By Rob Potter
KINGSTON November 16, 2004 The Class B regional football championship game on Sunday afternoon at Dietz Stadium in Kingston featured one-handed catches, spectacular runs, fumbles and interceptions.
As scores of fans watched from the bleachers on both sides of the stadium, the Section I champion Rye Garnets and Section IX champion Sullivan West Bulldogs gave it their all on the field.
After 48 minutes of competition, Rye (11-0) moved onto the state Class B semifinals with a 14-6 win over SW (9-1).
The Garnets will return to Dietz Stadium this Saturday to face Section II champion Ravena for the right to play in the state title game on Friday, November 26 in the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.
Sundays game, which had been originally scheduled to be played on Friday night at Dietz but was postponed due to Fridays winter weather, began well enough for the Bulldogs and the large group of fans who were cheering for them.
SW took the opening kickoff and drove 60 yards to the end zone. Junior running back Jimmy Erlwein capped the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run. Although the PAT kick by Joe Meyer came up a bit short of the uprights, the Bulldogs still had a 6-0 lead with 9:03 remaining in the first quarter.
On the sixth play of the Garnets first drive, a jarring tackle by SW strong safety Brett Youmans separated Rye running back Robert Nieves from the football. The Bulldogs recovered the ball and took over on the Rye 44-yard line.
SW was forced to punt after six plays, but Meyer was able to angle the ball towards the Garnets goal line and John Kitson downed the ball at the 3-yard line.
Two plays later Rye quarterback Jack Donnelly made a play that was perhaps the most important one of the contest.
On second-and-seven, Donnelly rolled out to his left. He turned the corner and sprinted down the sideline, outrunning everyone to the end zone.
The 94-yard touchdown run knotted the score at 6-6. Following the extra-point kick, Rye had a 7-6 lead with 1:56 remaining in the opening quarter.
On its subsquent possession, SW drove to the Garnets 7-yard line in 10 plays. But on first-and-goal, the Rye defense caused Erlwein to fumble the ball. Garnet defensive end Adam McReddie then pounced on the ball.
The Bulldog defense forced Rye to punt the ball after seven plays, which gave the SW offense possesion of the ball at its own 31-yard line.
On a third-and-13 play, Meyer tried to pass the ball to Scott Peters. But Garnet free safety Tim Monaghan stepped in front of Peters and made a diving interception on the sideline.
But mere moments later, the Bulldog defense came up with a big play of its own.
On a third down play at the SW 18, Peters intecepted a Donnelly pass and sprinted down the far sideline. As Peters ran towards paydirt, Ryes Steven Gulotta seemingly came from nowhere to make a diving ankle tackle on Peters at the Rye 38-yard line and prevent a potential touchdown.
The Garnets forced SW to punt after three plays.
Ryan Redmond downed Meyers punt at the Rye 5-yard line with 41 seconds remaining until halftime.
The Garnets gained 25 yards before the clock ran out and the teams headed for their locker rooms.
Rye scored what became the game-winning touchdown near the end of the third quarter.
The Garnets recovered a SW fumble at the Bulldogs 30-yard line with 6:51 left in the period.
A few plays later the SW defense forced Rye into a fourth-and-nine situation. The Bulldogs were able to bring a heavy pass rush, but just before any of them could sack Donnelly, the QB calmly zipped the ball to Peter Niehaus in the back of the end zone. Franny Archibald then kicked the ball through the uprights to give Rye a 14-6 lead with 3:06 remaining in the quarter.
As the contest moved into its final quarter, both teams had two possessons that were stopped by the respective defenses. The Bulldogs two possessions ended on an interception and a punt, while the Garnets drives were halted by a fumble that SW cornerback Corey Hornicek recovered and a punt.
With 2:50 left in the game, the Bulldogs had one final opportunity on offense. SW took over possession at its own 31-yard line after a Rye punt. The Bulldogs picked up two first downs and moved to the Garnets 19-yard line with just over one minute remaining.
But on second down, Rye free safety Steve Ramsey intercepted a pass that was intended for SWs Orion Darder. The pick set up the Garnet offense with a first-and-10 at its own 25 with 1:06 showing on the scoreboard clock.
Donnelly then took the snap from center and knelt down on three consecutive plays to preserve his teams victory.
These were two quality teams, SW Coach Ron Bauer said. In games like this with two good teams, many times the team that makes fewer mistakes wins the game.
Bauer noted that Donnellys 94-yard TD run changed the momentum of the game.
Momentum and emotion mean a lot in a high school game, the veteran coach said.
Donnelly finished the contest with 124 yards rushing. He also completed 5-of-8 passes for 61 yards. For his efforts, Donnelly was named the Offensive MVP during the brief awards ceremony that followed the game. Ramsey was chosen as the games Defensive MVP.
Rye held the Bulldogs to just 90 yards rushing and forced five fumbles. The Garnets piled up 256 yards rushing on the afternoon.
Bauer credited his team for an outstanding effort.
They played a great game and they have nothing to be ashamed of, he said.
Rye Coach Dino Garr was understandably very proud of the way the Garnets competed.
It was just a great team effort, he said. We had a great effort by Donnelly and a great effort by the defense.
There was a lot of hard hitting by both sides, Garr added. Give Sullivan West credit, theyre a great team.
The game was the final high school gridiron contest for several SW seniors. They are: Jared Carlew, Orion Darder, Mark DeCristofaro John Glassel, Corey Hornicek, John Kitson, Joe Meyer, Joe Murray, Steve Musso, Scott Peters, Ryan Redmond and Andre Trujillo.
It was a great season, Hornicek said moments after the game. We won the [Section IX] Class B championship and its the first Class B championship in our school.