LAKE HUNTINGTON — In a battle of unbeaten teams, Sullivan West hosted Fallsburg in the Bulldogs home opener on Friday night. It was tightly contested through the first half, before the hosting …
LAKE HUNTINGTON — In a battle of unbeaten teams, Sullivan West hosted Fallsburg in the Bulldogs home opener on Friday night. It was tightly contested through the first half, before the hosting team pulled away in the second half to win 32-16.
Neither team found the end zone until late in the first quarter. The Comets had a big 67-yard touchdown catch and run with less than 2 minutes into the game called back by a late flag for holding. The penalty was assessed behind the line of scrimmage, turning a 3rd and 2 into a 3rd and 20 near the Comets’ end zone, leading to the drive ending with a punt.
Sullivan West was forced to punt on their first drive as well, before forcing another Fallsburg punt as the battle for field position began.
With 6:44 remaining in the first quarter, sophomore Jason Rodriguez fumbled the punt return to give Fallsburg the ball at the home team’s 27-yard line. The Comets failed to capitalize on this gift, however, as they moved backwards and went three-and-out before punting from the Bulldogs’ 43-yard line.
Senior Jakob Halloran set up Sullivan West with a big punt return to their own 39-yard-line. The home team capitalized on the strong field position with 4:14 remaining in the first quarter.
After it seemed like their drive had stalled out after a holding call on a Rally Cruz run, the senior running back took the direct snap on a fake punt on 4th-and-5 at the Fallsburg 44-yard-line. Not only did Cruz pick up the first down after catching everybody off guard, but he ran down to within the 30-yard line.
With the clock winding under 30 seconds to go in the first quarter, junior quarterback Adam Ernst ran the ball on a designed quarterback run for a 31-yard touchdown to finally break the deadlock. The Bulldogs converted the two-point conversion to go up 8-0 at the end of one quarter.
The two teams traded punts on their next drives, before Fallsburg finally got something going on offense. Aided by a roughing the passer penalty, the Comets got to midfield with seven minutes before halftime. Junior quarterback Nick Storms, after fumbling the snap, ran the ball 20 yards down to the Bulldog 30 following the penalty.
After moving nowhere the next three plays, Fallsburg now had a big 4th-and-10. They went for it and Storms found his junior receiver, Donovan Hart, five yards past the sticks before Hart ran the rest of the way to the end zone for a 35-yard touchdown. With 5:21 left in the first half, the Comets went for two and converted it to knot the score at 8.
Fallsburg attempted to keep momentum on their side with an onside kick, but Sullivan West recovered it. The Bulldogs were unable to capitalize on the good field position this time, though, as they went three-and-out and punted with 4:17 remaining in the half. Neither team was able to move the ball much on their remaining drives of the first half as it was still tied at 8.
Fallsburg began the second half attempting another onside kick, which was again recovered by Sullivan West. From there, the Bulldogs took the momentum back and held onto it. Cruz had a couple of big runs on the drive and a first down pass while in Wildcat formation on 4th-and-5 in the red zone, to Jakob Holloran. With 6:38 to go in the third quarter, Cruz ran in for the score from five yards out. The two-point try was no good, putting Sullivan West up, 14-8.
“[Rally] gives us everything,” Coach Justin Diehl said. “His heart, soul [and] body. He just runs so well and he’s just one of those players that you can only talk about in good terms. He’s such a good player and just keeps fighting.”
Despite a strong kickoff return to midfield, Fallsburg was unable to get a first down on their next drive. On 4th-and-1, Cruz rushed into the backfield for a big tackle for loss and a turnover on downs. The Bulldogs drove down the field and Holloran capped it off with a five-yard touchdown run. After the two-point try failed, it was 20-8 Sullivan West.
Fallsburg had the ball on their end of the field at the start of the fourth quarter. Storms fumbled the first snap of the final quarter, which Sullivan West recovered within the 30-yard line. Cruz then ran down to inside the 10-yard line before Ernst kept it for a 1-yard score a few plays later. After the two-point try was no good, the Bulldogs led 26-8 with 10:25 to go.
The Comets made the final score look closer than the game really was, with a solid final touchdown drive. Hart came up with another touchdown catch with 9:13 remaining in the game, and the two-point conversion made it 26-16. Sullivan West would recover another onside try by Fallsburg, however, and that would seal the deal. While the Bulldogs easily could have just run the clock out, Ernst found Halloran for a long touchdown pass to make it 32-16.
After Sullivan West picked off Fallsburg on the next drive, the Comets would still get the ball back one more time. On fourth down, who else but Cruz would come up with a game-ending tackle. Cruz ended the game with six tackles, including four of them for loss. On offense, he dominated with 200 yards rushing on 25 carries, which was good for an average of eight yards per carry, and two touchdowns.
“Huge league win,” Diehl said. “Definitely sets the tone for the rest of the season. We’ve got a stretch of league games here. We’ve got Eldred starred on our calendar [as] we know they’ve got a heck of a team. We know the job’s not done.”
Sullivan West is now 4-0 overall and 2-0 in league play, while Fallsburg is 3-1 overall and 2-1 in league play. The Bulldogs head to Grahamsville on Saturday to face the 2-2 Bears and the Comets travel to Rondout Valley in a non-league game on Friday.
“We know what we can do,” Scanna said. “We’re explosive, we’re tough. They beat us today.”
Scanna added that their defense played well, that they just had some lapses and a couple missed tackles.
“It wasn’t that we didn’t know what was coming,” Scanna said. “We knew where the ball was going, we had some good opportunities. We took some bad angles [and] missed a couple tackles, but it’s stuff we can fix. We’re a good football team… we’ll come back and see what we can do.”
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