FONDA - An extended drive that came up empty proved to be the spark Cobleskill-Richmondville needed against Fonda-Fultonville on Saturday.
The Braves romped to 15 first-quarter points while holding the Cobleskill-Richmondville offense in check. Fonda-Fultonville punted the ball away on the opening play of the second quarter and pinned the Bulldogs on their 6-yard line. Cobleskill-Richmondville controlled of the ball for 10:35 with a 17-play, 81-yard drive that the Braves stopped on their 13-yard line.
The drive may have come up empty but it gave the Bulldogs the confidence they needed to rally from the 15-point deficit to defeat Fonda-Fultonville, 19-15, at John G. Boshart Field at Fonda-Fultonville High School.
Fonda-Fultonville’s Tyler Cranker (53) and Jake Sammons (17) bring down Cobleskill-Richmondville’s Seth Billington short of the goal line during Saturday’s game at John G. Boshart Field at Fonda-Fultonville High School. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)
"They definitely were frustrated and were hanging their heads but we have been in some games where we weren't even close," Cobleskill-Richmondville coach Ed Hantho said. "Yes, Fonda did a phenomenal job on their first drive, scoring eight points and we were kind of shell shocked. I told them we gave them a short field and they ended up scoring. You just showed that you can drive the field against them, we just have to finish. let's come out in the second half and finish."
The loss dropped Fonda-Fultonville to 3-2 overall but will not effect the Braves' postseason standings as they compete in Class C and Cobleskill-Richmondville (2-4 overall) is a Class B squad.
Fonda-Fultonville coach Tom Carpenter said, "We played a better first half and they played a better second half. You need to execute and block. I am not taking anything away from them, they played better than us in the second half and they deserve to win."
The Braves established their ground game on the opening drive.
Sophomore running back Pat Hart carried the ball six times for 66 yards on the opening drive that started on the Fonda-Fultonville 25. However it was a 3-yard touchdown pass from Russ Williams to Will Turner that put the Braves' first points on the board. Williams followed up his touchdown toss with a pass to Brandon Baker for the 2-point conversion and an 8-0 lead.
It did not take long for Fonda-Fultonville to get the ball back as Dom Neri recovered a Marcus Mack fumble on the Bulldogs' 20.
After a pair of runs by Hart, Williams found Kevin Twardzik open on the right sideline. Twardzik gathered in the pass, stopped short of the sideline, avoided a tackler and sprinted the final five yards for the Braves second touchdown in 68-seconds. Hart kicked the extra point, staking Fonda-Fultonville to a 15-0 advantage.
While both teams moved the ball, neither could find the end zone and with the Braves final drive of the first quarter stalling on the Cobleskill 32.
Opening the second quarter punting the ball, the Braves pinned Cobleskill on their 6-yard line.
Alternating quarterback between Mack and Seth Billington, the Bulldogs moved the ball and controlled the clock by running the ball on 15 of 17 plays in the 81-yard, 10:35 drive that stalled on the Fonda-Fultonville 13, where the Braves took over on downs with 1:25 remaining in the half.
"We were down there on the six and I was holding my head thinking 'what are we going to do to get out of this hole?' " Hantho said. "We just kept going. Obviously, we would have liked to have ended up in the end zone but it gave them idea that we can play with these guys if we keep the ball on the ground and we did that."
Cobleskill received the second-half kickoff and stayed with its game plan chewing up six minutes while driving to the Braves' 12 yard line, rushing the ball on eight of the 10 plays.
The Fonda-Fultonville defense came up with the big play when Ryan Derby intercepted a pass from Mack intended for Greg Phelan in the corner of the end zone, giving the Braves' possession on their 20.
The possession was short-lived as the Braves fumbled the snap that was recovered by Charles Sperbeck on the Braves' 18.
"We stopped them, then we turned the ball over first play," Carpenter said. "That turnover hurt us. When we stop them like that we need to drive the ball and we didn't. We gave the ball right back to them on the 20-yard line."
