GROTON – For about 14 minutes Friday night at Ross Field, the Dryden football team could do very little wrong, while host Groton dug itself deeper and deeper.
The Route 38 rivalry wasn’t looking like much of one when junior quarterback Trevor Gardner hit senior wide receiver Matt McHerron from 6 yards out to give the Purple Lions a seemingly commanding 21-0 lead less than two minutes into the second quarter. And on the ensuing possession, Groton faced a fourth-and-9 at its own 43-yard line and was set to punt.
Then, the game changed.
Punter Daimon Shoemaker gained 11 yards and a first down when he grabbed a low snap and took off running. One play later, junior running back Matt Gombas bolted 46 yards into the end zone to put the home team on the board.
That sparked what turned out to be a highly entertaining, back-and-forth affair, finally won by Dryden, 39-34.
“You’re down 21-0, and the kids could have folded,” first-year Groton coach Tom Goddard said. “But they’ve got big hearts and they came to play. I think we hit Dryden pretty good, and a couple breaks here and there and we might have had a win. But that’s a good football team, and they deserved to win. But I just really think the heart of a champion is in our kids.”
The Class D Indians (1-1 overall, 0-0 Section 4 Div. VIII) gave the Class C Purple Lions (2-0, 0-0 Div. V) all they could handle after their rough start. Groton actually took the lead, 34-33, on a 5-yard run by Gombas with 9 minutes, 20 seconds left to play and had a chance to retain possession when it appeared to recover an onside kick. But the Indians were flagged for offside on the play, forcing them to rekick.
Dryden took advantage, marching 57 yards in nine plays, the capper a scintillating 12-yard run by senior Stu Stahlman to make it 39-34 with 5:44 to play.
Groton had one more chance with the ball and threatened to score, driving as far as the Dryden 24 before the Lion defense stiffened and held on fourth-and-long. Dryden made a first down, then was able to take a knee and escape with the victory.
“Tough as nails,” Dryden coach Ralph Boettger said, regarding Groton. “They run three offenses, and they do it very well. And when we had a backup linebacker in when Stu was out, he (Goddard) found him right away. He’s very attuned to situations and personnel.”
Stahlman finished with 96 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries, and he added a 40-yard touchdown pass to Matt McHerron late in the second quarter to make it 27-8.
Gombas had 114 yards on 10 carries at halftime and finished with 21 carries for 177 yards and two scores. He also picked up a defensive touchdown, stripping the ball from Gardner and racing 25 yards for a score.
“He’s just a workhorse for us, and just a great young man,” Goddard said.
Utica Proctor 41, Ithaca 18: On Friday at Moresco Stadium, Utica Proctor (2-0) scored three unanswered touchdowns after halftime to break the game open after leading 21-12 at the break.
The Little Red (0-2), whose loss streak extended to 26 games dating back to September of 2012, was led by junior quarterback Turner DePalma, who threw touchdown passes of 28 yards to Lucas Greenspun, 47 yards to Dimitri Lopez-Robinson, and 7 yards to Jordan Ayers.
Greene 34, Lansing 6: On Friday at Greene, the Trojans scored two touchdowns in the second quarter and controlled the game.
Jordan Harrington made a one-handed interception at Lansing’s 40-yard line, leading to a 37-yard touchdown run by Joe Phillips.
Greene extended the lead to 22-6 in the third quarter. Sacks by John Hadac, Justin Carman and Dalton Brower shut down the Bobcats’ offense.
Junior back Tim Kelley led Lansing (0-2) with 123 yards on 15 carries, including a 66-yards TD run in the third quarter.
Newark Valley 54, Spencer-Van Etten 8: On Saturday at Newark Valley, Nick Shermerhorn recorded three touchdowns to lead the Cardinals to a rout of the Panthers.
Shermerhorn rushed for 75 yards and two touchdowns and threw a 26-yard scoring pass to Connor Coleman.
Jordan Sykora led the defense, forcing and recovering three fumbles, including a 25-yard touchdown recovery in the second quarter.
Ithaca 1, Vestal 0: On Saturday at Dick Hoover Stadium in Vestal, Ithaca extended its winning streak to five games by surviving its toughest test to date in a Southern Tier Athletic Conference game with the rival Golden Bears.
Coach Gilbert Antoine’s Ithaca squad (5-0) has blanked all five of its opponents this season, outscoring them by a combined 23-0.
The game saw back-and-forth action until the end of the first half, when Andrew Araneo blasted a shot from about 25 yards out, scoring the game’s only goal with 5:48 left on the clock.
Keeper Joe Pirc made six saves to keep Vestal in the game. The Golden Bears also had multiple scoring chances but were turned aside by Little Red goalie Kevin Klaben.
Ithaca travels to Binghamton on Monday, then hosts Corning on Wednesday. Both games have 7 p.m. starts.
Wayne-Finger Lakes Scramble: On Saturday at Red Creek High, Trumansburg’s Evan Whittaker won the grade 9/10 race (5K) in 17:23 seconds to post the third-fastest time of all competitors at the meet. The non-scoring event attracted a field of 26 schools.
Sam Ives placed 13th in the 11/12 race for the Blue Raiders, finishing in 18:37. On the girls’ side, Claire Melvin (21:26) and Megan McIntyre (21:56) placed seventh and eighth, respectively, in the 11/12 race. Molly MacQueen, in her first varsity meet, gave T-burg a sweep of the 9/10 races by winning the girls’ event in 19:51, the fastest girls’ time of the day.
Trumansburg opens its dual-meet season on Tuesday at Marathon.