DRYDEN — Friday’s performance by the Dryden Lions was their best of the season in every way, shape and form.
But 13 seconds and one stop away from sealing their first victory of the season, Cameron Holland and the Watkins Glen Senecas spoiled the Lions’ effort, escaping with a 28-24 victory at Dryden High.
Down 20-16 with 6:59 left in the fourth quarter, the Lions were afforded terrific field position after a penalty for a hit to the head on Watkins Glen started them at the Senecas’ 43-yard line. They converted three third downs as part of a nine-play drive that took 3:43 off the clock, capped off by a 30-yard touchdown pass from Brady Rose to Mitch Shipman on 3rd & 19. Rose then ran a bootleg to the pylon for the two-point conversion that gave Dryden a 24-20 lead.
The Senecas, who had been moving the ball efficiently with misdirection handoffs all night long, started their final drive at their own 45-yard line after a 25-yard kickoff return by Thomas Snow. They paced the drive perfectly, needing to call one timeout en route to Holland’s four-yard keeper to the outside with eight seconds remaining that stunned the Dryden faithful, who had been looking forward to a performance like this all season.
“The type of offense they play requires us to be as dirty as possible on defense, playing down and tough and selfless football,” Dryden coach Justin Wood said. “Our D-line did that the entire night and we just try to do our best.”
The Lions could only return the ensuing kickoff to their own 19-yard line, and one incomplete pass as time ran out dropped them to 0-5.
For Dryden, Rose completed 10 of 18 passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns and rushed 18 times for 75 yards, Ryan Wiser had more than 100 combined passing, rushing and receiving yards and scored a receiving and rushing touchdown and Owen Humphrey had 15 carries for 63 yards.
For Watkins Glen, Dominick Fazzary rushed 19 times for 104 yards and two touchdowns, Owen Scholtisek rushed 15 times for 141 yards and a touchdown and Travon Jones had 65 rushing and receiving yards.
Rose, Wiser and Isac Stanton teamed up for some heroic plays to keep drives alive throughout the game. After Wiser scored the first Lion touchdown in the first quarter on a fourth-and-8 jump ball in the corner of the end zone, Rose tried a keeper to the left side for the two-point conversion, but the Seneca defense keyed in on him. Then he saw Wiser behind him and chucked the ball backwards to Wiser, who had all kinds of space on the right side to run in the conversion.
Stanton made four catches for 54 yards, including two diving catches for first downs, one along the sidelines and one across the middle of the field despite the protests of the Watkins Glen bench.
“One of our focuses every day is getting the relationship between our backs and receivers and quarterbacks,” Wood said. “We did some formation-specific things to put the ball in playmakers’ hands…as well as Ryan played, Brady took his first reps in the backfield since he was a sophomore. I’m just very happy with how they mesh and how much they leaned on each other and how much they trusted each other all the way through, and Owen…I think that’s the hardest he’s ever ran the ball. So I’m just really impressed with their ability to trust each other and move down the field and make play after play after play, whether it’s 3rd and 17 or 3rd and 1.
A far cry from the 30-plus point losses hung on them earlier in the season, Wood said even with the loss, this performance was emblematic of the progress his team has made as the season has gone on.
“I can’t be more proud in terms of what the guys have done in terms of progress this season,” Wood said. “I know we’ve had some tough weeks and some tough losses with a lot of situations that are out of our control, like injuries and quarantines and playing a game during spring break, but having them come together the way they did and fighting all the way to the end, and with a team on paper that probably should have beaten us by three or four scores, I think we can take that away and be happy with it.”
Having more healthy players was also a big factor in Dryden’s performance.
“We got a few pieces back, which is important in terms of being able to sub and be complete,” Wood said. “We also finally realized some of the potential we have in terms of physicality. This was the most physical game we’ve played. We’re going to be hurting tomorrow. I’m sure the Senecas are going to be hurting tomorrow as well.”
Dryden will finish their season at 7 p.m. Friday when they host Newark Valley