By Rob Potter
KINGSTON November 6, 2007 For the Tri-Valley football team, it was a championship that was a year in the making.
“When we lost in this game last year, I told our players that they had to work hard in the offseason and that next season began today,” Tri-Valley Coach John Rusin said moments after Saturday afternoon’s Section IX Class C championship game at Dietz Stadium in Kingston. “We have a lot of three-sport athletes on this team and they gained a lot of valuable experience last school year as the basketball team won the sectional title and the baseball team played in the sectionals.”
The hard work and postseason experience in other sports paid off for the T-V Bears as they defeated the Sullivan West Bulldogs, 18-6, to capture the Class C crown.
T-V (7-3) will return to Dietz Stadium this Saturday to face Section I champion Dobbs Ferry (9-0) in a Class C state quarterfinal game. Kickoff is slated for 3:30 p.m.
The Bears took the lead less than two minutes into Saturday’s title contest. They received the opening kickoff and drove into SW territory in three plays.
On first-and-10 at the Bulldogs’ 42-yard line, T-V senior quarterback Charlie Edwards dropped back to pass. He saw senior wide receiver Kevin Drown running down the middle of the field a couple of steps ahead of a SW defensive back. Edwards threw the ball to Drown, who caught the ball inside the 10-yard line and ran into the end zone.
David McDonald’s extra-point kick was wide left, but the Bears had a 6-0 advantage with 10:11 remaining in the first quarter.
T-V added to its lead late in the second quarter. Senior running back Brandon Musa capped a seven-play, 40-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to give the Bears a 12-0 lead with 3:05 left until halftime.
On the subsequent two-point conversion attempt, SW defenders Mark Tesseyman and Mike Schmidt tackled Musa in the backfield.
The Bears did not waste much time in scoring their third TD of the half.
On the first play of SW’s next possession, senior quarterback Jim Moloney completed a 10-yard pass to junior running back Dan Figueroa. As T-V linebacker Daniel Byrne wrapped up Figueroa’s legs, Figueroa tried to break free and gain some extra yards.
Musa then ripped the ball out of Figueroa’s hands and took off towards the end zone. No one could catch Musa before he reached paydirt to score on a 36-yard fumble return.
Bulldog defensive back Brad Reimer knocked the ball away from the intended Bear receiver on the two-point attempt. Despite Reimer’s great play, T-V enjoyed an 18-0 lead with 2:44 left until halftime.
Figueroa gave the SW fans reason to cheer when he returned the subsequent kickoff 84 yards for a touchdown. But those cheers quickly turned to groans as the TD was called back on a holding penalty.
The Bulldogs managed to score before the first half ended, however. After the holding penalty, SW took possession at its own 32-yard line. Moloney directed a 68-yard scoring drive in the next two minutes. He capped the drive with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Reimer with 28 seconds displayed on the scoreboard.
Artie Norden’s PAT kick sailed wide left, but the Bulldogs had closed the T-V advantage to 18-6.
SW seemingly narrowed its deficit again during its drive to open the third quarter. After Reimer’s 49-yard kickoff return set up the Bulldogs at the T-V 31-yard line, they quickly moved closer to the end zone.
On first-and-goal at the 8, Moloney ran up the middle for a touchdown. But the score was called back because of a holding penalty. SW lost yardage on the next two plays and was then flagged for illegal procedure.
Following two incomplete passes, T-V took over possession on its own 29-yard line.
“Those penalties really hurt us,” SW Coach Ron Bauer said. “Assistant Coach Matt Buddenhagen called some good plays, but they were called back on the penalties.
“Penalties hurt us the entire game,” Bauer added. “We had those two touchdowns called back on penalties.”
The T-V defense also hurt the Bulldogs. The Bears sacked Moloney six times and only gave up one TD in the contest.
Rusin noted that a few key plays made the difference for his team, including the touchdown pass from Edwards to Drown and Musa’s fumble return for a TD.
“That first touchdown was huge,” Rusin said. “It gave us some momentum to start the game. Charlie made a great throw and Kevin made a great catch.
“Brendan’s fumble recovery for a touchdown was big,” Rusin added. “He’s a very smart football player and made a heady play.”
“I’m proud of all of our players,” Rusin concluded. “They played a great game.”
Byrne rushed 15 times for a team-high 76 yards, while Musa carried the ball 16 times for 68 yards.
Garrett Grey, who is one of the Bears’ offensive linemen, lined up in the backfield for a few plays. He gained 46 yards on four carries.
Edwards completed 2-of-3 passes for 47 yards.
Leading the Bears’ defense were Bo Murphy, Grey and Kirk Daroci. Murphy had three sacks and nine tackles, Grey made two sacks and Daroci had one sack.
At the postgame awards ceremony, Moloney and Murphy were honored for their individual efforts. Moloney, who ran and passed for more than 200 yards, was named the Offensive Most Valuable Player of the game. Murphy was named the Defensive Most Valuable Player of the game for his aforementioned tackles and quarterback sacks.
“Our defensive line and secondary really played well,” Murphy commented. “And our linebackers Nick Cassidy, Garrett Grey and Brendan Musa were all over the place making tackles.
“Tanzeel Kahn was a beast, he played a great game,” Murphy said of his fellow senior defensive tackle. “I wish I could share this award with him.”
While he was excited to win the Defensive Most Valuable Player award, Murphy was even happier about the team’s win.
“We all worked so hard for this,” he said. “At the beginning of the season, our goal was to get to Dietz. It’s very exciting to win this game.”
Edwards echoed Murphy’s sentiments.
“It’s just an amazing feeling to win this championship,” Edwards said. “All of the seniors have been playing together since the seventh grade.”