Sep 22, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Jay Steinhorst could not stay away, even if there was every reason to do so.
Normally, when a Cazenovia football game takes place, as it did Saturday afternoon against Cortland at Buckley-Volo Field, Steinhorst, the Lakers’ offensive coordinator, would be part of the scene, offering plays, schemes and adjustments to his attentive players.
This was not an ordinary week, though.
Back on Monday, Steinhorst learned that his stepson, Mitchell Murphy, passed away on Sept. 12 while attending New York University, at the age of 20.
For the rest of the week, Steinhorst, who also coaches Cazenovia’s varsity baseball team, attended to all of the family duties, culminating with Saturday’s funeral at St. James Church, which the entire varsity football team attended.
Hours later, Steinhorst, his wife De Ann, and other family members were standing on the hill overlooking the football field, intending to watch the game as a spectator.
By the second quarter, though, Steinhorst had made his way to the press box, and from that moment on he was a coach again.
“I had to come down,” said Steinhorst to his players after the game, fighting back tears. “I needed to be with you guys.”
Perhaps inspired by Steinhorst’s presence, Cazenovia erased a 7-6 deficit to Cortland late in the third quarter and, with a flurry of big plays on both sides of the ball, pulled away to beat the Purple Tigers 31-13.
“In the big scheme of things, it didn’t make much difference whether we won or lost,” said Steinhorst. “But it meant a lot to me. This is a big part of the healing process.”
Head coach Tom Neidl said it was the ultimate example of sports serving as a life lesson for his players, but the game itself had enough fascinating turns.
Alex Sullivan found Chad Warren on a perfectly-thrown 78-yard touchdown pass just 2:39 into the game, Warren catching it in double coverage and pulling away when the two Cortland defenders collided with each other.
And those were the only points of the first half. Defenses on both sides controlled the line of scrimmage, and Cazenovia was struggling to juggle its two quarterbacks, as Kevin Hopsicker returned from a separated shoulder that had sidelined him early this season.
The concern grew early in the third quarter when Purple Tigers quarterback Caden Giroux hit Teddy Phillips for a 20-yard pass that, when a tackle was missed, turned into a 50-yard scoring play. The extra point left the Lakers behind, 7-6.
That’s where it stood late in the period when Cazenovia, due to a series of penalties, were pushed back to Cortland’s 35-yard line, facing third-down-and-goal.
Hopsicker dropped back, got time to throw, and then unleashed a pass over the middle that Joe Colligan caught at the 15. Colligan dashed into the end zone, and the Lakers had the lead for good.
More big plays would follow. Hopsicker’s 24-yard pass to Warren set up Andrew Vogl’s two-yard TD run to make it 18-7. Then Hopsicker broke several tackles on a 33-yard TD run with 6:37 left, and Mark Dewan returned an interception 60 yards for the clinching score less than two minutes later.
Jake Wilson ran for a team-best 62 yards, while Hopsicker finished with 58 yards on the ground. Defensively, Nick Bobbett had a team-best 10 tackles, with Mike Nourse and Nick Tedesco adding nine tackles apiece and Billy Bigsby getting eight tackles.
All of this improved Cazenovia’s record to 3-1, and it will host Camden next Saturday at 1:30 for the Homecoming game. And the Lakers will have Steinhorst back at practice, too, continuing to heal.