Jake Wilson works his way around a Cortland defender during the Lakers’ Sept. 22 game against the Purple Tigers in Cazenovia. Wilson finished the game with a total of 62 rushing yards.
Photo by Pierce Smith.
Cazenovia 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.