Six plays later Matt Davenport carried the ball around the left side for a 1-yard touchdown run and Matt Johnson kicked the extra point to cut the Braves' lead to 15-7.
The Braves were unsuccessful in moving the ball on the ensuing kickoff and were again forced to punt the ball away at the start of the fourth quarter.
On the snap, the ball sailed over punter Jake Sammons' head and into the end zone.
Sammons scrambled, recovered the ball and hit Cam Ives with a pass that came up just short of the first down marker, giving the Bulldogs possession on the Braves' 19.
Mack backed up a five-yard run with an 11-yard touchdown run to put the score at 15-13. The Bulldogs faltered on the extra-point attempt as penalties moved the ball back to the 26-yard line. Mack's pass attempt was picked off by Twardzik to keep the Braves in front.
The Braves started their next drive on their own 32 but on a third-and 10 play, Mike Green read a screen play and intercepted the pass from Williams in full stride and raced 27 yards for the go ahead touchdown. Fonda-Fultonville's Zac Nowak blocked Johnson's extra point attempt, keeping the score at 19-15.
"We have been scouting them and had seen that," Hantho said. "We yelled out to him [Green] to watch for the screen because they like to come to that side with it. He saw the way they set up with the linemen and he jumped it and made a phenomenal play to get it in the end zone."
Fonda-Fultonville began the ensuing drive on its 35 and featured Hart again rushing the ball five times for 23 yards and Williams hitting Twardzik with an 8-yard completion to move the ball to the Cobleskill 31 where the Braves faced a fourth-and-nine.
Williams dropped back and threw a pass intended for Twardzik that Phelan intercepted to give the Bulldogs possession on their 16 with 7:12 left to play.
The on the second play from scrimmage, Billington pitched the ball to Mack and threw a key block that sprung Mack for a 52-yard run along the left sideline.
"That big play by Marcus Mack to get us out of that end of the field was actually a wrong formation," Hantho said. "And he still made a great run."
After moving the ball to the Fonda-Fultonville 34, penalties moved the Bulldogs back to their own 45, setting up a third-and-31. Billington launched a long pass downfield that Sammons intercepted to give the Braves new live on their own 45 with 3:34 left on the clock.
The Braves quickly moved the ball to the Cobleskill 20 before the Bulldogs' defense dug in and stopped the Braves and took over on downs on the 19 with 1:08 remaining. Billington took a knee twice to lock up the Bulldogs' second win of the season.
"We have struggled all year long with injuries and getting in sync," Hantho said. "We knew if we wanted to play with these guys with the speed they have, we needed to go right at them. That's what we did. We have some rugged backs in the backfield so we decided to run right at them. We made some plays when we had to. There were some broken plays there where we made plays we needed to make."
Mack finished the game with 127 rushing yards for the Bulldogs, while Hart had 143 yards on 29 carries.
Fonda-Fultonville will regroup and close out the regular season next Saturday on the road against Voorheesville in a Class C South game, while Cobleskill-Richmondville will host Broadalbin-Perth in a Class B West game Friday night.
"Hopefully this will bring us together," Carpenter said. "You want to build on positive things instead of on a negative. We can go one of two ways - we can come together and take care of business next week, play better and hopefully that is the route we will take. We need to play together we cannot be yelling and screaming at each other."
Cobleskill-Richmondville 19, Fonda-Fultonville 15
Cobleskill-Richmondville0 0 7 12 - 19
Fonda-Fultonville15 0 0 0 - 15
FF - Will Turner 3 pass from Russ Williams (Brandon Baker pass from Williams), 8:15.
FF - Kevin Twardzik 11 pass from Williams (Pat Hart kick), 6:18.
CR - Matt Davenport 1 run (Matt Johnson kick), 2:18.
CR - Marcus Mack 14 run (pass failed), 10:22.
CR - Mike Green 27 interception return (kick blocked), 9:57.