October 1, 2014

Purple Tigers, J-D seek initial win

Staff Writer

Both coaches used pretty much the same terms in describing Thursday night’s Section 3 Class A American Division football game between visiting Jamesville-DeWitt and Cortland High.
“They’re a lot like us,” said Purple Tigers coach Dave Darrow, both teams 0-4 overall (CHS at 0-2 in the league) heading into the 7 p.m. contest that will be televised by Time Warner from Moiseichik Field. “They’ve struggled a little bit. I think it will be a good game; I don’t think they’re better than us.”
“Dave and I have always had competitive games over the years, and I would expect the same on Thursday,” said Red Rams coach Eric Ormond, whose team lost its only league contest so far 41-0 to ES-M two weeks ago, the Spartans then walloping CHS 40-12 last Friday night in their next game.
“The teams are mirror images of each other. We knew this was going to be a challenging season. We lost 18 seniors last year and have just eight seniors this year. We have 28 men in all, a few more than Cortland, but they have more seniors,” Ormond added.
The mirror images that Ormond referenced haven’t been positive ones. The Purple Tigers, already with just 26 men on the roster, have been slowed by a number of injuries this season. J-D, meanwhile, lost starting quarterback Nate Shapiro to injury in the first half against ES-M, with senior Joe Murphy (5-11, 185 pounds) under center since then.
Darrow said that senior Teddy Pristash and junior Kersean Perry, both of whom play wide receiver and defensive back, will not play Thursday night due to injuries. He noted that junior tailback/wide receiver/defensive back Dylan Brown and sophomore tight end/linebacker Reilly Brown will be available after sitting out last week due to injuries, and that the status of senior tailback/defensive back Nate Kinsey would be a late decision.
In addition, Darrow said that sophomore James Lane (5-9, 170), a JV callup, may see some time in the backfield as well as strong safety. Another JV callup who may see some time, Darrow said, is sophomore Ray Rogers (6-0, 200), a two-way lineman.
The backfield activity could mean that senior Anthony Ricottilli will shift back from running back to quarterback, where he was replaced during the last two games by junior Jake Prignon.
Ormond, meanwhile, said that “Nate was a great option quarterback, and now we run a Flex-Bone offense. Joe gives us an added dimension; while we lose the option, we’ve expanded our passing. But now we don’t use him on defense, where he was an outside linebacker, and that hurts us.
“Now Ernest Shaw (6-1, 225 senior fullback) is our offensive centerpiece. He’s our leading rusher, and everything centers around him. We also have a couple of good offensive linemen in guard Matt Schunck (6-5, 285 senior) and center Sam Griffiths (6-0, 240 senior), and a good receiver, Ben Wipper (6-0, 160 senior), who has a great deal of speed and had a 70-yard touchdown play with Joe against ES-M.”
“Their best player is the fullback,” Darrow said. “It should be a good game if we can stop him. He’s a linebacker and their best defensive player, too; they use a 3-5 defense and are pretty aggressive. Murphy’s a pretty good runner and throws pretty well, too. They have a lot of young kids all over the field, and their linemen are good-sized. They’ve lost some people and are some disarray, like us, but seem pretty solid.”
Oddly enough, the Purple Tigers’ injuries may prove to be a positive for them in one sense.
“Cortland’s got some pretty good weapons, but with their injuries we don’t know who’s healthy and who’s not, so it’s hard to prepare,” Ormond said. “Number 21 (Dylan Brown) is really athletic and can make people miss, and number 9 (junior Jonny Phillips) played tailback last week and fullback the week before. It makes it tough to plan with no sense of what we’re going to be facing.”
“We have to cut down on our mistakes,” Darrow said in addressing the keys to victory. “We had some penalties and lost three fumbles against ES-M. With all that, by the time we started to play better the game was out of hand. It will be nice to play a game without someone running over us like Riquelle Othman did.”
Spartan tailback Othman ran for with three TDs and 66 yards on just seven carries last Friday.
The winner of Thursday’s game will have a leg up on earning a spot in the Class A sectional playoffs, with all but one of the five league teams qualifying. ES-M and Fulton are currently 2-0 in the Class A American, while J-D and Oswego are both 0-1 and Cortland 0-2.
Darrow, however, looks at things from a different perspective. “If we win this game and then our last two (at non-league foe Solvay and league opponent Oswego) it will be pretty good after the way we’ve started,” he said. “We only have two league games left, and a win would make things easier in practice.”
“This is a crucial game,” Ormond said. “Between us, Cortland and Oswego, one will be the odd man out. The winner of this game will be in position to at least reach the playoffs. Like we told the kids, if you can’t get up for TV game with playoff implications, you don’t belong playing football.”
The Purple Tigers and Red Rams have played two common opponents this season. In addition to ES-M, both have also played Whitesboro. Cortland lost 47-7 on the road to open the season, while the visiting Warriors needed a late field goal to score a 24-21 win over J-D the next week.
In addition to the losses against Whitesboro and ES-M, J-D has also lost to host Indian River, 37-21 in the season-opener, and 40-18 last Friday to visiting Carthage, the defending sectional Class A champion. “That’s the toughest or second toughest Class A schedule in the section,” Ormond said. “We broke the schedule down into three parts — that four-game start, then the next three games as we compete to put ourselves in position for the playoffs, and then the playoffs.”
Ormond said that he only tallies up his team statistics at the end of the season. As for Cortland, Ricottilli is the leading rusher with 192 yards on 38 carries (5.1 yards per carry) with two TDs and has completed 17 of 29 passes (.586) for 164 yards (9.6) with two interceptions.
Prignon, meanwhile, has completed 14 of 41 passes (.341) for 175 yards (12.5) and two interceptions. Senior wide receiver Aidan Stehm is the main target with six catches for 123 yards (20.5), junior tight end Connor Caughey with 11 catches for 77 yards (7.0). The Purple Tigers have no touchdown passes so far this season.

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