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Last-minute goal line conversion propels SW to 8-man final

Anthony Morgano
Posted 11/7/23

LAKE HUNTINGTON — The Sullivan West Bulldogs are headed to the 8-man Championship for a rematch with Pawling after the Fallsburg Comets gave the Bulldogs all they could handle.

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Dawg pile

Last-minute goal line conversion propels SW to 8-man final


LAKE HUNTINGTON — The Sullivan West Bulldogs are headed to the 8-man Championship for a rematch with Pawling after the Fallsburg Comets gave the Bulldogs all they could handle.

The “Friday Night Lights” game was held at the Sullivan West field with hundreds of spectators in attendance to cheer on their team.

Fallsburg held Sullivan West scoreless through the first half, but a strong second half performance by the Bulldogs gave them the 22-20 lead in the final minute of the game to propel them to victory.

The game had a little bit of everything, from great defense, even better offense, controversial calls and all the drama that spectators could handle as the teams battled in the 8-man semifinals.

“Hats off to Dom [Scanna] and the Fallsburg team,” Sullivan West Asst. Coach Justin Diehl said after the narrow victory. “I have a lot of respect for that team.”

The two teams battled once before in Lake Huntington during the regular season, and a strong second half garnered Sullivan West a 32-16 victory.

This game, however, was a much closer contest as the two teams gave every ounce of effort they could muster.

Sullivan West won the coin toss and deferred to the second half, meaning that Fallsburg would start with the ball.

Both defenses set the tone early, with the teams exchanging three-and-outs on their opening drives.

 After a second stop by the Sullivan West defense, the Bulldogs returned a punt to their own 37 to start their second drive.

They got the first forward momentum of the game, getting a first down at midfield before fumbling a pitch. Fallsburg recovered and started their third drive at the Bulldogs’ 48 yard line.

Fallsburg wasted no time, taking to the air on a 48-yard strike from Nick Storms to Donovan Hart for the opening score with 2:55 to play in the first quarter.

The Comets lined up for the extra point kick, but the attempt was blocked so their lead remained at 6-0.

Sullivan West returned the ensuing kickoff across midfield, but their next drive resulted in another punt, which pinned Fallsburg back to their own 8-yard-line.

Second quarter

As the quarter changed, Fallsburg was still deep in their own red zone. Back to back helmet-to-helmet personal fouls were assessed on Sullivan West, allowing an extra 30 yards in penalties to the Comets as they quickly moved the ball into the Bulldogs’ half of the field.

After getting down to the 29, a roughing the passer penalty was called against the Bulldogs, advancing the 

Comets into the red zone. Fallsburg took advantage of the additional yards as Jadiel Monche raced in for a score to make it 12-0. Isaiah Young converted the 2-point conversion to give Fallsburg a 14-0 lead with 7:48 left in the first half.

Sullivan West had a good look at the end zone before the half, starting a drive on the Comets’ 29 after exchanging punts, but an interception sealed the first half and the Comets kneeled into the break.

Third quarter

Sullivan West’s flat first half put them into a 14-0 hole, but they would start the third quarter with the ball. Adjustments and the brief rest made a huge difference as it took the Bulldogs just one minute and six seconds to launch a 56-yard touchdown pass from Adam Ernst to Jake Halloran. After converting the 2-point attempt the Bulldogs were quickly back in the game, trailing just 14-8. 

Fallsburg’s next drive was quickly stopped, and after a botched snap on the punt attempt, Sullivan West started inside the Fallsburg 30 with a chance to tie or take the lead.

SW got a first down at the Fallsburg 12-yard line, but a snap fumble sent them back to the 29 with a second and long. They were unable to overcome the 17 yard loss and turned it over on downs.

Fallsburg capitalized quickly, working their way up the field and leading to Hart’s second touchdown reception of the evening off of a screen to make it 20-8 after a failed 2-point conversion.

Sullivan West’s next drive was set to start at midfield after a great kick return, but a sideline warning and personal foul pushed the Bulldogs back 15 yards.

After a three-and-out, the Bulldogs punted down to the Fallsburg 20, where the Comets would start their next drive.

Dramatic Finish

The Comets ended the third quarter by advancing the ball to their own 49. After a false start, Ethan Dunn caught a pass and fought his way down to the Sullivan West 11 for a 38 yard gain.

A score here likely would’ve put the game out of reach, but the Bulldogs’ defense came up with a clutch stop to turn the ball over on downs at their own 13-yard-line with 6:45 to play in the game.

The Bulldogs started driving the field, and after crossing the 50, Fallsburg was flagged on back-to-back encroachment calls to give Sullivan West a free first down. From the 35-yard-line, a handoff to Rally Cruz in the backfield led to the bruiser building up a head of steam and scampering into the end zone with 4:27 to play. Fallsburg defended the 2-point attempt and the Bulldogs trailed 20-14.

An onside kick was recovered by Sullivan West, and Cruz quickly moved the ball forward to the Fallsburg 16.

A consecutive big gain was erased by a holding penalty, and a sack right after gave Sullivan West a 2nd and 27 at the Comets’ 34.

With the clock working against them, the Bulldogs worked their way down the field, getting a first and goal with 2:01 remaining.

After three consecutive goal line stands by the Comets, Sullivan West needed to burn their timeouts and were faced with a 4th and goal from the 1-yard-line with 35.7 seconds left.

The Bulldogs called for a run up the middle and, initially, the referees ruled that the attempt was short and that Fallsburg would take over on downs. But, after a conference, the referees reverses their call, giving Sullivan West the game-tying score. The Bulldogs converted the 2-point attempt to give them a late 22-20 lead, and victory.

Fallsburg received the kickoff and started at their own 15-yard line with 24.2 seconds to play. They attempted a pass down the sideline, but Sullivan West intercepted the pass and sealed the game.

“I think we played well enough to win,” Fallsburg Coach Dom Scanna said. “I’m proud of my guys and their effort. This was our last shot before being bumped up [to Class B, 11-man football next year], and we don’t have the numbers to move up. It’s tough as a head coach to talk to the team after this because the team didn’t lose this game.”

Diehl said, “We had a hard time sustaining a drive. It was frustrating.

 “Things started to go our way in the fourth quarter. We were able to utilize our speed option and get Cruz out in space, and when that happens, he’s hard to bring down, Diehl said. “Fallsburg is a great team, [Isaiah] Young is going to do great things, and Hart is going to be hard for teams to stop.”

With the victory, Sullivan West will be headed to O’Neill this Friday night to take on Pawling, who easily won their semifinal game 48-14 against Pine Plains.


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