Story by Fred Stabbert III
In a fond farewell to a rain-soaked, mud covered field, the Millbrook Blazers upended the Sullivan West Bulldogs, 30-15 on Friday night.
The win propelled Millbrook (4-0, 6-2) to the top of Class C Division 2, earning them a trip to Dietz Stadium in Kingston on Friday at 4 p.m. to take on Liberty, the second seed from Division 1, in the semifinals of the Section IX, Class C playoffs.
Sullivan West (3-1, 6-2), which finished second in Division 2, will now face Division 1 champs James I. O’Neill at Faller Field in Middletown this Friday at 4 p.m. in the other Class C semifinal.
But the last game ever on the Millbrook field a new turf field is being installed for next year was closer than the final score.
“We knew we were going to be in for a war,” Millbrook head coach Sean Keenan said of playing Sullivan West in his team’s Homecoming Game. “Our double wing worked pretty well tonight.”
For the game, Millbrook racked up 356 yards rushing on 61 carries.
In an effort to keep the ball out of the hands of Sullivan West’s dangerous kickoff return team, Millbrook opened the game with an onsides kick.
The plan worked to perfection as Millbrook recovered the ball on the Sullivan West 40 and three plays later running back Henry Cardinal gave Millbrook a 6-0 lead.
Sullivan West bounced right back, this time recovering another Millbrook onsides kick to start a drive from the 40.
After quarterback Sawyer Erlwein dashed up the middle for a 25-yard gain, Sullivan West was faced with a fourth and goal from the 17-yard line.
Erlwein found Brad Hemmer in the corner of the endzone, and the senior wide receiver made a tightrope catch to tie the score, 6-6.
After an offsides by Millbrook on the extra point try, Erlwein ran a sneak for the two-point conversion and Sullivan West grabbed an 8-6 lead midway through the quarter.
Millbrook used its double-wing running game to march right back for a touchdown on a three-minute drive, to regain the lead, 14-8.
Sullivan West answered that score with a 52-yard drive of its own, capped by an 18-yard touchdown blast up the middle from junior running back Jared Meola. An extra point by Michael Sedlack made it 15-14 Sullivan West to end the first quarter.
The Blazers again returned the favor, engineering a 60-yard drive which ended in a four-yard pass play for a 22-15 lead with a few minutes left in the half.
Sullivan West would knock on the door once more, driving down to the 10-yard line with 1:17 seconds remaining in the half. But Erlwein was forced out of the pocket on a fourth down play and his desperation pass was intercepted at the 10-yard line to end the half.
Both teams tightened their defense in the second half, as Millbrook tossed a shutout and Sullivan West only allowed Millbrook one final score midway through the third quarter.
Sullivan West head coach Ron Bauer acknowledged that Millbrook was “a tough team.”
He was also happy to see his defense play better during the second half.
Bulldog assistant Kurt Buddenhagen said the team will now have to take it, “one week at a time,” referencing the upcoming playoffs.
Leading Sullivan West on offense was Erlwein, who rushed for 139 yards. Meola had 34 yards and a TD.
On defense, linebackers Erlwein recorded 21 tackles followed by Scott Erdman with 19 Hemmer, 14 and Andrew Stabbert, 13.