Sep 13, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Fayetteville-Manlius football senior Chris Bortel spent much of Thursday night’s spellbinding clash with West Genesee as a supporting player as many different Hornets and Wildcats took turns making big plays on both sides of the ball, the two sides trading the lead and the momentum throughout the evening.
Then, when it counted the most in the fourth quarter, Bortel appeared to cost his team in a big way with a 15-yard personal foul penalty on defense, giving WG, who held a three-point lead at the time, a first down and a chance to really put F-M in trouble.
But then Bortel got a second chance, and he redeemed himself. Did he ever.
Bortel three times rumbled for touchdowns in the last six minutes of the game, and a close, tense contest swung in the Hornets’ favor as, with 28 total points in the final period, it went on to beat the Wildcats 44-26 and improve to 2-0 on the season.
“In the end, we pushed through,” said Bortel. “We really took it to them in the fourth quarter.”
With so many different skill players to choose from, F-M could afford to keep Bortel in the role of a blocking back. But, said head coach Damien Rhodes, “when he hits the hole, he hits it hard.”
That second chance came on the heels of a wild sequence early in the fourth quarter. Trailing 19-16, F-M went in front on Jake Pulver’s 45-yard TD run, only to have WG reclaim the lead when Bailey Gauthier found Will Northrop on a 23-yard scoring pass less than two minutes later.
Then, with less than eight minutes left, Mike Wadach intercepted Jake Wittig’s pass, followed shortly by that personal foul against Bortel which put the Wildcats in F-M territory again. Moments later, though, WG botched a snap, and Pulver pounced on the fumble.
Given new life, F-M went back to the ground game. Pulver’s 26-yard run got it into Wildcat territory, and from the Wildcats’ 20, Bortel broke through the middle of the line and found the end zone for the go-ahead TD with 5:48 left.
As it had done all night, the Hornets kicked off short, to avoid getting it to WG’s star senior tailback, Naes Howard. Here, though, the Wildcats flubbed the kick, and Chris Dobrzynski recovered for the Hornets. Two plays later, Bortel was gone again, this time a 30-yard scoring run, his second in a 50-second span.
Suddenly trailing 37-26, WG had to throw the ball, and on fourth down Tim Byrnes sacked Gauthier to turn the ball over on downs. Once more, Bortel got the ball – and once again, he was gone, a 55-yard touchdown with 2:11 left to wrap it up.
All of this followed a first half where both teams turned it over twice, and also hurt themselves with ill-timed penalties, which kept the game close.
Howard, who would finish with 234 yards on 30 carries, opened the scoring with a seven-yard TD run, but Wittig countered with an eight-yard scramble to the end zone late in the first quarter before throwing a 24-yard scoring strike to Jack Wilson early in the second quarter. Wilson also intercepted Gauthier twice in the half.
But the Wildcats tied it again, 13-13, on Howard’s second TD, a 14-yard scamper, with less than a minute to play in the half. Aided by a Wildcat penalty, the Hornets scrambled to WG’s 28, and Wittig, atoning for his own interception, crushed a 45-yard field goal on the last play of the half to give his side a 16-13 lead at the break.
The game quieted down a bit in the third quarter, and WG appeared to find a winning formula when it handed the ball to Howard nine times in 11 plays on a 63-yard march, including the final yard for the six points that gave the Wildcats a 19-16 edge.
However, that only proved the prelude for the wild mood swings of the fourth quarter. In less than four minutes of game time, WG went from total control to an 18-point deficit, seeing F-M’s unheralded fullback snatch the spotlight with his three clutch touchdowns.
Bortel had just one yard prior to that surge, but finished with 111, nearly matching Pulver (122 yards, 11 carries) as sophomore Zaire Ashley added 95 yards on the ground. Wittig was 14-for-30 through the air for 160 yards, with Luke Krizman catching seven passes for 77 yards.
Now the Wildcats will need to bounce back next Friday against visiting Central Square, just as F-M kicks off in a highly-anticipated home showdown against Baldwinsville, whom it lost to in last fall’s Section III Class AA semifinal. It is the league opener for both sides.