Connor Coleman’s first field goal conversion of the season came in Newark Valley’s first go at overtime and lifted the Cardinals past Lansing, 17-14, and into Section 4’s Class C football final.
Coleman struck from 29 yards on a fourth-and-2 play, aided by a bulls-eye snap from Blake Novi and sure-handed hold from Vinnie Darpino to conclude a fantastic contest at Alumni Stadium.
Quarterback Darpino sneaked across the goal line from the couple-inch line with 31.7 seconds remaining in regulation, and Coleman supplied the PAT kick to create a 14-all standoff. That concluded a 14-play, 81-yard drive set in motion after the Cardinals’ Jordan Sykora stopped Lansing’s Tim Kelley for a 3-yard gain on fourth-and-7.
The drive for the equalizer featured a dazzling 26-yard reception by David Crow, who went airborne between two well-positioned defenders and somehow came down with the football. The fourth-and-4 success brought Newark Valley to the 14-yard line, and Darpino’s TD came four plays later.
Lansing’s last-gasp attempt to avoid overtime darn-near succeeded. From the Bobcats’ 41-yard line, quarterback Max Jordan delivered a high-grade pass that Kelley was unable to catch up with at the Cards’ 30. Had Kelley gotten to the football, the play had touchdown stamped all over it.
Instead, it was on to overtime, for which each squad gets a crack at possession from the 20-yard line.
Lansing (6-2) took the football first— and something of an abbreviated mess ensued.
A first-down screen play went haywire when an offensive lineman’s instincts got the better of him and he attempted to haul in the pass. Penalized by 5 yards and loss of a down, Jordan again passed and this time the ball was intercepted by Nick Schermerhorn at the 19-yard line.
Newark Valley’s possession began with an incomplete pass, and back-to-back rushes made for fourth-and-2 at the 12-yard line.
It was CC time.
“I just tried not to think about it,” said Coleman, 0-for-2 in previous field goal tries this season. Last time he recalled attempting one was Week 3 at Greene. “I tried to just kick it and not think about anything else.”
“It went perfect,” Darpino said. “If you could write it up, that’s how we’d write it up.”
And so they celebrated passage through to next weekend’s final, which will bring a second matchup in six weekends with Chenango Forks’ defending state champions. First time around, the Blue Devils had the better of things by 33-7.
Darpino was his customarily productive self, rushing 24 times for 144 yards as well as defending in fine form. Similarly effective on the defensive side was fellow linebacker Dexter Hamilton, for whom the Bobcats had little answer in the first half.
Lansing running back Kelley had 111 of his 166 rushing yards in the books by halftime, and concluded his sophomore season with a four-figure total.
Each side’s initial possession of the afternoon was snuffed out by a wonderful defensive effort.
Lansing had fourth-and-3 at Valley’s 23-yard line, but Hamilton blasted through the middle for a 7-yard sack. Newark Valley (7-2) took over at its 30-yard line, and 13 plays later stared down fourth-and-goal from the Bobcats’ 9. Darpino targeted Novi on a post-bound pattern_ but Lansing’s Zach Detrick lunged to break up a pass for the second time in three plays.
A scoreless first half was headed off when Jordan-to-Kelley made for a 54-yard catch-and-run touchdown 65 seconds before intermission. Kelley made the reception on a dead run at the 22-yard line — after bobbling the ball tenuously for a few strides.
Newark Valley came out of halftime and dialed up misdirection runs thrice on a five-play scoring drive. The first went for a 32-yard gain by Crow, the second for 8 yards by Brett Stewart with 15 more gift-wrapped courtesy of a facemask grab. Crow supplied the points, taking another counter play to the right and cutting sharply up the middle to complete a 16-yard TD rush 1:41 into the third quarter. Coleman’s kick had the Cards up by 7-6.
Lansing, however, went into serious ball-control mode, going 80 yards on 15 plays for a Jordan-to-Detrick scoring pass of 10 yards with 2:43 left in the third. Biggest gains of the possession came on consecutive plays, a 17-yard rush by Kelley to the 30 followed by a 16-yard Jordan-to-Logan Osterman pass.
Newark Valley appeared in a spot of bother when a fourth-and-6 pass from punt formation fell incomplete and left Lansing possession at the Cardinals’ 36 with 10:10 remaining. But the ‘Cats managed one first down in a drive the fizzled when Darpino belted Kelley for a 1-yard loss and, on the next play, Sykora went low to fell Kelley from behind.
The Darpino-to-Crow pass play to keep Newark Valley afloat was time capsule-worthy, given its success under game-deciding pressure.
“Incredible athleticism, incredible play,” Cardinals coach Brian Sherwood said. “That’s fourth down, if he doesn’t make that play the game’s over. That was definitely one of the plays of the game. The defensive stand after the failed punt auto, that was another big one.”