November 14, 2009
Motivated Indians knock off No. 1 ranked Bulldogs
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Groton’s Ethan Tilebein (22) breaks a tackle by Westmoreland’s Travis Rogers Friday night in the Class D state playoffs. Tilebein scored three touchdowns as Groton rolled to a 40-11 victory at Union-Endicott’s Ty Cobb Stadium.
ENDICOTT — As if chasing after a state playoff victory following their first Section 4 Class D title wasn’t enough motivation, the Groton Central football team picked up even more to rally around earlier in the week.
When the Syracuse Post-Standard Web site asked this question, wondering why play the Class D Regional game between the fourth-ranked Indians and top-ranked Westmoreland from Section 3 because the Bulldogs were going to march to the state title easily, Groton head coach Jeff Lewis had all the bulletin board material he needed.
Behind record-setting tailback Ethan Tilebein and a solid Indians’ defense that held the powerful Westmoreland running game a meager 18 yards, inspired Groton rolled to a 40-11 win at Union-Endicott’s Ty Cobb Stadium Friday night.
Groton (10-1) will now face Section 6 champion Randolph (10-1) in the state semifinals next Friday at Marina Auto Stadium in Rochester. Third-ranked Randolph upset second-ranked Dundee (10-1) from Section 5 in a 14-6 defensive battle Friday night.
“It’s a great, great feeling right now,” Coach Lewis said while holding the regional winner’s plaque and game ball.
“I appreciate Homer and my wrestlers for giving me this opportunity. Those guys come in a six in the morning to practice so Mr. (Neil) Kerr realizes that I haven’t given up on Homer wrestling. I’m there alive and well,” he added, reffering to being labled the ‘former’ Homer wrestling coach in a pre-game article. “We practice that early so I can have football practice with my Groton guys after school.”
After being stopped on fourth-down on its first possession, Groton scored in just three plays the next time it had the ball as Tilebein went off right tackle, split the Bulldog defense and raced 77 yards for the touchdown. Kyle Reed added the point-after kick for a 7-0 lead with 5:37 left in the first quarter and Groton was ahead to stay.
Tilebein finished the game with 225 yards on 26 carries and set a new single-season rushing record for Groton in the process. Tilebein now has 1,561 yards, eclipsing the 2004 mark set by Corey Stelick of 1,370 yards.
“It’s not all about me,” Tilebein said after Groton’s 10th straight victory. “The offensive line is a huge part in it. Kyle (Reed) has a big part in it because he makes great blocks. Everyone does it for me and that’s good. We do have so many offensive weapons so the other team can’t key on just one person.”
“When Ethan runs the ball like that, nobody can stop us,” senior fullback Reed said. “He dips his shoulder, he runs over people and he makes people miss tackles. I just make one block and he is in the end zone.”
DESPITE THREE INDIAN sacks of quarterback Dan Smith, Westmoreland (10-1) got three points on the very next possession after falling behind. Kevin Eisnor connected on a 32-yard field goal to make the score 7-3 with 1:22 left in the quarter.
What happened next was really the turning point in the game.
After three plays, Reed dropped back to punt the ball away only to fake the kick and run for five yards and a first down. That kept the Indians’ drive alive. The final result was 16-play drive that covered 65 yards and chewed up 8:43 on the game clock. Josh Senter used a one-yard quarterback sneak to cap the drive with 4:39 left in the first half.
“As you know,” Lewis said, “I watch the Steelers a lot and Bill Cowher always had a gimmick play or two when he was there. We had to have something and that fake punt was right up our alley. That really got us started and it was a huge play for us.”
The Indians got the ball back two plays later when Sammy Wright picked off a Smith pass at the Bulldog 35 and returned it eight yards. Five plays later, Tilebein scored from 10 yards out for a 21-3 Groton lead with 1:53 left in the first half.
The Groton defense held and Wright made another big play as he returned Jason Colburn’s 34-yard punt 32 yards back to the Bulldog 30-yard line. Reed capped the five-play drive with a two-yard leap into the end zone for a 27-3 advantage with seven seconds left in the half.
“We had a great year and won another sectional title,” Bulldog coach Tim Gates said. “We did all the good times that high school football is about. We represented our school and our community well. It stings a little right now, but hold your heads up high.
“Groton really came out and hit us before we hit them,” he added. “They put us on our heels. That (Groton) is a very good football team.”
WESTMORELAND WAS down at halftime, but they weren’t out.
The Bulldogs took the third-quarter opening kickoff and marched 86 yards for the touchdown. All-purpose back Justin Berger tossed a 35-yard option pass to a wide-open Colburn for six points. Smith added the two-point pass to Colburn to cut the deficit to 27-11.
Berger was held to just 39 yards rushing after coming into the game with over 1,100 rushing yards, but he was the key component in the passing game. Berger caught six passes for a total of 101 yards. Smith completed 11-of-20 attempts for 151 yards.
Groton responded with a seven-play, 79 yard drive of its own. Tilebein punctuated the drive with a 34-yard run off right tackle for his third touchdown of the game. Reed added the kick for a 34-11 cushion.
The next Westmoreland drive ended when Wright helped sack Smith for the fifth time in the game on fourth down. Wright was in on four of the five sacks.
It was only fitting that Wright capped the 11-play Groton scoring drive with a one-yard blast to make the final score 40-11 with 9:18 left in the fourth quarter.
“How about that Sammy Wright,” Lewis boasted. “He came off that end and whacked the quarterback a few times. When we get pressure on the quarterback from guys like that it really does put a lot of pressure on the other team.”
Westmoreland held the ball for three minutes before the drive and Groton took possession with 6:13 left. The Indians killed all but nine of the remaining seconds to punch their ticket to Rochester.
“I’ve been waiting five years for this,” Reed said, who joined the varsity football team as an eighth-grader and is one of 17 seniors on the roster. “I knew when we went 8-0 in my sophomore year, I knew we would have a good team for two more years. It didn’t work out last year. It’s amazing to go this far in the state tournament. It’s a team effort, it’s the coaches’ effort. The coaches are the ones who get us ready. It’s an awesome feeling.”
To read this article and more, pick up today's Cortland Standard
Click here to subscribe