December 5, 2006


Sheppard saves season for Eagles

Late interception stops Panthers, 27-24


Associated Press/Tom Mihalek
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jeff Garcia launches a pass under pressure from Carolina Panthers defensemen Damione Lewis (92) and Michael Rucker (right) during the second quarter of Monday’s NFL game in Philadelphia. Eagles were 27-24 winners.

AP Sports Writer

PHILADELPHIA — Once Lito Sheppard read the play, he knew it was up to him to save the game — and possibly the season — for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Sheppard’s interception in the end zone with 25 seconds left preserved a 27-24 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Monday night that vaulted the struggling Eagles back into the playoff picture in the mediocre NFC.
Playing for the injured Donovan McNabb, Jeff Garcia threw for 312 yards and three touchdown passes against a tough defense. But it came down to Sheppard against Keyshawn Johnson on a fade route that worked earlier in the game on another defender.
From the Eagles 7, Jake Delhomme lobbed a pass toward the right corner for Johnson, who is a half-foot taller than Sheppard. An All-Pro cornerback two years ago, Sheppard held his ground, leaped and made the pick while barely staying inbounds.
“It was a critical moment. Somebody had to make a play,” Sheppard said. “I picked up the signal. I saw it before he hiked the ball. I thought if I can just stay outside, I can have a chance to make a play. He overthrew it and I saw Keyshawn try to undercut it and jump at it, but it was too high for him. Once I caught it, I didn’t know my left foot was that close, but I knew I got both feet in.”
A few minutes earlier, Brian Dawkins put the Eagles in position to take the lead with an interception and a 38-yard return. That set up David Akers’ decisive 25-yard field goal with 3:13 left.
Before Philly’s beleaguered defense came up with big plays, Garcia delivered several of his own in just his second start since replacing McNabb, who tore a knee ligament two weeks ago.
A three-time Pro Bowl quarterback when he was guiding San Francisco to playoff berths, Garcia isn’t going to make people forget McNabb. But the 36-year-old veteran is way better than Mike McMahon, who filled in when McNabb was hurt last year.
Garcia ran around like McNabb, withstood a couple hard hits and made some big-time throws. Now the Eagles (6-6) are tied with three other teams for the two NFC wild-card spots.
“We have not lost focus of what our goal is — to be a playoff team,” Garcia said. “Nobody has been discouraged, nobody has hung their head, it’s a really positive atmosphere in the locker room considering what we’ve gone through over the last two months. This is a great way to come together; I think we can put some things together.”
Garcia struggled early, but had a strong second half, using his arm and his legs to offset Carolina’s dangerous pass rush. He had TD passes of 8 yards to Brian Westbrook, 30 to Donte’ Stallworth and 40 to Reggie Brown.
With three straight road games coming up against division opponents, the Eagles are tied with Carolina, Atlanta and the New York Giants.
“It’s a crazy year,” coach Andy Reid said. “Anything’s possible.”
Garcia has thrown for six TDs and no interceptions since taking over_for McNabb.
Delhomme almost matched Garcia until the two late picks. He threw for 269 yards and TDs of 9 yards to Steve Smith, 1 to Johnson and 35 to DeAngelo Williams.
But the late interceptions ruined his night and continued the inconsistency that has marked the Panthers’ season. They lost two, won four straight, lost two more, won two and now have dropped two in a row again.
“We’re average right now,” Delhomme said.
The Panthers went ahead 7-0 on Delhomme’s scoring pass to Smith. Stallworth made a stunning one-handed grab down the left sideline over rookie cornerback Richard Marshall and sped to a 51-yard gain to set up Westbrook’s TD catch that tied it at 7.
Delhomme tossed a 1-yard TD pass to Johnson over third-string safety Quintin Mikell to put Carolina ahead 14-7 at halftime.
Garcia kept several plays alive early in the third quarter by scrambling away from the rush. Chased out of the pocket, he threw a perfect strike to Stallworth down the right side for a 30-yard score that tied it midway through the quarter.
On second-and-15 from the Eagles 35 on the following possession, Delhomme was under pressure when he lobbed a short pass to Williams near the left side. Williams, with a convoy of blockers, broke at least one tackle and ran between several defenders to reach the end zone.
A roughing-the-passer call and Westbrook’s 20-yard run keyed Philly’s 63-yard drive that set up Akers’ 28-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter. But John Kasay answered with a 45-yarder, pushing the lead back to seven.
Garcia responded with two excellent throws. First he led Westbrook perfectly as the running back beat linebacker James Anderson in a mismatch for a 29-yard gain. Then he found Brown for the 40-yard score that made it 24-24.
“We have to do better than that,” Panthers safety Mike Minter said. “We have to finish the deal.”
Notes: Johnson now has 801 career receptions. ... Stallworth finished with 111 yards on four receptions, and Brown had 79 on five. ... Williams, substituting for injured DeShaun Foster (elbow), caught seven passes for 101 yards and rushed for 74. ... The Panthers have lost four games by four points or less this year. ... In addition to Michael Lewis’ broken nose and concussion, the Eagles lost linebacker Jason Short with a sprained knee. Carolina CB Ken Lucas hurt his thigh and FB Brad Hoover strained his neck.



