Manlius 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.