On a damp and chilly evening, the Purple Tigers managed just 107 yards of total offense — all on the ground — and while limiting visiting Jamesville-DeWitt to just 229 total yards fell victim to two long drives and two interception return touchdowns in what ended up a 25-0 win for the Red Rams at Moiseichik Field.
“In every game we’ve been right there in the first half,” CHS coach Pete Reif said, his team, now 0-2 in the Section 3 Class A American Division and 0-4 overall, having trailed only 6-0 at halftime on a late Red Ram TD. “We made some changes in blocking schemes at halftime and started driving the ball, but before that they scored another touchdown, we had to do some things we didn’t feel confident in doing and it put us behind even more.
“We had some open receivers some plays, but Zach was under so much pressure,” added Reif, senior Zach Travis the harrassed quarterback. “The were sending a lot of linebackers, blitzing, and he didn’t get much time. We didn’t have an answer for it. In the last two games Zach has been extremely limited (by injury), and this week he was almost a full go. But we’ve taken a lot of the plays he’s best at out, because he’s not ready yet.”
The weather lent itself more to ground games.
Travis went 0-for-6 with the two pick-six interceptions, while senior tailback Brandon Batsford led CHS rushers with 84 yards on 21 carries. J-D, now 2-1 in the league and 3-2 overall, picked up all but nine of its total yards on the ground, led by junior tailback Mike Anderson’s 87 yards on 14 carries.
Reif noted that the Red Rams’ inside linebackers, senior Connor Kinahan and junior Jordan Anderson (Mike’s brother), “really gave us problems coming up to play the run. I thought we’d be able to seal the inside run between the outside and inside linebackers, but we couldn’t get it done.
“Their outside linebackers (Mike Anderson and senior Casey Platenik), did a good job of forcing things back inside so our wingbacks (seniors James Lane and Kiegan Brown) couldn’t get outside. The middle linebacker (senior Matt Cappelletti) stuffed a few plays well and ran us down when we were forced inside.”
“I was really worried about their sweeps,” J-D coach Eric Ormond said. “Lane and Brown (who managed just a combined 30 yards rushing) are good runners. We made some personnel shifts because of injuries and other situations and I was a little concerned about kids in new positions, but they did a great job. I thought our cornerbacks, Trey Greene and Luke Smith, were good with run support. Mike and Casey gave us more speed on the edge.”
CORTLAND FUMBLED away the ball on its own 46-yard line three plays after receiving the opening kickoff, which tilted the field for a good part of the half. While the Purple Tigers punted on their next three possessions, the Red Rams lost the ball on downs three times, at the Cortland 27, 24 and 26, respectively.
After the hosts’ third punt of the game, the visitors started with their worst field position — their own 36 — and made it work, going 64 yards in 15 plays. After The hosts held on three plays from inside the five, the possession was capped by sophomore quarterback Adam Honis’s one-yard TD plunge on a fourth-down option play 1:06 before halftime, the conversion kick blocked.
The teams exchanged punts to start the second half (by which time the precipitation had topped) before J-D made it 12-0, going 68 yards in eight plays, the last of which saw Honis bash in from five yards out in a pile of players. His first conversion pass, to Mike Anderson, was successful but J-D was called for holding, and a subsequent unsuccessful conversion pass kept the score at 12-0 for J-D with 4:51 left in the third quarter.
“The first TD was an auto keeper and I dove in,” said Honis, who carried the ball 10 times in all on the night for 34 yards and the two six-pointers. “It was fourth down, so I knew I had to make it. The second one was an option play, and I fought my way in. I think I got a push from a lineman.”
Batsford ran the ball five straight times for 30 yards on the Purple Tigers’ ensuing possession, picking up two first downs, before an incomplete pass on fourth down gave J-D the ball back. The visitors bogged down near midfield, and a booming punt by Cappelletti was downed at the Red Rams’ seven. Three plays later a Travis pass was tipped at the line and snagged by senior linebacker Michael Crossett, who promptly took it to the end zone from four yards out to give the visitors an 18-0 lead after a failed kick.
CORTLAND WENT nowhere on its next possession, and three plays after J-D took over at its own 37 senior defensive end Reilly Brown forced a fumble that was recovered at the Red Rams’ 42 by senior cornerback Damon Carr. Two plays after that Greene intercepted a long Travis pass at the visitors’ 28 and returned it 72 yards for a touchdown, Cappelletti’s kick closing out the scoring.
“I grabbed the ball, got to the sideline, got some blocking and cut it back,” Greene said. “That’s the word. This is a confidence boost; after a tough loss last week it’s great to bounce back.”
The hosts then lost the ball on downs on their next possession before the winners ran out the clock.
While Cortland was idle last Friday due to Oswego’s suspension of its varsity team for this season, J-D was losing 36-7 to visiting East Syracuse-Minoa. The Spartans walloped Fowler 57-6 in this Friday’s other game and are now 3-0 atop the league, with the Red Rams next with their 2-1 mark.
The final three teams in the standings — Fulton (1-1 league), which Cortland visits this Friday at 6:30 p.m.; Cortland and Fowler (like CHS 0-2 league) — are battling for the league’s final two playoff berths. J-D visits Fowler at Corcoan this Friday starting at 6 p.m., and the Purple Tigers make that same trip Oct. 14 to close out the regular season, also in a 6 p.m. start.
As was the case last week, even J-D players knelt during the national anthem. Ormond noted that the reason they were free to do so should be an important aspect of any resulting discussion.