Pair of victories for Bantams

The Cortland Youth Hockey Association Bantam team picked up a pair of victories over the weekend, beating visiting Fulton 6-1 on Saturday and host Midstate 9-2 on Sunday.
Carl Zimmerman had three goals and an assist and Chris Broyles, Connor Ferrito and Casie Garrison one goal each against Fulton, with goalies Nick LaLonde and Brandon Paquin making nine and 12 saves, respectively. Garrison had four goals, Alex Boyland two goals, Vince Walker and Connor Burke a goal and an assist apiece and Zimmerman one goal against Midstate, with LaLonde making seven saves and Paquin 13.
The Ithaca Shooting Stars squad was the runner-up in its own invitational tournament, beating the Perinton Blades 2-0 and the Amherst Knights 3-1 while tying the Wheatfield Blades 2-2 before losing 4-0 to Wheatfield in the championship contest.
Cortland’s Janesa Cornish had an assist against Perinton, while Annabelle Jones from Cortland made 10 saves and allowed one goal as she shared time in goal against Wheatfield the first time, Cornish scoring a goal in that contest. Cornish also scored once against Amherst.
Dakota Baylor and Leo Riley scored once each in the Waste Management/Darl Zehr Photography squad’s 5-2 loss to visiting Oswego, goalies Cory Broyles and Zach Randall making 18 saves apiece. Randall and Broyles made two saves each to share the shutout in an 8-0 win over host Salmon River as Casey Bergeron had two goals and an assist, Baylor two goals and Riley, Aaron Zimmerman, Zach Daniels and Kyle Hirschfield one goal each.
Matt May had two goals while Eustan DiIorio, Mike May and Jeffrey Steinhoff scored once each in the Wallace Construction team’s 5-5 tie with Ithaca. Goalie Colden Kimber made 18 saves.
Joel Potter had the only goal while Gage Eldred made 20 assists and Colden Kimber seven in the Stafford Chevrolet-Economy Paving-Homer Logging team’s 5-1 loss to visiting Lysander Saturday. On Sunday, Conor Paquin and Danny Turck had the goals in a 5-2 loss to host Center State, Eldred making 21 saves.
Auburn 2 beat the Economy Paving team twice over the weekend, 10-1 at Auburn on Saturday and 5-1 at Cortland on Sunday. Trevor Andrews had the only goal in the road game and goalie Ryan Gabriel stopped 12 shots. Mike Turck had the goal in the home loss, with Gabriel making 15 more saves.
Host Camillus 1 beat the Barden Homes team 5-2 on Saturday as Curtis Howland had a goal and an assist and Matt Sovocool one goal while Dylan Riker made 20 saves. Sovocool had the only goal in a 3-1 home loss to Skaneateles on Sunday, Riker stopping 15 more shots.




Strong S-E captures win over Cincy girls

The Cincinnatus Central girls’ basketball team fell to 0-2 on the season Monday in a 79-36_non-league loss to visiting Sherburne-Earlville.
In volleyball action McGraw fell to visiting Brookfield 25-18, 18-25, 25-18, 12-25, 25-18 in its Central Counties League opener and Cincinnatus dropped a 28-26, 17-25, 25-23, 26-24 decision to non-league host Port Byron.
Sherburne-Earlville 79, Cincinnatus 36: “The girls played really well against a Class C team that went to the sectional semifinals last season,” Cincy coach Katie Wagner said. “We were able to get our offense going a little, and they scored most of their points in transition. When we were able to_set our defense, they had a hard_time scoring.”
The visitors (2-0 overall) led 16-8 after the first quarter, and were able to get things moving to the tune of a 23-9 second-quarter scoring advantage that put them up 39-17 at halftime and settled the issue. Courtney Kurtz had 18 points, including a_3-point goal, for the Wolves,_while Erin Dowdell had 15 with a 3-pointer and Megan Record_added 10.
The Red Lions (0-2) were led by junior forward MacKenzie Heath with 10 points, while senior forward Danielle Mulhern had a team-high seven rebounds (S-E owned the boards 45-25) and also had six assists, earning praise from Wagner for her passing underneath.
Cincy hosts Poland Wednesday in its Center State Conference Division 4 season-opener.
Brookfield 3, McGraw 2: “It was a close match, back-and-forth,” said Eagles coach Andy Smith, whose team fell to 2-1 overall. “We missed some key serves right in a row late in the fifth game and couldn’t come back from them. Overall we played well. The defense was good and controlled the ball.”
Sarah Bilodeau had 23 assists for McGraw while Jen Rutan had 16 kills, four digs, three aces and a block and Diane Ralyea five kills, seven aces and three blocks.
McGraw is off until this Monday, when Cincinnatus visits.
Port Byron 3, Cincinnatus 1: “Despite good serving, the girls weren’t able to get a lot of offense going,” Red Lions coach Macy Cobb said. “Starting setter Kortni Wright, in her first match of the season after being out due to illness, led the team in assists with six and added three kills, two aces and a dig.
“Rachel Smith played well at the net with four kills, one dig and three blocks. Jolene Eaton played an outstanding defensive game, covering the court well, and she and Melissa Randall topped the team in aces with six apiece.”
Cincy, 0-2 overall, opens its league season Thursday when it hosts Brookfield.