Manlius Fayetteville-Manlius football's first-year head coach, Damien Rhodes, breathed a sigh of relief after a tough 28-21 victory over Central Square Friday night in the opening round of the Section III Class AA playoffs.
“I’m glad that’s over,” he said as soon as the game ended.
A surprising back-forth-battle between the 7-0, top-seeded Hornets and 2-5, no. 8 seed Red Hawks was not settled until Jack Wilson intercepted Central Square quarterback Dom Godici with under a minute remaining in the game.
“We got to give our hats off to Central Square,” Rhodes said. “They came in here and played hard. And they were able to give us quite the fight.”
After a few costly injuries at the beginning of the season, the Red Hawks came in to Friday night’s game hot off a two-game winning streak, and kept it going.
On its first drive of the game, Central Square ran the ball three times for 77 yards, capped off by a John Vincentini 34-yard touchdown run. A surprised F-M found itself behind 7-0 less than one minute into the game.
Things got worse for the Hornets, as a long drive ignited by hard runs by running back Jake Pulver ended with the Red Hawks recovering a fumble at its own 15-yard line. F-M would eventually take over on downs at its own 47, but eventually turned the ball over on downs.
Near the mid-point of the second quarter, the Hornets finally scored off a Jake Wittig 20-yard scramble. The junior quarterback ran to the left, cut back and found an opening on the right ride of the field to put the Hornets on the board for the first time.
F-M had a chance to pull ahead right before halftime, but Central Square's defense stymied Wittig and company inside the Red Hawks' 20 as E.J. Sampo rushed Wittig on the left side of the pocket and sacked him for a 10-yard loss.