Oct 11, 2009 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
As if it were scripted just right, the Vernon Verona Sherrill and Oneida football teams will meet on the field Friday night in Oneida with a piece of the Class B East division regular-season title on the line.
The Red Devils made this possible by going to the north country on Saturday night and using big plays in the fourth quarter to beat South Jefferson 33-20. This came a day after Oneida, in a non-league contest, lost to Westhill 38-13.
That win in Adams moved VVS to 2-1 in league play, the same record as South Jefferson — not to mention Oneida and Chittenango, creating a unique and exciting scenario for the final weekend of the regular season.
While South Jefferson visits Chittenango, VVS and Oneida resume their long and bitter rivalry. Any of the four teams involved could finish anywhere from first to fourth in the league standings, with the only guarantee that the winners will be at home for next weekend’s opening round of the Class B playoffs.
This was what lay ahead of the Red Devils as it ended a three-game homestand and ventured to South Jefferson. What it showed was that it had learned plenty from past experiences.
In particular, the Red Devils paid attention when Marcellus quarterback Will Fiacchi lit up the Spartans for 519 passing yards (third-most in a single game in state history) on Sept. 26. Given that, Tyler Mautner knew he would be active, too.
Sure enough, Mautner threw for 289 yards against the Spartans, and would break VVS out of a 6-6 first-quarter tie, the Red Devils getting on the board when Colin Way scored on a two-yard run.
Twice in the second period, Mautner led scoring drives, capping one off with Dylan Guider’s three-yard run plus a two-point pass to Tyler Curtis, then making it 20-6 just before halftime as he found Aaron Owens in the end zone from 13 yards out.
Even with the Red Devils’ defense holding South Jefferson running back A.J. Chartrand to 74 yards on 18 carries, the Spartans would roar back in the third quarter. Jared LaDue’s one-yard TD run capped a 74-yard scoring drive and made it 20-12, and Jory Tanner’s 14-yard TD pass to Curtis Wilson, plus Chartrand’s two-point run, forged a 20-20 tie.
To VVS fans, it looked too familiar — a double-digit lead gone, just like the Sept. 27 loss to Chittenango. But the Red Devils had absorbed the lessons of that windy afternoon and, this time around, would rule in the fourth quarter.
Right away, Mautner led his team down the field and, early in the fourth quarter, VVS reclaimed the lead for good when Guider broke loose for a 22-yard TD run, his second score of the night.
Once the Red Devils’ defense made a stop, VVS got the ball on its own 15-yard line. Instead of going conservative, Mautner threw to the wing — and once Curtis eluded a tackle, he took off on an 85-yard sprint to the other end zone for the clinching score. For the night, Curtis had 182 receiving yards on seven catches.
In stark contrast to the good times VVS had in Adams, Oneida did not have much fun in Westhill as the Warriors eagerly avenged two losses to the Indians in 2008 (including a 20-0 shutout in the Section III Class B final) with a career night from quarterback Jeff Law.
All Law did was complete 16 of 24 passes for 242 yards and throw for four touchdowns, plus run for another. He was the main reason Westhill bolted out to a big-first half lead and did not look back.
Taking the opening kickoff, Westhill drove 64 yards in five-plus minutes, twice converting third downs with successful passes. On fourth-down-and-two at Oneida’s 19, after going to the wings, Law threw to the middle – and found big tight end Tom Fisher in the end zone.
The next time Westhill had the ball, Law found a new way to hurt the Indians. Taking off from the 50-yard line, Law tore down the left sideline and beat all the Oneida defenders to the end zone for the longest TD run of his varsity career. A two-point pass to Ross made it 14-0.
Early in the second quarter, from Oneida’s 32, Law went deep and Nate Nigolian, in single coverage, caught it at the goal line to make it 21-0.
Oneida cut the margin to 21-7 when Nate Mallinder caught a short pass from Jeremy Rodriguez and ran over tacklers on a 25-yard jaunt to the end zone, and as time wound down in the second quarter, it looked like that would be the margin.
Then came the last play of the half.
From the Indians’ 43-yard line, Law had one option – go deep to Dan Ross, his favorite receiving target. Oneida knew what was coming and put two defenders on Ross, but the senior wide receiver still came up with the ball on the five-yard line and battled his way past the goal line with no time left.
Instead of a reasonable margin, it was now 28-7, and as it turned out, the Warriors were out of reach.
Oneida did score again, late in the third quarter on Chris Chesebro’s seven-yard TD run, to make it 28-13. But R.J. Chester hit a 27-yard field goal early in the final period, and Law found Ross one more time for a 27-yard scoring pass, his fourth TD pass of the night. Ross caught nine of Law’s passes for 135 yards.