October 24, 2014

Cortland saves best for last




Staff Writer

Jake Prignon saved the best for last Thursday night — both the last game of the Cortland High football team’s season and the last game as head coach of the Purple Tigers for Dave Darrow.
Junior quarterback Prignon completed 10-of-16 passes for 230 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions as CHS from the Section 3 Class A American Division downed visiting Watertown of the A National 32-22 in a crossover contest on a misty, cool night at Moiseichik Field to close out a 2-6 campaign.
The Cyclone went winless in eight games this fall.
“The line really stepped it up on the backside so I wasn’t feeling pressure, and the running backs and receivers ran great routes and helped out when I got in trouble,” Prignon said with a smile while clutching the game ball. “We knew there would be a mismatch on the right side, and coach Darrow called the right plays.
“The coaches have told me the last couple of weeks that they thought I’d break loose and throw well, and coming in told me that Watertown had a weak secondary that we could try to exploit. They got it right, and we picked on the secondary. I’d also like to give a special shout out to Anthony Ricottilli for his blocking and running, which helped my confidence and helped open things up.”
For his part, senior tailback Ricottilli was once again the offensive workhorse for Cortland, carrying the ball 36 times for 232 yards. That gave him season totals of 148 carries for 942 yards — the third-best single-season yardage total in program history — with six rushing touchdowns.
“I was really pumped that that happened; it excites me and is pretty cool,” Ricottilli said, “especially since I was able to do it in my last game. I didn’t know about it until today. I couldn’t have done it without the team, the blocking of the line and fullbacks Jonny Phillips (a junior) and Chase Bentley (a senior).
“Jake did a wonderful job, with five touchdown passes (to five different receivers, including Ricottilli). We had a great mix of running and passing, which really helps, and Jake threw a great ball.”
“It’s great that these kids get a game like this to use as a springboard for next season,” said Coach Darrow, who after officially closing out his eight-year tenure requested that his players be allowed to do most of the post-game talking. “They’ve improved and worked hard. The last half of the season they’ve gotten better every game.”
“Jake has too, and played great tonight. Dylan Brown did a great job of blocking to help out on plays that weren’t toward him,” he added, Brown a senior receiver and running back. “Anthony is beast, and I’m glad he got what he needed for the third-best yardage in a season. A lot of guys stepped up.”
Darrow finished with an overall record of 30-37, including 22-19 in league games, 1-7 in sectional contests and 2-2 in post-season crossovers.
THINGS DIDN’T START well for the hosts, who were stopped on downs at the Watertown 25-yard line on the opening possession of the game. The Cyclones then went 68 yard on eight plays to open the scoring, senior tailback Tyler Hooker covering the last 41 for the touchdown en route to his total of 163 yards on 26 carries with three TDs. Senior fullback Anthony Gouty ran in the conversion, and the Cyclones were up 8-0 with 4:41 left in the first quarter.
It took until 5:12 remained in the second for Cortland to answer, Prignon hitting junior tight end Connor Caughey with a screen pass that turned into an 18-yard scoring play, the conversion pass no good.
The momentum shifted the Purple Tigers’ way for good in the waning moments of the first half as sophomore nose tackle Reilly Brown blocked a Watertown punt to give the hosts the ball at the Cyclone 26 with 26 seconds left in the half. After three incomplete passes, Prignon found Ricottilli open on the right side in the end zone on a 26-yard scoring play to make it 12-8 at the half after another failed conversion pass. That gave Ricottilli a team-high seven TDs and 42 points on the season.
“In the first quarter we played well, came down and scored,” Watertown coach Kyle LaLonde said. “In the second we came out a little flat. They were able to expose some weaknesses. This is a young team, and a great group that’s played hard but unfortunately didn’t win any games.”
Watertown bogged down on the opening possession of the second half, but a chain of scoring drives followed. The hosts went 90 yards in seven plays on the ensuing possession, Ricottilli with four carries for 39 yards in that stretch and Ricottilli with a 33-yard completion to sophomore running back-receiver James Lane before that same pair capped the drive with an 18-yard scoring play, the conversion kick blocked to keep the score at 18-8 with 5:15 left in the third.
Hooker’s 15-yard run and a subsequent failed conversion run made it .an 18-14 game. with 2:36 left in the third. Reilly Brown then returned the kickoff to the CHS 37, and on the first play from scrimmage Prignon completed a screen pass on the left side to Phillips, who took it down the sideline and dodged tacklers for a 63-yard TD play, senior Aidan Stehm’s kick making it 25-14.
“We worked on the screen pass this week, and that scoring play from Prignon to Phillips was one of the top plays in my eight years here,” Darrow said with a smile.
Cortland senior lineman Nick Edmond recovered the ensuing onside kickoff at the Watertown 46, and two plays into the fourth quarter Prignon found wide receiver Stehm down the right side on a 29-yard scoring play, Stehm with the kick to make it 32-14.
HOOKER SCORED HIS second TD of the game from eight yards out and added the conversion run to make it 32-22 with 9:09 left, and Cyclones linebacker Devon Norman recovered the follow-up onside kick at the Cortland 47. The visitors got to the Purple Tiger 38 before Reilly Brown and senior linebacker Kaleb Wingard stuffed senior fullback Anthony Gouty on fourth-and-one.
A bad punt snap on Cortland’s next possession set the visitors up at the CHS 26, but they gave the ball up on downs at the 35 after holding penalty, defensive back Dylan Brown breaking up he fourth-down pass to give the winners possession of the ball that they wouldn’t relinquish.
Cortland ended up with a 452-233 advantage in total offense. Phillips was the top receiver with two catches for 74 yards and the long TD while Lane had three receptions for 51 yards and a TD. Ricottilli caught three passes for 47 yards and a TD, Stehm grabbed two aerials for 40 yards and TD and Caughey had the 18-yard TD catch.
Watertown junior quarterback Nick Lavin threw just five passes on the night, all of which fell incomplete.
Ricottilli was named Offensive Player of the Game for Cortland and Reilly Brown was the Defensive Player of the Game. Edmonds earned the Special Teams award and Wingard the Top Lineman award.
Darrow, who mostly avoided an attempted post-game water drenching from his players, was presented with a signed game ball by his team before the contest. The inscription read “You taught us determination. You gave us the skills to persist in life’s game, and for that we will always give our thanks for your total commitment, hard work and dedication over the years. We will miss you!”

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