Corning outlasted Horseheads 28-18 Saturday in a nonleague football game that was punctuated by mistakes and penalties by both sides.
Connor Jacobs threw three touchdown passes to lead the Hawks’ attack. Jacobs connected twice to Trenton Ray for 9 and 27 yards in the first half and hit Sterling France on a 42-yarder in the third quarter. He finished 6-for-9 for 95 yards.
Troy Mortimer ran for two fourth-quarter touchdowns for the Blue Raiders. Mortimer had a game-high 101 yards rushing on 14 carries.
Corning (6-2) will host Elmira in a Class AA sectional semifinal at 7 p.m. Friday. Horseheads (2-6) plays at Vestal in a Class A semifinal on a date to be announced.
In a game in which Corning was heavily favored, it was Horseheads’ inspired play on Senior Day that kept it in the game.
“I thought our kids came out and played their hearts out,” Horseheads interim coach Kevin Hillman said. “They went up there and put up a fight.
“That’s a really good team over there and I can’t be any happier with our effort.”
Horseheads finished with 265 total yards, 11 more than the Hawks. Trevor Dickinson completed 11 of 18 passes for 114 yards, including a 9-yard touchdown pass to Bailey Bourgeois.
The Blue Raiders held the Hawks to 159 rushing yards on 37 carries. Ty Timmerman paced Corning with 76 yards on the ground on nine carries. Austin Cates had 39 yards on 11 carries, including a 4-yard score to make it 28-12 midway through the fourth quarter.
“I thought our kids played uninspired from the beginning,” Corning coach Tim Hughes said. “That was your prototypical definition of a trap game. We talked about it and prepared for that all week.
“Obviously, we fell short of that. However, we are very pleased with a win, albeit, an ugly win.”
Corning could not get its potent offense in gear in the first half. It was Horseheads’ mistakes, two interceptions a fumble and numerous penalties, that led to all four of the Hawks scores.
“What hurt us today was the sloppy play,” Hillman said. “If we want to compete with these guys you can’t have those kinds of mistakes. It makes it really hard to overcome that and win a game.”
Horseheads had 12 penalties for 105 yards and Corning had 11 penalties for 75 yards.
The Blue Raiders were leading 6-0 with less than one minute remaining in the first half but the tide turned quickly.
Aided by Horseheads turnovers and penalties, Corning scored two touchdowns within 44 seconds to enter halftime with a 14-6 lead.
Corning’s first touchdown was helped by four Horseheads penalties, including a pass interference on a fourth-down play. Jacobs connected with Trenton Ray on a 9-yard pass in the middle of a crowded end zone with 45 seconds left.
In the waning seconds, Dickinson’s pass was intercepted by Corning’s Jordan Crusha, who returned it 31 yards to the Horseheads 27-yard line. On the next play, with eight seconds left, Jacobs aired a long pass to Ray in the corner of the end zone.
“Punching those last two in just before halftime was huge,” Hughes said. “That shifted the momentum our way.
Horseheads had two successive opportunities to score late in the second quarter, making good on its second chance.
After a Corning defensive stop on a fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line, the Blue Raiders answered with their own defensive play. Corning gambled on a fourth and less than one at their own 9-yard line. David Smith was brought down at the line of scrimmage by Nick Goodwin and on the next play Dickinson connected with Bourgeois at the 3:55 mark.
Horseheads engineered a 92-yard touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter. It took more than five minutes off the clock, leaving little time to erase the remaining deficit.