By Perry L. Novak
Verona – Saturday afternoon Vernon-Verona-Sherrill’s football team beat an old rival for the second straight week. The thrill of victory is anything but old for the Red Devils.
“It feels great,” V-V-S’ veteran coach Gary Oliver said after the hosts rallied from a 13-0 deficit to win 14-13 on an afternoon that saw on and off rain. “(And) I don’t care how close it is at the end, as long as we’re winning. “We have some new guys this year and they’ve stepped it up.” Indeed. Ryan Palmer’s conversion pass to Henry Cleveland with 4:33 to play gave V-V-S (2-0) its first lead. It came after Chris Cable ran nine yards for a score to cap a 29-yard drive that Sean Galla’s interception set up.
“We came back,” Ryan Palmer said. “We found our groove and stuck together as a team.”
Camden, however, was the better team at the start. Coach Aaron Fiorini’s Blue Devils stopped V-V-S on the game’s initial drive then scored on their first minutes later. J.P. Musachio ran well behind strong line play to key much of the drive and quarterback Ethan Avard’s great fake on a handoff helped Brett Finch have a 20-yard run that also proved key. Avard capped the drive with a 1-yard sneak on fourth down. The PAT was blocked, so Camden led 6-0 with 58 seconds left in the first quarter.
V-V-S was stopped quickly on its next drive then averted disaster as a high snap was grabbed by punter Cleveland and booted it 40 yards. Clay Miller and Logan Carlson teamed for a sack to stifle Camden’s next series, but Ryan Palmer fumbled a snap on V-V-S’ next drive and Camden cashed in with a quick score.
Avard found Whitney Cook on a slant pass and the senior outran the V-V-S defense for a 75 TD play. Connor Hill’s kick made it a 13-0 lead for the visitors and things did not look good for the hosts with 6:21 to play in the opening half.
They looked a lot better when Cleveland and Mitch Debarr teamed up for the most dynamic play of the game on V-V-S’ next series. Forced to punt again, Cleveland saw the snap go over his head. He retrieved it and tossed a desperation pass to Debarr who juggled it and held on for a 17-yard gain and just enough for a first down. The drive ended with an interception, but it helped V-V-S get better field position and kept Camden (0-2) from scoring again.
The third quarter saw V-V-S facing a different challenge than in its frontrunning win against Oneida in the first week’s win. It was a challenge met quickly. The hosts held Camden to just minus-six yards on the first series then marched 61 yards for a score. Brandon Spaven’s 20-yard run on a reverse was the biggest play up to Ryan Palmer’s 17-yard TD pass to Logan Wendt. V-V-S caught a break as the pass went through a defender’s hands on the goaline, but the hosts failed on the PAT kick and trailed 13-6 with 5:52 left in the third quarter.
Strong running helped the Red Devils improve field position while the teams traded possessions that led to when Galla intercepted Avard with 5:22 to play. V-V-S hurt itself with a penalty after the interception but gained the yardage back when Ryan Palmer passed to Galla for a 19-yard gain to Camden’s 10. Two plays later Cable ran the ball in o get V-V-S within a point then Ryan Palmer found Cleveland open in the end zone for the go ahead conversion points.
But as V-V-S showed great heart rallying for the lead, Camden did likewise with a drive as time wound down. Musachio had a six-yard run for a first down then on fourth and 19 backup quarterback Dan Palmeter aimed for Cook in a crowd and wound up having Dylan Asch catching the ball just before it hit the ground for a first down at the V-V-S 28. Avard, out for a few plays after being shaken up on a third down play, tossed a shovel pass to Jake Brumber to get Camden to the V-V-S 14 with less than 30 seconds to play. Ryan Palmer followed with his biggest defensive play of the game by sacking Avard for an 11-yard loss. Camden had two plays in the final 9.8 seconds, but the V-V-S defense pressured Avard into an incompletion and a sack and the hosts had the hard-fought win they wanted.
“It stinks losing,” Fiorini said, “but you learn and you get better. It’s a process. We’ll get there. This team never quits.” “And give V-V-S credit. They played a good game.”
Cabel led a balanced rushing attack for V-V-S with 67 yards. Ryan Palmer was 6-for-11 passing for 97 yards. Wendt led the V-V-S defense with eight tackles.
Avard was 4-for-8 passing for 91 yards and Musachio led the runners with 34 yards and the defense with 9.5 tackles.
Camden 6 7 0 0 – 13
V-V-S 0 0 6 8 – 14
C: Ethan Avard 1 run (kick blocked)
C: Avard 75 pass to Whitney Cook (Connor Hill kick)
V: Ryan Palmer 17 pass to Logan Wendt (kick failed)
V: Chris Cable 9 run (Ryan Palmer pass to Henry Cleveland)
Records – Camden 0-2, V-V-S 2-0.