Oct 17, 2009 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Conventional wisdom dictated that the Vernon Verona Sherrill football team had to rely on its high-octane passing attack to beat archrival Oneida.
Yet when that didn’t work, the Red Devils went back to the ground – and found it to be the path to victory.
Led by Colin Way and Dylan Guider, VVS put together a 21-16 victory over the Indians Friday Night on Oneida’s home field and, by doing so, grabbed a piece of the B East regular-season title.
It also culminated a season-long turnaround on VVS’s part, as many of the same players that suffered through a 1-6 campaign in 2008 came up with a 6-1 mark this fall.
Four teams – VVS, Oneida, South Jefferson and Chittenango – came into the last weekend of the regular season tied for first in B East.
With the Bears beating the Spartans 35-24 a few miles up Route 5, Oneida had a chance to gain the top spot in the league, since it beat Chittenango head-to-head.
Knowing this, the Indians began with a unique defensive front – three linemen, five linebackers. It was all designed to disrupt the rhythm of VVS quarterback Tyler Mautner, and it worked to perfection.
In all, Mautner tried seven passes in the first half. Each of them fell incomplete. And the ground game didn’t do much, either, as VVS got a grand total of 23 yards in the first half.
As a result, Oneida had all kinds of time to put points on the board and take early control of the game. Twice, the Indians drove inside the red zone. Both times, though, the Red Devils turned them away, once at the 14-yard line after a 16-play march, then again at the VVS nine.
So they went to halftime 0-0, and VVS was set to kick off for the second half, so it wouldn’t get an immediate chance to break out of its offensive drought.
At least that’s what Oneida thought.
Looking for a spark, Cole Barbano hit a short kick, and before an Oneida player could get it, Louis Boice grabbed the ball on the Indians’ 35-yard line.
Fired up, the Red Devils promptly went on an eight-play drive, seven of them runs, before Way scored on a two-yard run for the first points of the night.
VVS made a defensive stop, then got the ball on its own 20-yard line. Way and Guider both broke loose for two runs of 13 yards or more on an nine-play, 80-yard march, and Way went the final two yards for the score to make it 14-0.
So it stayed until the fourth quarter, when Oneida, a team that had come back to win twice earlier this season (against Solvay and Homer), tried to do so again.
Guider helped, fumbling on his own 30-yard line as Oneida’s Keith Johnson recovered. Jeremy Rodriguez threw 23 yards to Eric Riley on the next play, and Nate Mallinder scored from seven yards out as Nathan Hall’s two-point run cut the deficit to 14-8 with 8:59 left.
It didn’t take long for Way to answer, breaking loose for a 52-yard TD run moments later to build the margin back to 21-8. Way finished with 117 yards on 14 carries as Guider carried the ball 15 times for 86 yards.
As time began to wind down, Oneida pulled back within five, thanks to Rodriguez throwing a 36-yard TD pass to Shawn Ano and running for two points. VVS got the ensuing onside kick, though, to clinch the victory.
VVS tied Chittenango for first place in the final B West standings (both 3-1), but the Bears claimed the top spot for the playoffs because it beat the Red Devils 30-19 back on Sept. 26.
In the opening round of the Class B playoffs on Saturday, VVS will meet Homer (4-3), who finished third in Class B West. The Trojans are coming off a 41-16 win over Phoenix and, like the Red Devils, feature a strong quarterback in John Sciera.
Oneida, meanwhile, fell to 4-3 and will have to visit Westhill (a team it lost to 38-13 on Oct. 9) on Friday night. It will be the fourth meeting between the Indians and Warriors in the last two seasons.
Should both Oneida and VVS win, the rivals would have a rematch in next weekend’s semifinal round – a tempting thought for all who enjoyed watching the first chapter.