It was an odd night for both teams in Friday's state quarterfinal football game between Dolgeville and Walton.
Walton trailed 7-6 for 5:09 in the second quarter after Dolgeville's Clay Ardoin took a handoff up the middle, but bounced it to the right for a 4-yard touchdown when the middle clogged up. Chris Robotham's point after accounted for the first deficit the Warriors have faced in the last 24 games.
For the Blue Devils, the Twilight Zone moment came with 9:16 left to play, looking up on the clock and seeing Dolgeville 7.
Sure, the Blue Devils were kept in check for most of their previous game against Watertown-Immaculate Heart Central, but their defense had done likewise to their opponent and helped keep a comeback possible.
With 44 on the other side of the board instead of 14, this one was over with more than nine minutes left.
Credit the Walton defense, however, not the offense that put up 401 rushing yards and scored six times on the ground. That offense and the special teams were, at times, responsible for leaving the door open for Dolgeville.
Walton's Bryant Mead fumbled the ball away on the Dolgeville 19-yard line at the end of the opening drive. On the second drive, Cody Reed fumbled the ball on the Dolgeville 14, but was fortunate enough to see teammate Cody Endress scoop it up and tote it another 12 yards.
The first Dolgeville touchdown was set up by a blocked punt as nobody picked up Paul Barnes on his sprint to Endress, who was back to take the snap.
The Walton ballcarriers were strong in the arms and shoulders and very strong in the legs, but at times, they seemed weak in the hands. That's a bad place to be weak.
Every punt return or kickoff return was an adventure, first while getting into position for the ball, then fielding it. Handoffs, too, were just a split second from becoming juggling acts.
It looked worse than it was, though. The Warriors ran the ball 57 times and fumbled twice, losing one of them. A botched catch on a punt return in the third quarter handed the ball back to Dolgeville, but as it had done before the punt, the Walton defense forced a three-and-out.
That defense held Dolgeville's workhorse tailback Clay Ardoin to 26 yards on eight carries and held the Blue Devils to just 2.1 yards per carry on their 18 totes.
If not for Michael Barnes' 90-yard kickoff return and late drive on which quarterback Zach Goyette went 3-for-3 for 59 of his 105 yards, the game would have looked downright ugly, all because of the Walton defense.
Now the Warriors are preparing for Section VI champion Maple Grove, big winners over Dundee from Section V. Walton is on the road again, but a defense like this brings home field advantage with it.
The game may have left an odd feeling in the stomachs of the Blue Devils, but Walton is now on a 24-game win streak and will likely finish the year at 26 with a state banner.
If you're going to lose to anyone, it might as well be the best, but that can't help wash that strange taste out of Dolgeville's mouth after a season of dominance.
Bill Cain is a sportswriter for The Leader-Herald. We invite your feedback on this or any other sports-related topic. E-mail your opinions or ideas to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.