Want to talk bizarre? Check out the makings of Newark Valley’s 54-25 victory over the combined forces of Watkins Glen and Odessa-Montour in Saturday’s Section 4 Class C football semifinal.
Through one quarter of play, the Seneca Indians had snapped the football 22 times to zero for Newark Valley. Nevertheless it was a 6-6 standoff.
Late in the second period, the offensive play count read WG/O-M 40, Newark Valley 2 — yet the Cardinals brought a tidy little 20-18 advantage into the halftime break at Union-Endicott’s Ty Cobb Stadium.
The Cardinals then tore off on a spree of five successive touchdowns to blow this one open.
Ahead for eighth-ranked Newark Valley (8-1) is a second crack at Chenango Forks’ two-time defending state champions, noon Saturday at Binghamton Alumni Stadium.
The Cardinals closed with 374 yards of offense, and Brett Stewart with a four-TD afternoon to go with 106 rushing yards and another 31 receiving. He accounted for the Cards’ first three scores, every one of them a perfect kick in the ball-hogging Seneca Indians’ behinds.
WG/O-M opened play with a 16-play drive that covered 67 yards, gobbled up 8:05 and concluded with a 1-yard rush from Ryan Pruitt.
Eleven seconds later, Stewart was crossing the goal line to complete a 75-yard kickoff return aided by Nick Schermerhorn, who took out the last coverage man with a fetching block near the home sideline.
And so 6-6 it was until 2:35 into the second quarter, when Jordan Rappleye concluded an 11-play WG/O-M drive by rushing in from the 1-yard line— the Seneca Indians’ 27th consecutive rush.
Ah, but once again a mere 11 seconds expired before Newark Valley’s Stewart was at it again, this time eluding a tackle from Ryan Clark in the backfield, making his way to the guests’ sideline and sprinting into the end zone for a 50-yard score. The first of Conner Coleman’s six PAT kicks put the Cards ahead, 13-12.
Then, more of the same.
The Seneca Indians go 60 yards on 13 plays, last of which was a 19-yard rush on which Pruitt was recipient of a second backfield handoff and raced on a well-blocked path around right end. That TD, however, was followed by a third successive failure to convert for two points, and the lead was 18-13.
That is, for as long as it takes to say, “Stewart, again?”
Yep, this time on Newark Valley’s second offensive play, from its 48 courtesy of WG/O-M’s failure to convert an onside kick. Again left, again well-blocked to an available sideline. The 52-yard strike along with Coleman’s PAT put the Cardinals out front for keeps, 20-18 with 93 seconds remaining in the half.
Get this: Twenty-four minutes in, WG/O-M had run 45 offensive plays to Newark Valley’s five — yet trailed by a deuce.
“And out of those five plays, I think I missed three of them talking to my defense,” Cardinals coach Brian Sherwood said.
“It wasn’t that frustrating,” Newark Valley’s David Crow said. “We have a physical defense and we knew that if we could stop them, our offense could go down and score.”
Which is precisely how it went in the second half, beginning with an opening Newark Valley possession that wound up with Crow turning in a piece of David-on-the-Spot brilliance.
On a third-and-Washington Avenue play following 25 yards worth of penalties assessed in one fell swoop, quarterback Schermerhorn dropped, spotted Coleman deep right and delivered a ball for his man to go airborne and grab. Thing was, equally bent on grabbing a piece was a spot-on defender.
The ball was batted, perhaps by the defender or maybe by both, in the direction of a forward-charging Crow at about the 13-yard line. He thankfully pulled the free football from the air and continued forward for a score and 27-18 advantage.
“Nick threw it up to Conner and I knew Conner could get up to it, but if he didn’t, he was going to make sure the other guy didn’t come down with it,” said Crow, who also rushed for four gains of 12 or more yards in an 86-yard outing. “I saw the ball go up, my eyes got big, I got excited. I grabbed it and just went.”
As did his team as a whole from that point. The Cardinals scored thrice in a span of 3 1/2 minutes bridging the third and fourth quarters, last of those a 33-yard interception return on which Schermerhorn willed his way into possession of a 50-50 ball and dashed in on the second play of the final period.
Eighteenth-ranked Watkins Glen/Odessa-Montour wrapped up a 7-2 season with its third-lowest point total of a season that began with a 55-12 loss at Owego. Pruitt rushed for 112 yards and two scores, and Rappleye for another 84 and a TD.
As for next weekend’s game plan, against a Forks squad that dealt the Cards a 34-21 setback in Week 6? “Execute well and limit the mistakes,” was Stewart’s concise take.
On Twitter: @PSBKevin