By Rob Potter
KINGSTON November 12, 2002 Heading into Saturdays Section IX Class D football championship game at Dietz Stadium in Kingston, the Livingston Manor and Roscoe football teams knew pretty much what the other squads game plan would entail.
Based on their season tendencies and because they had just played each other the week before, the Roscoe players and coaches knew that the Wildcats offensive game plan would undoubtedly feature hard-running junior tailback George Thomas. Conversely, the Manor players and coaches figured that the Blue Devil game plan would utilize the talents of senior running back Brian Ballard.
But probably no one could have predicted how much of an impact Thomas and the Manor offense would have on the contest.
The Wildcats engineered three eight-minute-plus scoring drives to chew up both yardage and time. Thomas scored three rushing touchdowns as Manor posted a 26-7 victory to capture the Class D championship.
Roscoe (8-2) grabbed the lead on its first possession. After taking the opening kickoff at their own 32-yard line, the Blue Devils drove to the Manor 44-yard line in six plays.
On first down at the Manor 44, Roscoe lined up with a host of receivers to the right side. But instead of passing the ball, Blue Devil quarterback Justin Bowers gave the ball to running back Dusty Bury, who then scampered down the left sideline and into the endzone.
Bowers put the PAT kick through the uprights to give Roscoe a 7-0 lead with 8:11 remaining in the opening quarter.
From that point on, however, the scoreboard was all Manor (8-2).
The Wildcats responded to the Blue Devil score with a 15-play, 82-yard drive. Thomas capped the drive, which took eight minutes and eight seconds off the clock, with a 2-yard touchdown run to cut the Roscoe lead to 7-6. Bury, who also plays defensive back for Roscoe, deflected Wildcat quarterback John Henry Schleiermachers 2-point pass to preserve the Blue Devils one-point advantage.
After the Wildcat defense forced Roscoe to punt on its next possession, Manor took over at its own 12-yard line. Behind 10 rushes by Thomas, Manor moved to the Roscoe 14-yard line. Thomas then capped the drive with a touchdown run with 1:26 remaining until halftime. Once again, the Blue Devils stopped the Wildcats 2-point try as Tyler Schmidt knocked Schleiermachers pass away from Patrick Branning in the endzone.
Following halftime, Manor wasted little time in extending its 12-7 lead. Thomas capped a 15-play, 58-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown plunge. He then added the 2-point conversion to give the Wildcats a 20-7 advantage with just 3:36 left in the third quarter.
Manors Travis Morton completed the scoring when he ran 26 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
On that first series, we had a fourth-and-one that was a big play for us, Manor Coach Scott Branning said. We didnt want to punt the ball back to (Brian) Ballard. It was only half a yard and we knew George could get half a yard.
Thomas got that half-yard and five more on the play, which kept the Manor momentum alive and enabled the Wildcats to keep driving towards the endzone and their first points of the afternoon.
Branning noted that in the previous Saturdays contest between the squads which Roscoe won, 19-14, to claim the Class D regular season title the Blue Devil defense stymied the Wildcat offense. But that was not the case at Dietz Stadium.
All of our drives today were at least six or seven minutes, Branning said. In our offense, we are at our best if were moving the ball and taking five or six minutes off the clock. When we can do that offensively, then were cooking with gas.
The Manor defense also rebounded from the November 2 loss to Roscoe and coralled the Blue Devil offense.
We knew that Brian Ballard is a great back and has a lot of speed, Wildcat defensive tackle Remington Parker commented. We wanted to keep him from running north and south. We were able to limit him to running just side to side where he couldnt take off for a long run upfield.
Of course, Parker, who also plays on the Manor offensive line, and his teammates opened some great holes for Thomas. Because of his 207 yards on 41 carries, Thomas was named the games Most Valuable Offensive Player.
We all played 100 percent today, he said. When we play 100 percent, its tough to beat us.
As usual, Thomas credited his teammates for his outstanding rushing numbers.
They opened some great holes and I ran through them, he said.
Roscoe Coach Fred Ahart noted that the game was decided by two key factors.
Ball control and the fact that they controlled the line of scrimmage, Ahart said. They were able to control the clock and move downfield.
And they had two scoring drives in the first half. I dont think I have ever seen that before, where a team just has two drives in one half of play.
The Roscoe offensive attack was hampered by the loss of tight end David Eggleton early in the second quarter. On the fifth play of a drive following the first Manor touchdown, Eggleton caught a third down pass from Bowers near the far sideline. While being knocked out of bounds by a couple of Wildcats, Eggleton landed hard on the turf. He spent the rest of the first half on the bench and was later diagnosed with a broken collarbone.
It was (a) huge (blow), Ahart said. Im not making excuses, but Dave scored eight receiving touchdowns in the regular season. I feel bad for Dave.
Despite the injury to Eggleton and the defeat, Ahart noted that his team had a good year.
Im very proud of these players, the veteran coach said. They had a great season and won the Class D regular season championship.
For his pass deflection on the 2-point attempt after the first Manor touchdown and being in on several tackles, Bury was named the games Most Valuable Defensive Player.
With the win, Manor moves on to face Section I Class D champion Dobbs Ferry in a regional playoff game. That contest is slated to kickoff at 2 p.m. this Saturday, November 16 at Dietz Stadium.