By Rob Potter
ROSCOE October 9, 2001 Livingston Manor and Roscoe added another exciting chapter to their long rivalry Saturday afternoon.
A third-quarter kickoff return for a touchdown by Brian Ballard and two stops by the Roscoe defense allowed the Blue Devils to post a 21-20 Class D victory over the Wildcats.
Ive been coaching since 77 and this is the worst loss Ive had, Manor coach Scott Branning said. I feel like I left it all on the field out there. It was there for the taking twice and we didnt take it.
Branning was referring to two fourth-quarter Wildcat possessions that could have led to game-winning touchdowns.
As the third quarter turned into the fourth quarter, Manor (23, 01 Class D) drove from its 38-yard-line into Roscoe territory. On the sixth play of the drive, Wildcat tailback George Thomas took a handoff from quarterback John-Henry Schleiermacher on a fourth down play. Needing four yards, Thomas went off left tackle and was hit by a host of Roscoe defenders after running for what the Manor supporters thought was the needed four yards and a new set of downs.
But the measurement by the officials showed the ball to be approximately three inches short of the marker.
Roscoe (32, 21 Class D) took possession, but lost three yards on the next three plays and had to punt the ball back to Manor.
From their own 48, the Wildcats began another drive. Tough running by Thomas, who carried the ball 35 times for 245 yards in the game, and a fourth-down quarterback sneak by Schleiermacher allowed Manor to reach the Roscoe 26 yard-line as the clock kept moving.
Two short runs and an incomplete pass had Manor looking at fourth-and-6 at the Roscoe 24 with less than three minutes remaining. Schleiermacher was unable to connect with Thomas on a screen pass, giving the ball back to the Blue Devils.
Roscoe then ran off the final 2:31 to preserve the win.
The key was stopping those two Manor drives, Roscoe coach Fred Ahart said. Our defense came up big. Another key was Brian Ballard. He lines up in three positions, which makes him difficult to defend, and he had big plays from all three positions quarterback, tailback and split end.
While Ballard had two first half touchdowns, a 69-yard run on the second play of the game and a 15-yard quarterback keeper, his biggest play was his 85-yard touchdown on a kickoff return.
With 6:15 left in the third quarter, Thomas capped a Manor drive with a 10-yard touchdown run. Although the two-point conversion pass failed, the Wildcats had a 20-14 lead and momentum.
That lead only lasted a few seconds, however. On the ensuing kickoff, Ballard picked up the ball at the 15 before it rolled out of bounds and ran upfield. Ballard broke free from a couple of would-be tacklers and raced down the right sideline and into the end zone as the Roscoe players, coaches and fans yelled and clapped.
Ballard then held the ball as teammate Brandon Cheek kicked the ball through the uprights for a 21-20 lead.
We had trouble with their team quickness, Branning said. Ballard had a great game. Hes quick and we worked on stopping him all week in practice, but we couldnt do it.
Roscoe had just about as much trouble stopping Thomas, who scored both of Manors first half touchdowns. In the first quarter, he outraced the Blue Devil defense on a 67-yard burst and added a 12-yard run in the second quarter.
George Thomas is an outstanding runner, Ahart praised.
Although both teams will be focused on their next opponents Roscoe plays at James I. ONeill Friday night and Manor travels to Eldred Saturday afternoon they probably will remember this game for a while.
Weve always had a good, clean rivalry with Manor, Ahart said. It was a great game. It was a hard-fought game and kids on both sides deserve credit.