By Ted Waddell
GRAHAMSVILLE September 23, 2003 In a non-league football game Saturday afternoon where each teams offense was led by a sophomore quarterback, the Bears of Tri-Valley took a 6-0 lead late in the first half.
But that advantage was quickly erased as Livingston Manors George Thomas high stepped it into the end zone and then added insult to injury with a two-point conversion early in the third quarter to give the visiting Wildcats a 8-6 lead.
However, after a touchdown by each squad and a T-V two-point conversion, the game was knotted at 14-14. A field goal by Alan Coombe midway through the fourth quarter proved to the difference as T-V (2-1) emerged with a 17-14 victory over Manor (0-3).
On Manors first possession, Thomas started to rack up the necessary yardage that by games end would see him break the 4,000-yard barrier for his scholastic career.
When the games statistics were totaled, the senior tailback had gained 209 yards on 21 carries, including two touchdowns and a two-point conversion. That gave the hard-charging Thomas a career total of 4,205 rushing yards.
Thomass 20-yard and 65-yard scampers into paydirt represented his 45th and 46th career TDs. On defense, Thomas, a linebacker, was credited with 10 tackles and a sack.
After the hard loss, Thomas lay on the ground crying softly as his coach talked to his team about the game and what they needed to do to turn the tide of loss into victory.
As congratulatory words flowed over his head, teammates and coaches comforted him until Manors star running back got his emotions under control.
With the Wildcats knocking at the door on the opening drive of the game, T-Vs Jim Walsh recovered a Manor fumble.
At their first crack out of the box, running back Dan Knox picked up about 35 yards for the Bears.
With approximately a minute remaining in the first quarter, a pass by T-V sophomore quarterback Joe Garigliano was partially blocked, but Knox managed to haul it in with a diving reception for a couple of yards.
Garigliano connected with Adam Whiteman at the 3-yard line, and with 50 seconds left in the first half, again hooked up with Whiteman to give the home team a 6-0 lead. The PAT kick was wide to the right.
During halftime, the T-V pep band and cheerleading squad put on a spirited performance.
Nine-year-old Ariana Kaminsky, a member of the Cheerbears, sparkled with enthusiasm as she joined the varsity cheerleaders. She is a fourth- grader at the local middle school.
The Bears first drive of the second half was stalled by a backfield fumble, a miscue that gave Manor excellent field position. On first-and-10, the Wildcats were pushed back by a 5-yard offsides penalty.
At the 10:59 mark in the third quarter, Thomas high-stepped into the end zone with a 20-yard run to tie it up at 6-6. He put the Wildcats up by two, 8-6, with a two-point conversion on the ground, as he rolled around the right on a pitchout.
The Bears battled back on consecutive pass receptions by Ryan Lazier and Walsh. A third down pass to Whiteman was incomplete and Manor defensive tackle Evan Irwin sacked Garigliano on fourth down.
With 4:56 remaining in the third quarter, Garigliano connected with Walsh to give the Bears a 12-8 lead. A two-point conversion by Walsh made it a 14-8 ballgame.
As the quarter drew to a close, the Bears defense sacked Manors sophomore quarterback Mike Perry, who took over the helm from Josh Mendesz. (In the Wildcats season-opener on Sept. 6 against Deposit, a Section IV Class D team, Mendesz suffered a broken ankle.)
A Manor punt was almost blocked, but the T-V defense was charged with roughing the kicker, giving the Wildcats 15 yards and a first down to start the final quarter.
On a fourth down situation, Manor attempted a reverse but was stopped, giving T-V possession of the pigskin on the 42-yard line.
Garigliano connected with Walsh, and on the next play broke some tackles on a run to take it down to the Wildcats 33-yard line after getting held up by a determined Manor defense.
Knox took it around the right down to the Manor 17. A couple of plays later, Thomas stopped him cold. On the next play, a miscue in the Bears backfield almost coughed it up, but Garigliano managed to recover the loose ball.
On a QB keeper play, Garigliano took it to the Manor. At the 5:27 mark, T-Vs Alan Coombe kicked the ball through the uprights, a field goal that gave T-V a 17-8 lead.
Less than a minute later, however, Thomas electrified the Manor bench and spiked electrocardiograms on the Bears coaching staff as he raced 65 yards for a touchdown to make it a 17-14 contest.
But the Bear defense stopped Thomas on the subsequent two-point conversion attempt.
In the closing minutes, the Bears got a significant first down as Garigliano hooked up with Walsh on a pass play to the Manor 15.
Back-to-back carries by Coombe and Knox gained a few yards, but on a fourth down situation Garigliano was stopped on a keeper around the right side. Manor then took over on downs deep in its own territory.
Garigliano intercepted a Perry pass near midfield with just 15 seconds remaining to end the Wildcats hopes of winning their first game of the season.
We got right back in it, but we let it get away again, said Manor Coach Scott Branning. It wasnt fun to watch . . . but they gave me 110 percent in the second half.
I think we have to get over making mistakes, he added. I just want to win our divisional games . . . were taking it one game at a time.
T-V Coach Dave Viglione said his team played against a tough rival.
Tri-Valley has played Livingston Manor forever. The kids know and respect each other, so they go at it real hard, he said.
According to Viglione, Garigliano showed a lot of poise in the pocket and Walsh had a standout day. The coach also praisied Whiteman for catching a couple of long passes.
Looking ahead to the rest of the season, Vigliano said, Its going to be tough [because] were experienced, but were young.
It everybody keeps improving in practice, then we will have more kids participating in the games. Thats what its all about.
Note: Manor hosts Chester at 4:30 p.m. Thursday in a non-league game. T-V will travel to Roscoe for a non-league game on Friday night.