NEW HARTFORD — “We’re a M*A*S*H unit.”
That was Cortland High football coach Pete Reif’s summation of his banged-up team’s state after a season-ending 56-0 loss to host New Hartford Thursday evening in a Section 3 Class B crossover.
“Because of injuries, we had more freshmen on the field tonight than juniors and seniors,” said Reif, whose team lost its final six games of the season to finish 1-7 overall. “It’s hard to compete when you’re forced to play so many young players. And we lost a couple more seniors who were banged up during the game, Ben Bushnell (cornerback-wide receiver) and John Reagan (wide receiver/outside linebacker). Every week we have a few new guys for each special teams unit; we do it on the fly. We constantly have to find someone to step in. We’ve had so many injuries the last half of the season.
“New Hartford had some momentum coming in; they won last week (40-15 at Mexico) and are healthy. It was the same with us last year; we came into the crossover (a home win over Camden) off a couple of wins and were getting healthier. This year it’s exactly the opposite with the losses and being banged up.”
The Purple Tigers, who wound up 1-7 on the season, were coming off a 56-10 to Skaneateles, the state’s top-ranked B team, six days before, and never got untracked against a fired-up Spartans squad that finished the season 3-5.
“We’ve been playing better football at the end of the year,” Spartans coach Jim Kramer said. “We were starting to get our health back, and our goal tonight was to play our best and see where it took us.”
One place the Spartans ended up often was the end zone, as they scored on five of their six first-half possessions for a commanding 35-0 halftime lead. Sophomore quarterback Tyler Potocki found senior Christian Taveras on a 35-yard pass-and run TD play, senior Chloe Elsenbeck with the first of her eight successful conversion kicks. The hosts recovered a Cortland fumble on the CHS 15-yard line three plays later, and two plays after that senior running back Blake Hobin went in from 12 yards out to make it 14-0 with the kick. Senior running back Ethan Kain’s 34- yard TD run and the kick made it 221-0 three plays into the second quarter.
New Hartford punted on its next possession, and then took over at the Cortland 27 after the visitors punted. After being stopped on downs, a fumbled punt let the Spartans keep the ball. Four plays later, Potocki and Hobin connected on a 34-yard pass-and-run TD play to make it 28-0. The hosts’ final TD of the first half en route to a 35-0 lead at intermission was on a three-yard pass play from Potocki to junior tight end Logan Kraft.
The Spartans received the second half kickoff and marched down the field for a 42-0 lead, sophomore Paul Circelli capping a six-play, 52-yard drive with an eight-yard scoring run. The subsequent kickoff bounced off a Cortland player and was recovered by the hosts, and seven plays later sophomore running back Vincent Fanelli went around the left side on a 10-yard TD run with 3:12 left in the third to make it 49-0.
At that point a running clock was implemented, and two plays into the fourth quarter, after sophomore defensive back Tyler Cole returned an interception to the CHS four, Fanelli went in from two yards out for the final margin after the kick.
New Hartford ended up with 390 yards of total offense in the truncated game to 100 for Cortland. Kain led the winners’ ground game with 137 yards and a TD on 13 carries while Potocki went 5-for-9 on the night for 127 yards, three TDs and no interceptions.
“It was our last game, so we gave everything on every play, and it paid off on the scoreboard,” Potocki said. “My receivers do a lot of good work; they got open and I got the ball to them.”
Senior running back Nick Bell was Cortland’s rushing leader with 24 yards on eight carries. Senior Noah Barber, shifted from running back to quarterback for the second straight game due to an injury suffered by starter Collin Williams, went 4-for-11 passing for 31 yards with one interception.
Reif noted that Barber, senior center/ middle linebacker Kirkland Case and twoway lineman Mike Millar, just back from an injury, played every down of Thursday’s game and every one that they played in. He said that senior two-way lineman BonScot Devlen played injured Thursday and was in for everything but kickoff returns all season long, and also praised senior offensive lineman/linebacker Matt Fernandes, who was unavailable Thursday but who he said was another individual who played every down.
“Our ninth- and 10th-graders have to get in the weight room,” Reif said. “Their bodies haven’t matured to the varsity level. Our off-season lifting program starts Monday, and I expect all our players are going to be in there.”