UTICA, NY– At D’Alessandro Field on Saturday, the Proctor Raiders and Central Square Red Hawks played in very humid conditions. Their game would come down to who wilted first in the Utica sun.
Raiders head coach Steve Strife made sure during the week it was not his Proctor team.
“I told them all week that our conditioning was going to be very important,” Strife said. “It was a brawl…they knocked us around, we knocked them around.”
In the end, the Raiders (2-0) would not wilt under the pressure, as Jamarious Morgan accounted for four of Proctor’s touchdowns in the 42-28 victory.
The scoring would start from the very first play of the game. It would only take Morgan one play and 14 seconds to cross the goal line. His 68-yard scamper gave the Raiders a very quick 7-0 lead.
The Red Hawks (0-2) would not go away so easily, however. Central Square would employ the opposite tactic on their first possession: grinding out yards and time on the clock. Led by quarterback Dante Rogers and running backs Casey Brennan and Jamie Battaglia, the Red Hawks went on a 15-play, 65-yard drive that took up over half of the first quarter. Finally, Isaac Havens would bull his way in from one yard out to put the Red Hawks ahead, 8-7.
The Raiders came back with the same tactic, using Morgan, along with a slew of other running backs, to go on a 13-play, 65-yard drive that ate up the rest of the quarter and a little bit of the second quarter as well. The scoring play would not come from any of the running backs the Raiders employ, but quarterback Logan Wilcox. His dive up the middle would put the Raiders up 14-8 only four seconds into the fourth quarter.
Another 12-play grind by the Red Hawks, aided by two Proctor penalties, would set them up in perfect field position, and Brennan would take advantage quickly. Brennan would score from four yards out to keep the pressure on the Raiders, tying the score at 14.
However, the sword swung both ways regarding the yellow flag for the Red Hawks. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Central Square turned what would have been a do-or-die situation for the Raiders into prime field position, and Morgan would take advantage again. After the penalty was walked off, Morgan would take the ball the rest of the way to put the Raiders ahead 21-14 nearing the end of the half.
Another grind toward the end zone for Central Square was thwarted when Proctor’s Mike Boyer who picked off a Dante Rogers pass near the Raiders goal line. Rogers would return the favor with a pick of his own with four seconds left in the half, however, a hard hit by a Proctor player left Rogers on the ground for several minutes and left the Central Square faithful holding their breath. Rogers would get up and walk to the sideline under his own power, however, he would not return to the game.
The Jamarious Morgan Show continued after the halftime break, as he would score his other two touchdowns of the game. The first one would come on a 10-play drive that would start on the Raiders’ seven-yard line. Aided by a Central Square horse collar penalty, Morgan would find the end zone on a six-yard run.
It would only take four plays for Morgan to get his second. On a Red Hawks’ punt, Morgan would take the ball back 51 yards to put the Raiders up 35-14 late in the third quarter.
The Red Hawks were determined to make a comeback, and in the fourth quarter, they almost did just that. Just four minutes into the quarter, aided by yet another flag, this time on the Raiders for unsportsmanlike conduct, Joe Weaver snuck into the end zone from six yards out to bring the Red Hawks to within three touchdowns and instill hope in the Central Square faithful.
That hope was quickly extinguished on the ensuing kickoff, not by Morgan, but by senior Todd Manolescu. The Notre Dame transfer took the squib kick back 49 yards to put the game away for the Raiders.
Weaver would score one more time for the Red Hawks, but it was too little, too late, as the Raiders would keep the ball on the ground, running out the clock and leaving with the victory.
When asked about his Red Hawks wearing down in the latter part of the game, Central Square (0-2) head coach Matt DiCarlo thought his players actually had the Raiders on the ropes.
“I don’t think we wore down, we wore them down,” DiCarlo said of his Red Hawks, who head back on the road next Friday to face Carthage. “We played gutty, hard, and that’s what I expected of them. It was a very good high school football game.”
When asked about the penalties, at least two of which led almost immediately to scores, DiCarlo declined comment, but Strife was complimentary about the officiating crew.
“Penalties are part of the game,” Strife said. “I thought it was a well-officiated game.”
Strife’s Raiders now take a 2-0 record into next Friday night, when Baldwinsville comes to D’Alessandro Stadium. When asked about the Bees, Strife pointed back to what won him Saturday’s game: conditioning.
“The rest of our schedule is going to be a meat grinder,” Strife said. “We need to make sure we maintain our conditioning.”
Of course, having a running back who has scored six touchdowns in two games doesn’t hurt, either.
Proctor Raiders 42, Central Square Red Hawks 28
Proctor 7 14 14 7 42
Central Square 8 6 0 14 28
P- Jamarious Morgan 68 yard run (Nick Abraham kick), 11:46
CS- Isaac Havens 1 yard run (Dante Rogers run), 5:36
P- Logan Wilcox 1 yard run (Abraham kick), 11:56
CS- Casey Brennan 4 yard run (conversion failed), 7:26
P- Morgan 15 yard run (Abraham kick), 4:55
P- Morgan 6 yard run (Abraham kick), 4:43
P- Morgan 51 yard punt return (Abraham kick), 2:13
CS- Joe Weaver 1 yard run (kick failed), 8:45
P- Todd Manolescu 49 yard kickoff return (Abraham kick), 8:36
CS- Weaver 4 yard run (Weaver run), 4:30