Sep 08, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Jamesville-DeWitt’s last football game was in the Carrier Dome 10 months ago, a bitter 14-7 defeat to Nottingham that kept the Red Rams from earning its first sectional title since 1997.
But the return trip for Saturday night’s Kickoff Classic had a different outcome as J-D, overcoming a right knee injury to quarterback Jack Brotzki, came from behind to beat Cheektowaga 13-12 in a gritty, tough performance.
What appeared to be a disastrous situation turned triumphant when the Rams’ defense forced three second-half turnovers and Brotzki’s replacement, Nate Shapiro, made several timely plays, especially on a long fourth-quarter drive that ate up the last 9:25 of the clock.
Going into its season opener, J-D’s biggest challenge, aside from a high-quality Section VI (Buffalo area) opponent in Cheektowaga returning most of its starters from a season ago, was seeing if its offense could maintain its potency without Taumeras Howard and Josiah Williams, the stars in the Rams’ run to that sectional final a year ago.
Instead of big-play capability, though, J-D opted for toughness and physical play through its “Flexbone” formations, with plenty of power running from returning senior fullback Rasheed Baker mixed with speed from tailback Kayvon Anderson, on its opening drive.
Though the drive moved inside Cheektowaga’s 20, it was tempered by Brotzki’s knee injury, which forced Shapiro into duties he only assumed a couple of weeks ago, after another injury sidelined original backup Joe Murphy for the season.
Immediately, Shapiro threw an interception, but Preston Summers fumbled on the return and J-D got it back on the Warriors’ 40.
Given a second chance, the Rams didn’t waste it, Baker busting through tackles on a 33-yard jaunt to the end zone that put his team in front 6-0 as the extra-point attempt clanked off the post.
Cheektowaga would counter with its own drive that tied the game 6-6 early in the second quarter. And it was Summers, atoning for his fumble on the interception, that juggled, and then held on to, a high-arcing 38-yard scoring pass from Zach Ciezki that erased the Rams’ early lead.
It soon became apparent that, without Brotzki, J-D was limited in its offensive capabilities, going three-and-out on its last two full possessions of the first half.
The Warriors moved from its own 41 to the go-ahead score mostly thanks to Robert Pulley, who caught a 20-yard pass and ran 15 yards to set up Marshawn Gibson’s eight-yard TD run 30 seconds before the break, putting J-D down 12-6 as they went to the locker room.
When the teams returned for the second half, Brotzki was on crutches, and his right knee was heavily taped and bandaged. J-D’s student section tried to provide some energy with an “I believe that we will win” chant, but again the Rams’ offense went nowhere for most of the third quarter.
It took J-D’s defense to turn things around. Rob Murphy provided a brief spark with an interception at his own 30 to thwart a Warriors drive, but it was Ben Honis supplying the big play when he picked off Ciezki deep in Cheektowaga territory late in the period.
Seconds later, Shapiro threw over the middle – and Honis made a one-handed catch for a 16-yard touchdown. It was the team’s first gain of any consequence since Baker’s TD, and the successful extra point from sophomore newcomer Anthony DiGiovanni gave the Rams a one-point advantage.
Immediately, Cheektowaga moved back down the field, mixing up runs until it was about to reclaim the lead. But stretching out near the goal line, Summers got stripped by several J-D defenders, and Murphy recovered in the end zone with 9:25 to play.
J-D immediately set out on an impressive march, eating up the rest of the clock with a ground game that wore Cheektowaga down. Three times on third-down-and-long, Shapiro escaped the pocket and ran for first downs, staying in bounds to keep the clock moving and, eventually, end the Warriors’ chances at victory.
Now the Rams have a short week to recover and get ready for Thursday night, when it visits Indian River. The Warriors opened its season with an impressive 47-7 win over Oswego.