth-and-five Bunal stepped in front of junior wideout Qwuhail Barlow to snag a Devon Darrow pass in the end zone, went up the left sideline until he reached the Cortland 40, then cut toward the middle of the field and completed a 103-yard scoring journey to make it 14-0 with 2:18 left in the opening quarter.
After the teams exchanged punts, Cortland got on the scoreboard as Darrow connected with senior tight end Tabel on an eight-yard scoring strike 4:56 before halftime. Senior Justin Hogan added the kick before being flattened on a late hit that kept him out of the game for the rest of the half and part of the third quarter.
WHITESBORO BOUNCED right back to score again, junior reserve quarterback Adam Eberly going in from four yards out to cap a nine-play, 56-yard drive before Bunal made it 21-7 with just 1:14 left before halftime.
A quick kick by Darrow out of what looked to be a pass on fourth down pinned the Warriors back on their own one-yard line late in the half, and when senior starting quarterback Bradee Holtslag mishandled the exchange Teeter was there to fall on the ball for the TD that made it 21-13 after the conversion pass went awry.
Cortland’s optimism faded fast in the second half. After Bunal’s interception on the first offensive series of the second half, the Warriors went on an eight-play drive that included their first three passes of the game, all completions including a 31-yarder from Holtslag to Sullivan on third-and-10 at midfield and a 12-yarder to Almond down to the Purple Tigers two. Sullivan covered the rest of the remaining real estate on the next play, and after Cortland bogged down on its next possession went on a 33-yard scoring jaunt to make it 35-13 after Bunal’s fifth PAT, 2:04 still left in the third.
CHS lost a bad exchange of its own on its next possession, sophomore linebacker Matt Felitto on the recovery at the Cortland 17, and Almond covered that distance in one play, a sweep around the right side that made it 42-13 after Bunal’s kick, with 1:49 still remaining in the third.
An 11-yard TD run by Almond and Bunal’s kick closed out the scoring 2:18 into the fourth quarter. Cortland then drove to the Warrior one before senior tackle Mike Yacco recovered a fumble after a completed pass. A heave by Barlow out of the Wildcat formation on the Purple Tigers’ final possession was intercepted by Eberly at the Whitesboro 10 on the last play of the game.
Whitesboro outgained Cortland 31-197 in the contest, including 259 rushing yards to 133 for CHS. Junior tailback Jonathan Prior accounted for 88 yards on 25 carries to lead the Purple Tigers, Darrow going 8-for-15 passing for 64 yards, the TD and two interceptions. Stacy finished the season as the leading rusher with 1,149 yards on 148 carries (7.8 yards per carry) and five TDs. Darrow ended up going 73-for 127 passing for 1,084 yards, 14 TDs and six interceptions, Barlow his leading receiver with 27 grabs for 505 yards (18.7) and eight TDs.
“IT DOESN’T MATTER to me who we play in the championship game,” Almond said afterwards. “It would be nice to get some revenge on Indian River (which handed visiting Whitesboro its only loss in nine games, 14-13 on Sept. 17), but it should be a good battle with Watertown. The have a good running back in Tevion Cappe (who has now picked up 2,080 yards this season with 35 TDs), so defensively we’ll have to step up and play big.”
“We had a good season,” said Darrow, whose team won the Class A American Division championship with a 5-0 record and beat Camden 22-0 in the first round for its first sectional playoff victory since 2003 (ironically, 33-27 over Whitesboro).
“We didn’t start out very well,” he added, referring to two non-league losses, “but still won six in a row, including a playoff game. We could easily have been 1-7. The kids kept working had and getting better.
“They’re sad now, but they’ll recover. We’ll go back to work and next year, hopefully, we’ll be back here.”
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