By Rob Potter
KINGSTON The Eldred Yellowjackets’ 2009 football season ended on Friday evening at Dietz Stadium in Kingston.
For the Eldred players, coaches, cheerleaders, parents, teachers, staff members and community, it ended eight days too early.
Eldred’s hopes for completing the most successful gridiron season in school history by playing in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s Class D championship game at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse were dashed by the Moriah Vikings.
In Friday evening’s NYSPHSAA East semifinal game at Dietz, Moriah defeated Eldred, 22-13.
Section VII champion Moriah (9-2), which also won the Section II-VII-X regional championship, will play Section VI champion Randolph (11-1) this Saturday, Nov. 28 for the Class D crown at the Carrier Dome. Randolph earned its trip to the dome by defeating Section IV champion Groton, 61-6, in Friday evening’s West semifinal at Paetec Park in Rochester.
Moriah opened the scoring with 7:55 remaining in first quarter. On first-and-goal from the Yellowjackets’ 2, Wally Edwards followed the block of fullback Nick Gilbo and reached pay dirt. Ryan Mascarenas then converted the extra-point kick to give the Vikings a 7-0 advantage.
Eldred (10-2) answered early in the second quarter. On fourth-and-long, Bobby Warden punted the ball to Moriah. But the ball was muffed and Jordan Tice recovered it to give the Yellowjackets a first down at the Vikings’ 21.
Energized by the turnover, the Yellowjackets’ wasted little time in reaching the end zone. Running back Ian Halloran ran for a 21-yard TD on that first down play. But Gilbo blocked Warden’s PAT kick, which allowed the Vikings to hold a 7-6 lead with 10:20 left until halftime.
Eldred’s Bryan Henry stopped the next Vikings’ drive by intercepting a pass at the Yellowjackets’ 2-yard line when Moriah had a second-and-goal.
Eldred then drove into Vikings’ territory. A false start penalty on second down moved the Yellowjackets back five yards, which proved to be costly, however.
After an incomplete pass on third down, the Yellowjackets faced fourth-and-10. Warden attempted a 47-yard field goal which was online to hook just inside the left upright, but the ball landed just three yards short of the crossbar.
With 2:19 to go in the third quarter, the Vikings extended their lead to 13-6 as tailback Ron Schofield ran for a 23-yard touchdown. One of the Yellowjackets was able to partially deflect Mascarenas’ extra-point kick to keep it a seven-point game.
Eldred had a first-and-10 at the Vikings’ 35 with 41 seconds remaining in the quarter. But Moriah free safety Mike Speschok picked off a pass by Warden at the Vikings’ 5-yard line.
Moriah then advanced the ball to its own 41-yard line on a 13-yard run by Schofield.
On the next play from scrimmage, Schofield went up the middle and sprinted to the other end of the field for a 59-yard TD. Despite their two-point conversion attempt failing, the Vikings enjoyed a 19-6 advantage with just 10 seconds to go in the stanza.
But the Yellowjackets quickly answered the Moriah score. On the final play of the quarter, Henry connected with Matt Balcom for a 73-yard reception down the left sideline which gave Eldred a first-and-goal at the Vikings’ 2.
It took only three seconds off the fourth quarter clock for Halloran to plunge into the end zone and Warden to add the extra-point, which closed the Vikings’ lead to 19-13.
Mascarenas kicked a 22-yard field goal with 1:59 remaining to make it a 22-13 game.
The Yellowjackets’ goal of coming back to win was thwarted when Ralph Schofield intercepted a Henry pass at the Eldred 25 with 1:02 remaining.
Vikings’ QB Nate Gilbo then took a knee twice as the final seconds ticked away.
“It was a hard-fought game,” Moriah Coach Don Tesar said. “We scored first, but Eldred came right back.
“Eldred has a very good team,” Tesar added. “Their number 70 [Scott Hallock] is the best defensive tackle we have played against all season.”
In the postgame awards ceremony, Ron Schofield, who rushed 38 times for 261 yards was named Moriah’s Offensive MVP. Nate Bilbo, who made several tackles, was named Moriah’s Defensive MVP.
Eldred’s Offensive MVP was Halloran, who finished with 107 yards on 16 carries. Junior Dylan Kulik, who made 14 tackles, was honored as Eldred’s Defensive MVP.
Many of Eldred’s 12 seniors Berger, Halloran, Hallock, Travis Hay, Henry, Rob Morris, Billy McKerrell, David Mellan, Brandon Startup, Jacob Schoch, Zak Tyler, Warden have been playing together since Pop Warner football and it was hard for them to end this memorable season with a loss.
“We wanted to go all the way [to the Dome],” Berger said. “But Moriah was a good team and they played better tonight.”
“They are a very good team with a lot of tough kids,” Tyler said. “I commend them.”
Providing a positive example for his players and displaying a great deal of class after a disappointing defeat, Eldred Coach Frank Kean congratulated Tesar and all of the Vikings and encouraged them to go to the Carrier Dome and win the title.
“These kids played their hearts out,” Kean said of his players.
Although he would have loved to cap his scholastic football coaching career with a state title, Kean focused on the overall success of the season.
“I’m elated with the season we had,” he said. “We defeated Chester for the Section IX title and defeated Tuckahoe for the regional title.”
Notes: Henry completed 9 of 11 passes for 169 yards. On defense, he made 10 tackles.
Hallock had a team-high 16 tackles and a forced fumble.
Eldred student Alyssa Startup sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” moments before the opening kickoff.