Oct 05, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
So much important action happens in football at or near the one-yard line, the last barrier on a gridiron between offensive resolution and defensive resolve.
It was in that space, right in front of the goal line, that Friday night’s Class A American division showdown between East Syracuse-Minoa and Jamesville-DeWitt got settled, with the Spartans prevailing in a 14-7 thriller not resolved until the last play.
First, it was a punt, hit by ESM’s Sean Richardson, which dropped inside the one-yard line in the third quarter, changing field position and eventually leading to the Spartans’ go-ahead touchdown on a 12-yard pass from Richardson to Pat Bryant.
And in that same area right in front of the goal line, ESM’s defense saved the game when Andrew Messinger and Jose Sanchez stacked up Rasheed Baker, just short of a touchdown, as the clock ran out.
“Our defense kept us in the game,” said Spartans head coach Kevin DeParde. “That last stand was about the kids’ discipline and heart, not coaching.”
Trailing by seven, the Red Rams had taken over on its own 22-yard line with 7:45 to play. Just as it had done most of the night, J-D relied on its ground game to eat up both yards and time.
Then, on fourth-and-eight from ESM’s 48, Baker rolled right and threw a halfback option pass that Rob Murphy dove to catch at the Spartans’ 25.
The march moved inside the 10 as Nate Shapiro converted another fourth down with less than a minute to play, making it first-and-goal at the five. Twice, Shapiro tried to bowl through the middle of the ESM front line, only to get stood up.
Taking its final time-out, J-D lined up on the one. Baker, who had gained 121 yards to that point, took the handoff and tried to power up the middle, only to have Messinger and Sanchez combine to stop him, and before the Rams could line up for one more play, the clock ran out.
A wet field, made so due to rains that fell just before kickoff and lingered through the first quarter, slowed the game down for both sides during a first half that ended in a 7-7 tie.
J-D’s lone points would come late in the opening period. Having run up the middle in the early going, the Rams found the end zone when James Jones, bouncing outside, broke two tackles and raced 40 yards up the right sideline for the touchdown.
ESM immediately answered, mixing up runs and passes on a 69-yard march where Richardson had key passes to Eyan Underwood and Pat Bryant, but then finished off with a 14-yard run on fourth down to the three, from which he found the end zone for the tying score.
DeParde said that he wanted Richardson to scramble more and rely less on his arm, and he proved to be the Spartans’ most effective runner on his night. Richardson ran 13 times for 65 yards to complement his 133 passing yards.
But it was what he did with his right leg that really would help ESM late in the third quarter.
Forced to punt near midfield, Richardson sent a high, floating kick that took a big hop, but still managed to settle inside J-D’s one. The Rams went three-and-out, and the punt put it on J-D’s 31, from where Richardson scrambled 22 yards to set up his own go-ahead scoring pass to Bryant, who finished with 88 yards on nine receptions.
The next time it had the ball, ESM, holding it for nearly five minutes, looked like it would get the clinching score, especially with Richardson making all sorts of clutch plays.
Instead, on fourth-and-inches at the J-D 21, Richardson bobbled the snap, lost a yard, and gave J-D a chance to catch up. But needing to go 78 yards, the Rams only managed 77.
J-D is home again next Friday to face Albany Academy, while ESM pays a visit to Fulton with a chance to clinch the American division regular-season title. Both games kick off at 6:30.