By Rob Potter
LIVINGSTON MANOR An outstanding individual performance by senior running back Saxon Smith helped the visiting Chester Hambletonians overcome a 14-point halftime deficit and record a 49-34 win over the Livingston Manor/Roscoe Devilcats on Saturday afternoon in a Section IX Class D football game at Livingston Manor Central School.
Smith ran the ball 23 times for 469 yards and scored all seven of Chester’s touchdowns. The 469-yard performance ranks third in state history for a single game. Smith’s seven TDs in one game are second most in state history.
Smith ran for a 42-yard TD in the first quarter to give the Hambletonians a 7-0 lead.
With 10:48 remaining in the second quarter, he ran for a 3-yard touchdown to increase Chester’s advantage to 14-0.
But LMR (2-2, 1-1 Class D) got on the scoreboard on its ensuing possession. Mike Mills capped a 13-play, 84-yard drive with a 27-yard touchdown run. Kenny Fisk made the extra-point kick to cut the Chester’s lead to 14-7 with 5:39 left in the quarter.
Minutes later, LMR defensive back Chad Rosario stopped the Hambletonians by intercepting a pass near midfield and returning it to the Chester 14-yard line.
On the very next play, Mills ran up the middle for a touchdown. Fisk added the PAT kick to even the score at 14-14 with 2:37 remaining until halftime.
The Devilcats took a 21-14 lead just 35 seconds later when Fisk intercepted a pass and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown.
On the following Chester possession, Rosario recovered a fumble and returned it to the Hambletonians’ 31-yard line.
Mills then threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Troy Correa. Fisk booted the PAT kick through the uprights to extend the LMR advantage to 28-14 with 41 seconds on the clock.
In the third quarter, Chester (4-0, 1-0 Class D) wasted little time in evening the score. After forcing the Devilcats to punt, the Hambletonians needed just two plays to score. Smith took a handoff from quarterback Anthony Ognibene, broke a tackle near the line of scrimmage and then sprinted down the field for a 90-yard touchdown. Andrew Lakis converted the extra-point kick to cut Chester’s deficit to 28-21 with 7:51 remaining in the quarter.
Smith scored the tying TD on a 5-yard run with 2:52 to go in the quarter.
With 9:46 left in the fourth quarter, Smith scampered for a 78-yard touchdown to give the Chester a 35-28 lead.
After teammate Lawrence Young stopped the subsequent LMR possession by intercepting a pass, Smith scored on an 18-yard run. The TD and Lakis’ PAT kick extended the Hambletonians’ advantage to 42-28.
The Devilcats only needed three plays to answer, however, as Mills threw a 66-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Cummings. The Devilcats were stopped on the 2-point conversion, but they had pulled to within eight points at 42-34.
Smith scored what turned out to be the final touchdown of the afternoon with 4:05 remaining. On Chester’s first play following Mills’ TD, Smith ran to the right, turned the corner and continued downfield for a 56-yard score.
“I told our kids that they can’t get complacent when they have the lead,” Chester Coach Ron Stover said. “Livingston Manor/Roscoe has a very good team. We told our kids that all week in practice. Livingston Manor/Roscoe has very good skill players with [Mike] Mills and [Troy] Correa. When you have a team with good skill position players, they can score on you at any time.”
Stover noted that Smith and his team’s passion in the second half were keys to victory.
“Saxon Smith is an excellent running back,” Stover said. “We played the second half with a lot more emotion. We were up 14-0 in the second quarter and we got a little flat. We talked at halftime about how good LMR is and being down by 14 points. We came out and played with more emotion. Football is a game of emotion.”
While Smith had the majority of rushing yards for Chester, Ognibene, Michael Pia and Young also ran the ball. Ognibene carried eight times for 60 yards, Pia ran eight times for 40 yards and Young gained 22 yards on two carries.
Ognibene completed 3 of 8 passes for 37 yards.
Young caught two of those passes for 21 yards.
Mills led the Devilcats’ offense by rushing 14 times for 79 yards and completing 13 of 20 passes for 232 yards and two touchdowns.
Correa ran three times for 15 yards and Rosario carried the ball three times for three yards.
Correa caught a team-high four passes for 47 yards and a touchdown. Fisk had three catches for 56 yards. Fredenburg caught three passes for 60 yards. Cummings had one reception for his 66-yard TD.
Fisk and Rosario were the Devilcats’ leaders on defense. Fisk had two interceptions, returning one 60 yards for a TD and returning the other 55 yards. He also recovered a fumble.
Rosario returned an interception 35 yards and had a fumble recovery.
“We definitely have some work to do in case we see them again this season,” said LMR Co-Coach Fred Ahart, alluding to the possibility of the Devilcats and Hambletonians meeting in the Section IX Class D championship game in November. “Saxon Smith is certainly an outstanding running back.
“We have to feel good about the way we played in the second quarter,” Ahart continued. “Chester had the lead but we tied the game and then took the lead. But Chester deserves credit, they came back in the third quarter to tie the game and then took the lead in the fourth quarter.”