Oct 26, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
All season long, the Marcellus football team has taken some grief for its defense – or lack of it – given that it surrendered 43 points to Cazenovia, 49 points to Chittenango and 58 points to Homer.
But it was that same defense that was largely responsible for the Mustangs’ triumphant return to the post-season after a one-year absence.
Turnovers, both in the early and late stages, helped Marcellus turn back Vernon-Verona-Sherrill 14-6 in Friday night’s opening round of the Section III Class B playoffs, just as Westhill was getting knocked out at Oneida in a 37-0 defeat to the Indians.
A 4-2 league record, and wins over Westhill and Cortland, helped Marcellus earn that all-important home-field advantage, and it was getting VVS at a perfect time, just six days after the Red Devils lost a hard-fought 27-17 decision to defending champion Cazenovia.
Plus, the Red Devils did not have its starting quarterback, Christian Tiffin, on the field after an injury suffered against the Lakers.
Knowing it was dealing with a VVS offense in flux, the Mustangs immediately imposed its defensive will, as Cole Walsh intercepted an errant pass by Tiffin’s replacement, Matt McCoy, in the opening minutes. Marcellus quickly drove to the VVS 20-yard line, from where Tom Keegan sprinted to the end zone for the game’s first touchdown.
And that would be the Mustangs’ lone points of the first half, as VVS settled down on the defensive side, waiting for its own offense to provide some sort of contribution against a Mustang defensive unit that, anchored by Mike Hastings and Wyatt Stehle, limited the Red Devils to two first downs in the first quarter.
VVS broke through late in the second quarter, as the Red Devils broke a big play with Brandon Spaven going 85 yards near the Mustangs’ goal line, and Spaven went the final four yards for the TD.
But Zach Durant, who kicked a school-record 45-yard field goal the week before against Cazenovia, missed on an extra point not even half that length here, so Marcellus was able to cling to a 7-6 edge going into halftime.
On its first possession of the third quarter, the Mustangs moved to the Red Devils’ 43, and from there Keegan threw a screen pass to Will Coon, who found blockers and sprinted the rest of the way for the touchdown as Ross Filtch made his conversion, extending the Marcellus lead to eight.
Though unable to score again, and held to just 232 yards of total offense, Marcellus continually saw its defense stop VVS cold.
Twice, Drew Mosher recovered fumbles in the third quarter to end VVS possessions, and as the Red Devils tried to mount a last-ditch drive, Marcellus forced a fourth-down incomplete pass with less than a minute to play to win it.
While that was going on, Westhill met a far different fate at Oneida, suffering its second consecutive first-round playoff ouster against an Indians side that, like Marcellus, would lean on its defense from the outset.
On the Warriors’ first possession, it moved to Oneida’s 28 before Reed Derrenbacker got sacked twice. Fired up by that stop, the Indians promptly drove to its first TD, quarterback Rory McCarthy going the final 18 yards on a scramble.
Still trailing by that 6-0 margin in the second quarter, the Warriors got stunned when Mark Gillmeister blocked a punt off his face mask 35 yards behind the line of scrimmage, all the way to the end zone, where Gillmeister fell on it for the TD, the ensuing two-point conversion by Kyle George making it 14-0.
McCarthy added an 18-yard scoring pass to Matt Hood, set up by a 35-yard completing to Dylan Cafalone, late in the half, and Westhill trailed 22-0 going to the break.
Cafalone owned the second half, scoring just 1:30 into the third quarter on a 48-yard run and going 10 yards for a TD in the final period. Twice, Westhill drove deep into Oneida territory in an attempt to break up the shutout, but got thwarted as the Indians advanced to face Homer in next Saturday’s semifinal at Chittenango High School.
Meanwhile, in the other Class B semifinal (also at Chittenango, to kick off at 4 p.m.), Marcellus prepares for a rematch against the same Cazenovia side that rallied from a 28-7 deficit to beat the Mustangs 43-35 back on Sept. 19. The Lakers only allowed one first down in a 43-0 first-round playoff shutout over Cortland.
In crossover games on Friday, Solvay defeated Mexico 26-14 for its second win of the season as Devlin White scored a pair of first-half touchdowns and Josh Marotti caught a 48-yard scoring pass from Nick Cometti. Bishop Ludden lost, 33-24, to South Jefferson despite Conlan McGuire’s pair of TD passes to Cameron Beauford, one of them covering 64 yards.