Strong closing statements by the football teams at West Genesee and Bishop Ludden led to victories on the last Friday night of September.
It took a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns for the Wildcats to pull away from Rome Free Academy and prevail 35-14 to keep its post-season hopes alive, while the state Class D no. 9-ranked Gaelic Knights needed the same kind of late production to fend off an upset bid and beat Cato-Meridian 46-28.
Since beating Nottingham Sept. 2 in the Carrier Dome, WG had dropped three straight games, so it needed to get out of that skid against an 0-4 RFA side in front of a large Homecoming crowd.
A back-and-forth first half saw both teams score twice. Liam Barry threw touchdown passes of 14 yards to Victor Elias and 13 yards to Ben Rustay, only to have the Black Knights answer both times, and a missed WG conversion allowed the Black Knights to inch in front, 14-13.
They were still that way when, with 2:12 left in the half, Barry, from his own 32, threw deep and found Elias, who dashed to the end zone to complete a 68-yard scoring play. That same pair connected for two points, and WG took a 21-14 lead to the break.
Neither team scored in the third quarter, with the Wildcats’ defense settling down and making several key stops. The unit’s work paid off when, with 9:51 left, Barry found Matt Kot for his fourth TD pass of the night. Dan Purcell clinched the victory with a scoring run a few minutes later.
As this was going on, Bishop Ludden, looking to go to 5-0, seemed in control against visiting Cato-Meridian, but nearly squandered a 34-13 fourth-quarter lead.
The Blue Devils used Justin Donnnelly’s 20-yard TD run with 9:22 left, a successful onside kick and a 30-yard scoring pass from Donnelly to Marcus Ramacus to trim the Gaelic Knights’ lead to 34-28 with nearly eight minutes to play.
Ludden faced a third down on its own 38. Sh’ikem Lee threw deep, a jump ball that Joe Connor gathered in and turned into a 62-yard touchdown with 6:56 left. to clinch it, Tamir Rowser added a 35-yard scoring run with 3:04 to play.
Prior to that, the Gaelic Knights had controlled matters with its usual array of big plays. Se’vaughn Williams had scored on 51-yard run in the games’ opening seconds, with Lee adding a 12-yard TD scramble after Cato had fumbled the ensuing kickoff.
Even when Donnelly put the Blue Devils on the board with a 14-yard TD run in the second quarter, Ludden answered with more firepower, Connor catching a 41-yard scoring pass from Lee and then, on the last play of the half, stunning Cato with a 37-yard TD dash.
Up 28-6 at halftime, the Gaelic Knights cooled off in the third quarter, the Blue Devils closing the gap with a Harrison Sherman TD run before Rowser caught a five-yard scoring pass from Lee on the first play of the fourth quarter, setting up the wild finish.
No such drama was found when Jordan-Elbridge played at Port Byron-Union Springs – at least in the second half, when the Eagles scored all of its points to record its second straight shutout, beating the Panthers 34-0.
All through the first two periods, J-E and PB/US struggled through wet conditions. But as it turned out, it was a missed opportunity that turned the game around as the Eagles were stopped inside the Panthers’ 10 right before halftime.
Angry at not converting, J-E took the second-half kickoff and marched right down to the PB/US seven, where Dominic Walborn scored the game’s first touchdown.
Midway through the third quarter, Walborn made it 14-0 by throwing a 19-yard scoring pass to Hunter Brunelle. Then the Eagles made another stop, put together another scoring drive that Walborn capped with a one-yard TD drive.
All of this made it 21-0 in J-E’s favor going to the final period, and aided by Jeremiah Sparks’ second interception of the night, the Eagles scored twice more in the waning minutes, Luke Pinckney finding the end zone on a one-yard dive and 42-yard run.
At 3-2 on the season (2-1 league), J-E is second behind Skaneateles in Class C West and will host Southern Hills next Friday with a chance to clinch a sectional playoff berth. West Genesee will visit Corcoran, while Ludden visits a Class C team when it takes on Clinton.