Two weeks into the season, it’s looking like quite a turnaround from a year ago for the Owego football team.
Brandon Morris passed for three touchdowns and also ran for one, and Nate Bell rushed for 188 yards and two touchdowns as the Indians pulled away in the second half for a 41-14 victory over Windsor in a Section 4 Conference Division II contest Friday night.
Morris’s 25-yard touchdown pass to Dan Wolfe with 13.1 seconds left in the first half broke a 14-all tie, and Bell scored on second-half runs of 21 and 35 yards for Owego (2-0, 1-0 Division II), which struggled to a 3-6 campaign a year ago but thus far seems like a potential Section 4 Class B playoff contender.
Opportunistic in its season-opening 20-14 victory over Corning — benefitting from nine Hawks turnovers in that one — Owego was just flat out impressive offensively against the Black Knights (1-1, 0-1). The Indians piled up 463 yards of offense, including 291 on the ground.
They were particularly potent in the second half, seizing control with three scoring drives of five plays or less.
Leading 20-14 after two quarters, Owego needed just four plays to go 75 yards as Bell scampered in from 21 yards out to increase its lead to 28-14 with 10:33 remaining in the third quarter.
Windsor answered with a lengthy drive, reaching Owego’s 15-yard line. However, on fourth down from the 15, Black Knights quarterback Josh Cady’s tipped pass was intercepted by Wolfe at the 6.
Two plays later, Bell ripped off an 87-yard run to the Windsor 6, and Morris scored on a 2-yard run two plays after that for a 34-14 Owego lead with 3:20 left in the third quarter.
Owego’s final touchdown came via a five-play drive, that covering 46 yards after a Windsor fumble as Bell’s 35-yard run with 11:14 to go in the fourth quarter providing the decisive blow.
“I wish I could tell you what happened at halftime,” Owego coach Steve Virkler said of his team’s second-half dominance. “We talked about cleaning some things up, and taking care of the football.
“I thought early in the game (Windsor) controlled the line of scrimmage, but our guys played a lot better in the second half.”
Both teams moved the ball at will in the first half, with Windsor taking a 14-6 lead on Darick Bartlow’s second touchdown of the game, that a 5-yard plunge with 3:08 remaining in the second quarter.
It looked like Windsor might have the chance to build on that lead when it forced Owego into a third-and-10 situation at its 30 with just under two minutes left in the half. However, Morris dropped back, and tossed a short screen pass to Sean Smith.
Smith caught the ball near the Owego 35, waited for a few blocks and then shifted into another gear, speeding up the field past several Windsor defenders for a 70-yard touchdown reception with 1:26 remaining. Morris’s two-point conversion pass to Zach Thomas followed, knotting the score at 14.
“Sean made a great play,” said Morris, who completed seven of 11 passes for 172 yards. “I saw (Windsor tackle Mike Vaccaro), he was right in front of him, I kept dropping back and Sean moved over to the left.
“The offensive line did a great job up front, Sean just followed them and then ran into the end zone.”
Moments later, Owego would take the lead for good.
After Windsor failed to pick up a first down on its ensuing drive of the first half — Calvin Whalen getting stuffed for no gain on a third-and-2 run from the Windsor 42 — a bad snap over the head of punter Whalen’s head resulted in an 18-yard loss, giving Owego the ball at the Windsor 24 with 24.8 seconds left.
After a 1-yard loss on first down, Morris found a wide open Wolfe for a 25-yard touchdown pass to put Owego ahead 20-14.
“That stop on third down was big,” Virkler said.
Windsor gained 295 yards of offense, with Bartlow tallying 115 yards on 21 carries. But the Black Knights were plagued in part by three second-half turnovers.