Motivated by the chance to play a post-season game on its home turf, the Canastota football team clashed with Sauquoit Valley in a key Class C South division contest Saturday night at Schmidt-Borgognoni Field.
And the Raiders would please the Homecoming crowd and get a Senior Night victory, too, fighting to a 26-24 victory over the Indians for its third consecutive victory following an 0-2 start to the season.
Both teams would find success on the offensive side, with four touchdowns apiece, so it call came down to making conversions -- and Canastota would do so, twice, while Sauquoit saw all four of its attempts come up short.
That showed up in the first quarter. Sauquoit went ahead 6-0 on Steve Szatko's 19-yard touchdown run, but Canastota answered with a big play, courtesy of Jake LaBarre, who took a handoff on his own 35-yard line and raced 63 yards to the other end zone. More importantly, Jamie Meade made the extra point, and the Raiders took a 7-6 lead.
Now it was the Indians' turn for a big play, Szatko running 65 yards for a TD. Sauquoit's 12-7 lead did not last, though, as the Raiders drove to the two-yard line, from where quarterback Bill Marsh dove in for the score.
For a third time, Sauquoit seized the lead, 18-13, on Jason Bentley's 12-yard TD pass to Nick Critelli. And for a third time, the Raiders answered, Marsh moving his team to the Indians' nine-yard line before finding Jeff Merrill for the go-ahead TD.
The tense battle continued into the fourth quarter. Canastota increased its margin to 26-18 when Marsh ran four yards for his second TD of the night and Meade added a crucial PAT.
Sauquoit would get one more chance, though. After Szatko ran seven yards for his third touchdown of the night, the Indians went for two points and the tie -- only to see Canastota's defense stop it, just as they had the three previous conversion attempts.
Marsh completed five of six passes for 57 yards, while LaBarre got most of his 86 rushing yards from that first-quarter TD.
Canastota closes its regular season on Saturday at 2 p.m. when it visits Clinton, who is coming off a 45-0 loss to Cazenovia. A win for the Raiders clinches second place in C South behind the Lakers.