WATKINS GLEN – A game that was expected to be a battle between two potent rushing offenses became a passing contest thanks to adjustments made by the Watkins Glen coaching staff.
By forcing Groton to defend their passing game and start passing the ball on offense themselves, Watkins Glen reversed a 14-0 second-quarter deficit into a 28-14 victory Friday night at Watkins Glen High.
For the Seneca Indians, Owen Scholtisek had 12 carries for 100 yards and two touchdowns, Dominick Fazzary ran 14 times for 150 yards and a touchdown and had a sack on defense, and Travon Jones had 101 combined rushing and receiving yards.
For Groton’s Indians, Kalib Manning had 128 rushing yards, Jeter Neff had 111 all-purpose yards and Aidan Harriott had 33 rushing yards and a touchdown.
With Watkins Glen down 14-7 at halftime, Scholtisek scored the tying touchdown with 5:30 left in the third quarter, then scored the game-winning touchdown and two-point conversion with 9:50 left in the fourth.
After Groton turned the ball over on downs 10 yards away from the tying touchdown, Watkins Glen put the game out of reach with a 55-yard run by Jones and a 31-yard touchdown rush by Fazzary.
While Watkins Glen still ran the ball for most of their plays, and even though quarterback Cameron Holland completed just four of 10 passes for 44 yards, their play calling was enough to force Groton out of their defensive game plan and open up Watkins Glen’s run game even more.
Groton head coach Joe Manning said his defense didn’t adjust properly once the passing game became more prevalent.
“They opened us up a little bit, and we should have come up and played press man-to-man,” Manning said.
Forced into passing situations to try and get back in the game, Kalib Manning completed just three of seven passes for 41 yards, with two incompletions coming on fourth down.
It was a far cry from their first game against Dryden, in which they did not pass the ball once. Then again, they didn’t need to, as they won that game handily, 42-6.
“We practice passing, but we like to run,” Coach Manning said. “We’re big up front, but we went to spread…we fell just short.”
Kalib Manning took the handoff on the first play from scrimmage and ran 65 yards down to the Watkins Glen 1-yard line. After a delay due to the scoreboard malfunctioning, Harriott punched the ball in on the next play to give Groton an 8-0 lead.
The next seven drives between the two teams resulted in three turnovers on downs, two punts and two fumbles. Finally, with 4:49 left in the first half, on a 3rd and 15 play, Omari Riley-Israel recovered a fumble by Holland and ran the ball back 23 yards to put the Indians up 14-0.
Groton recovered another fumble on the ensuing drive, but Watkins Glen turned them right back over and drove 69 yards in six plays, capped off by a fouryard touchdown rush by Holland to pull them within one score and give them critical momentum going into halftime.
“They had the momentum swing before halftime, and we lost two key players on our defense, and that hurt us too,” Coach Manning said.
Those two players, Jayson Staton and Gaige Goodsell, should be OK to play their next game at 6 p.m. April 10 at Tioga.