September 4, 2015
Roaring start for Purple Tigers
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Cortland High’s Dylan Brown, 21, breaks free from Westhill defenders for a 98-yard touchdown run in the second quarter Thursday at Moiseichik Field. CHS was a 26-0 winner.
Cortland High football coach Pete Reif sat in his office after Thursday night’s season-opening game with Westhill on Moiseichik Field, drenched.
It wasn’t because of the hot, muggy conditions under which the contest was played, though.
His Purple Tiger squad had joyously doused him with a water bucket after blanking their Section 3 Class B West visitors from Syracuse, 26-0, to give Reif a victory on his first-ever game as CHS’s head varsity coach ... on Time Warner’s first televised Thursday night high school game, no less.
“I’m pleased and happy,” he said with a wide smile. “It’s nice to see the kids work so hard, with the long practices, the constant physical and mental work, and come out and play so hard. It all paid off. We got the feeling that Westhill thought they’d have an easier game than they did. That happens sometimes when something goes bad and you have to dig out of a hole, which got harder for them the more success we had.
“We knew their quarterback was young and we wanted to put pressure on him, fluster him a little, and I think we did,” he added, CHS making this rough for Westhill sophomore Zavion Barrot “We also thought we could get around the edge, seal their defensive ends and get to the outside, but they they played pretty well and made it tough to do, especially 99 (junior Casey Rogers, the son of former SUNY Cortland men’s lacrosse coach Lelan Rogers). Once we double-teamed them we were able to get to the edge and use our speed.”
Cortland wound up with 306 yards of total offense to 291 for Westhill, the visitors picking up around half of their total once the game was pretty much settled.
Senior wingback Dylan Brown led the winners’ ground attack with 124 yards on five carries and a touchdown, that coming on a 98-yard jaunt in the second quarter that put CHS in control for good. Senior quarterback Jake Prignon went 5-for-7 passing for 93 yards, two touchdowns and a meaningless interception late in the third quarter, once the scoring was complete.
Defensively, inside linebacker Connor Caughey was a one-man wrecking crew with three sacks, a punt block that led to a touchdown and a third-quarter interception that drained much of what was left of Westhill’s hope.
Giles was the offensive leader for the Warriors, with 93 yards on 14 carries.
The shutout was CHS’s first since a 27-0 win over Fowler on Sept. 28, 2012 in a game played at Nottingham.
THE TWO SIDES battled on even terms in the first quarter until senior free safety Nick Craig recovered a fumble by Westhill junior tailback Shaleek Giles at the Cortland 48-yard line. Six plays later, on the first play of the second quarter, Prignon hooked up with wide receiver Craig on a 22-yard touchdown pass to the left side, Craig then kicking the extra point to make it 7-0.
The hosts were pinned deep on their next possession, starting at their own two-yard line after a punt Westhill senior Chase Gedney, but on the first play from scrimmage Brown took the handoff, got to the outside on the left and scampered 98 yards to the end zone, Craig’s kick making it a 14-0 game just 2:57 into the second.
“The linemen all had good blocks, Connor got a good block on a linebacker, (sophomore right guard) Jack Davie handled the free safety and I was able to get to the edge,” Brown said. “Then it was off to the races. I don’t think Westhill expected us to come out the way we did; it worked out well for us.
“We wanted to come out strong and make our families and coaches proud. We were able to get coach Reif his first win, on TV, and show what Cortland football is all about.”
Caughey blocked a Gedney punt after the ensuing Westhill possession, Cortland taking over on the Warrior 14. “It wasn’t just me on the punt block,” Caughey said. “(Junior defensive end) Dakoatah Miller, (junior inside linebacker) Colton Keating and I all came in from the left. Before that, on Dylan’s scoring run, a lot of their guys were arguing among themselves. I felt then that we had control of the game.
“We knew all of Section 3 would be watching the game on TV, and that if we came out and played well it would send a shock through the section.”
After a nine-yard gain by junior tailback James Lane and two consecutive procedure penalties, Prignon hooked up with junior wingback Kiegan Brown on a 15-yard scoring pass that made it 20-0 after the failed kick and ended the first half scoring.
“On film we saw that the outside would be open for us most of the night,” Prignon said. “”When they came up, we were able to throw it over them. We knew we were coming in as the underdog; we took that and rode it. We also knew if we came out hot that they’d get rattled. But shout out to Casey Rogers; he played hard. We’ve been friends since we were four years old.”
SENOIR OUTSIDE linebacker Jonny Phillips then snuffed a serious Westhill threat, intercepting a Barrot pass at the Cortland one-yard line with 3:43 left in the half.
The Warriors came out strong to start the second half, but Caughey intercepted Barrot at the Cortland 10 and returned the ball to the Purple Tiger 26. Lane capped a seven--play drive that was also helped by a personal foul on Westhill, going in from six yards out with 7:16 left in the third to close out the scoring after a bad snap led to a failed conversion run.
The shutout was preserved on Westhill’s last possession of the game. Senior defensive lineman Nate Martz walloped Westhill junior signal-caller Silvino Argentieri, who came on in the third after Barrot was shaken up, after a 23-yard run and junior defensive back Zache Fiene recovered the fumble at the Cortland four-yard line with 3:36 left. The hosts then picked up one first down en route to running out the clock to end the game.
“Give credit to Cortland,” Westhill coach Jamie Casullo said quietly after the game as his players filed off the field. “They did a great job, and are well-coached. We were outcoached, and outplayed. I didn’t do a good job, and I felt bad for Zavion; we put him in a bad position. But everyone has to step up and get better.”
“I wouldn’t say he was outcoached,” Reif said of Casullo. “He was the All-CNY Small school Coach of the year last season. “I think our players were prepared, and played the entire four quarters.”
Cortland next goes against defending Section 3 Class B and Class B West champion Homer a week from today on Butts Field in a 7:30 p.m. start. “It’s tough to play a Thursday game, but nice when you win and then have another day to prepare for your next game,” Reif said. “It’s nice to get Westhill out of the way, and we know Homer is good. Things are very positive with us right now.”
RADZAVIC HONORED: A pregame ceremony honored the late Jack Radzavicz, who coached football, baseball, boys’ lacrosse and golf and was also a physical education teacher and athletic director. Radzavicz, who passed away in July at age 77. Radzavicz coached the Purple Tiger football team for 13 seasons from 1967 to 1979, compiling a record of 69-40-2 with three undefeated seasons (1967, 1968 and 1976). Involved in the ceremony were his son Jay, his wife Maureen and their son Andy and his daughter Jill Ayres, her husband Kevin and their son Brendan.
To read this article and more, pick up today's Cortland Standard
Click here to subscribe