Make it 0-for-3 for Tioga in consecutive Class D state football semifinals, with this most recent setback a perfect stunner.
Who’d-a-thunk Randolph 35, Tigers 6? Or that it’d be 35-0 until mop-up time? Or that Tioga’s initial first down would be gained in the third quarter of Friday night’s contest at windy, rainy Sahlen’s Stadium.
The reigning state champions from Cattaraugus County made it past Tioga for a second straight year in the semis, but this one bore just about zero resemblance to the 7-6 tussle the two waged in 2012.
Senior running back Chris Doubek rushed 30 times for 200 yards and two touchdowns, both coming from 16 yards out and logged 62 seconds apart in the opening quarter for the top-ranked Cardinals (12-0).
Tioga (11-1) closed with 156 yards of offense, 80 gained on its final drive against Randolph reserves. Jesse Manuel wrapped up a record-setting sophomore season with 118 yards on 18 rushes.
The first score came 3:41 into the opening quarter, and it was a 21-0 count eight seconds into the second. It became 28-0 and essentially a done deal when Lucas Brown rushed 9 yards for a TD in the final minute of the third quarter.
“It was almost like we came out flat. A couple big plays went their way early on,” said Carter Jackson, two-way senior lineman who — get this — was called upon to punt the football seven times.
“Once they got the momentum there in the first half and we lost it, it was hard to get it back. Field position played a role,” Tigers coach Nick Aiello said.
The same Tioga squad that had rung up an average of 43.4 points per game coming in was just plain stymied by a big and extremely fast Randolph defense.
The Tigers’ six first-half possessions brought 30 total yards and six punts by Jackson. Doubek, meanwhile, was busy rushing for 130 yards. Average starting point for those Tioga “drives” was its 24-yard line.
On the other side, Randolph set up shop at its 37 or better four times.
“These are two really good defenses,” Aiello said. “We knew how fast their defense was, we didn’t think we’d be able to bust long ones, it was going to have to be a game where we were chipping away 4-5 yards at a time and we didn’t do that in the first half. We did a little in the second half but not enough to put anything together.”
Cardinals coach Brent Brown said: “We’ve opened up our game a little bit through the year, and you can’t put that many guys in the box. They played normal defense in the beginning like we figured they would and we got a couple of creases. Field position was huge.”
Randolph’s third offensive play brought a 35-yard, tackle-breaking rush by Lucas Brown, and its fifth a 16-yard score by Doubek on which he started through the middle and subtly cut to his right along the way.
The Cards’ next possession began at their 43-yard line and featured a 41-yard Morrison-to-Nick Hettenbaugh pass play on which Morrison looped into the backfield and received a handoff from quarterback Mitch Maycock.
Again from the 16, Doubek ran inside and crashed through the last defender impeding his path near the goal line.
Randolph’s third possession started at its 37-yard line 6:25 into the contest, and 10 rushing plays brought the ball to Tioga’s 20 to open the second quarter. On second-and-11, Maycock headed right while surveying the situation downfield and delivered a strike in the end zone to an open Morrison — who made the catch while sliding his buttocks across the rain-soaked artificial surface.
Randolph 21, Stunned Tioga 0.
“Even though we’ve never been in that position, we’ve been coached up to always play as if the score is 0-0,” said Tioga senior Jake Howland. “That’s what we did, but, just couldn’t come out on top.”
The Tigers’ initial first down came on a 24-yard rush by Manuel to begin their first second-half possession. That drive reached Randolph’s 32 before Brad Jump was felled for no gain on fourth-and-1.
Randolph responded with a 13-play, 68-yard drive that gnawed nearly seven minutes off the clock and concluded with a 9-yard TD rush by Lucas Brown.
Asked if he was surprised the outcome was so lopsided, coach Brown said: “Yep.”
As for why that was the case? “I don’t know, I wish I knew the answer to that.”
The second-ranked Tigers, who finished with four first downs, have lost four football games over the last three seasons — three in the state semifinals.
Randolph will try for the program’s fourth state title in a nine-year stretch at noon Friday in the Carrier Dome against Chester, a 55-14 semifinal winner over Moriah at Kingston.