By Rob Potter
KINGSTON November 9, 2004 The Bulldogs are still barking.
The Sullivan West football team continued its undefeated season with a 21-12 victory over Marlboro on Saturday night in the Section IX Class B championship game at Dietz Stadium in Kingston.
With the win, SW advances to the Regional championship game. The Bulldogs will meet Section I Class B champion Rye at 7:30 p.m. this Friday at Dietz Stadium. (Rye topped Sleepy Hollow 19-8 on Saturday in the Section I title contest.)
SW, which was ranked 11th in the New York State Sportswriters Association (NYSSA) Class B poll that was released on October 31, improved its record to a perfect 9-0. Marlboro, which was ranked sixth among Class B teams in the Oct. 31 NYSSA poll, ended its season with a 9-1 record.
The sectional championship was the first for SW since the 2000 season. The Bulldogs captured the Section IX Class C crown that autumn.
However, unlike most of their victories this season, the Bulldogs had to come from behind to earn the win against Marlboro.
The Iron Dukes won the coin toss before the opening kickoff and elected to receive the ball. After the staunch Bulldog defense forced Marlboro into a fourth-and-17 situation at its own 21, Austin Gerentine prepared to punt the ball to SW. But a low snap forced Gerentine to kneel down to grab the football and the officials blew their whistles to rule him down when his knee touched the 10-yard line.
The scores of Bulldog fans in the bleachers roared their approval for the play and the SW offense took over possession of the ball with a first down on the Iron Dukes 10-yard line.
But on second down, the ball popped loose and Marlboro linebacker Michael Crisci recovered it to give his team possession at its own 2-yard line with 9:56 remaining in the first quarter.
Marlboro then completed a 15-play, 98-yard touchdown drive. Quarterback Patrick Lobdell capped the drive with an 6-yard touchdown run, which gave the Iron Dukes a 6-0 lead with 3:07 left in the opening stanza. However, the subsequent PAT kick was wide left and the score remained 6-0.
After the Iron Dukes intercepted a halfback option pass to end the Bulldogs next drive, the SW defense forced Marlboro to punt.
The Bulldogs then drove 81 yards in 11 plays for their first score of the evening. Senior running back Scott Peters capped the drive with a 12-yard touchdown run and quarterback/kicker Joe Meyer gave SW a 7-6 advantage by splitting the uprights on the extra-point attempt as the stadium scoreboard showed 5:05 remaining in the second quarter.
The key play of the drive was an 8-yard run by junior running back Jimmy Erlwein on a fourth-and-short play near midfield. Faced with a fourth-and-1 at its own 47-yard line with about eight minutes left before halftime, the Bulldog coaching staff opted not to punt. Erlwein then took a handoff from Meyer and rambled down to the Marlboro 45 to keep the drive alive.
SW took its 7-6 lead into the locker room at halftime. And the Bulldogs did not waste any time adding to that advantage once the second half began.
Orion Darder took the kickoff to open the third quarter and returned it about 30 yards to the Marlboro 47-yard line.
Five plays later, Erlwein scored on a 4-yard touchdown run to give SW a 13-6 lead. Meyer then booted the PAT kick to make it a 14-6 game.
After each team punted twice, the Iron Dukes began a drive at their own 20 with 1:56 remaining in the third quarter. They then drove to the SW 27-yard line in 10 plays.
But on a fourth-and-two play, SWs Brett Youmans tackled Giacoia just shy of the first down marker.
SW then took over possession of the pigskin at its own 24 yard-line. The Bulldogs then chewed up nearly five minutes with a scoring drive. Erlwein finished the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run up the middle of the Iron Dukes defense.
Meyer added the extra point to extend the Bulldogs lead to 21-6 with 4:05 remaining in the game.
Peters then stopped the next Marlboro drive by intercepting a pass intended for Garrett Huyler at the SW 23-yard line. But the Bulldogs were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct on the play, which pushed them back to their own 8-yard line.
On first down, the ball popped loose and Gerentine caught it on a hop and ran 14 yards into the end zone. With the score now 21-12, Marlboro opted to go for a two-point conversion. However, Lobdells pass intended for Chris Gadzinski fell incomplete, and the Bulldogs still had a nine-point lead with just 2:12 remaining in the game.
Marlboro then recovered its own onsides kick, but the since the ball had not gone the required 10 yards, SW took over possession at the Iron Dukes 46-yard line.
SW senior running back Corey Hornicek then carried the ball four times holding the ball tightly with both hands on each occasion for 30 yards to run out the clock on the Bulldogs victory.
It was a good team effort, SW Coach Ron Bauer said. The offense played well and the defense was great.
The veteran coach noted that some quality play calling by Assistant Coach Chris Reichmann and a switch in the Bulldogs defensive alignment were key factors in the win.
Bauer explained that the Bulldogs began the game with a standard 4-3 alignment with their defensive linemen and linebackers. But later in the first half the Bulldogs switched to a 6-2 format.
They were running up the middle, he said. So, we moved two linebackers closer to the line.
Bauer noted that strategy allowed SW to counter Marlboros wedge-blocking scheme.
Erlwein, who led the SW rushing attack with 123 yards on 15 carries, was named the games Offensive MVP.
The holes the line made were perfect, Erlwein said. The linemen were great, we cant do it without them.
When asked about winning the sectional crown, Erlwein just smiled.
It feels excellent, he said. Its what we have worked so hard for.
Peters carried the ball 11 times for 73 yards, Steve Daley rushed 12 times for 59 yards and Hornicek had 33 yards on six carries.
As a team, SW ran the ball 47 times for 292 yards.
For Marlboro, Giacoia gained 133 yards on 23 carries.
Bulldog senior linebacker Steve Musso recorded 11 tackles and was named the contests Defensive MVP.
He noted that the SW defense did not worry too much after Marlboro grabbed the early lead.
We just stuck together, Musso said. The defense played well tonight.
Marlboro Coach Bob Koonz noted that SW was the better football team on Saturday night and described Bauer as a class act.
I have a lot of respect for Ron Bauer, his coaches and his football team, Koonz said. They are a great football team.
They just took us out of our game, they played tough, hard-nosed football, Koonz added.