ROME, NY– For Ted Swavely’s RFA Black Knights on Friday night, it came down to one question: What if?
What if Ethan Powell had caught that pass on fourth down with 24 seconds left in the game? What if the Knights had made that last defensive stand with a little more than two minutes left?
For Swavely, those were all answered by a little adage from his father.
“My father always said, ‘if ifs and buts were candy and nuts, the world would be much better off,” Swavely said. Unfortunately, those if’s and buts will haunt RFA until next year, as the Proctor Raiders won the 117th edition of their rivalry with the Black Knights, taking home New York State’s oldest rivalry by the score of 35-32.
Before the game, the United States Army, who were in attendance throughout the night, named the game, which has been played since 1891 (which puts it as the seventh-oldest current rivalry in the nation as well), one of 2016’s “Great American Rivalries,” which came with its own trophy for the winners as well.
From the outset, it looked like the Black Knights would take home that trophy, marching the ball 64 yards down to the edge of the goal line. However, that first exciting drive, which included a 34-yard rumble down the sideline by Robert “Remmy” Edwards, was all for naught, as Notre Dame transfer Todd Manolescu would force Ja-Quan Rollins to fumble at the half-yard yard line, where Proctor would dive on it.
From there, Proctor would take full advantage. Just four plays later, senior Nick Abraham would rumble 83 yards right up the middle of the RFA defense for a touchdown. Just as soon as he caught his breath, he kicked his own extra point, and just three minutes in, Proctor led 7-0.
After an RFA punt, the Raiders would extend their lead, this time needing 14 plays to get into the end zone. This time, Abraham did not have to do much, as Proctor would give the Knights a steady diet of running backs Jamarious Morgan and Jalen Woodson all the way down the field. Woodson would finally finish the job, as he would plunge in from six yards out to give the Raiders a 14-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Raiders would extend their lead even further as the second quarter, with Morgan getting into it this time. He would catch a pass from junior quarterback Logan Wilcox, and 68 yards later, the fans from Utica could smell the blowout coming, now leading 21-0.
The Knights would finally get on the board soon after, mounting their own long possession that started on their own 23-yard line. They would take 11 plays to get down the field before they would score on a 12-yard pass from junior quarterback Tristan Hunzinger to senior Dylan O’Connell to cut the lead to a touchdown, 14-6.
Abraham would get back into the mix himself on the very next drive. The senior would find yet another hole in the middle, this time only needing 15 yards to put the Raiders up 28-6 nearing the halftime buzzer at Tom Hoke Field. Those two touchdowns, plus the fact that he had converted all five of his kicks, earned him Most Valuable Player honors for the game.
The Knights weren’t done yet, however. Junior receiver Ethan Powell would take a pass from Hunzinger and run it down the sidelines to give the RFA faithful hope. When the halftime gun sounded, the Knights were only down by nine, and looking to make a comeback in the biggest way.
After the halftime break, the Knights came out swinging. After a blocked field goal by Edwards, Dylan O’Connell got back into the mix, with a 18-yard touchdown from Hunzinger. Unfortunately, the Knights had no one to kick conversions for them, so they had to go for two all night. This was the one that worked for them, however, as the same two hooked up again to put the Knights only down by 8, 28-20.
Edwards would find himself in the end zone again as well, on a 67-yard run that would send all the Raiders on a merry chase down the sidelines. Unfortunately, as was the case all night, the conversion failed, and the Knights found themselves down by two.
RFA would finally take the lead halfway through the fourht quarter on another huge run, this time by Rollins, who would put the Knights ahead in only three plays and leaving the RFA faithful with some hope.
However, the Knights fell prey to their old demon, the tackling game. With a little more than two minutes left, Morgan would score his second touchdown of the night, this time from three yards out, to give the Raiders the lead with just enough time for RFA to pull off the miracle.
For about two minutes, it seemed like the Knights would pull it off. Aided by Rollins, Hunzinger, and senior Nathan Korrigan, RFA marched down to the Proctor 17-yard line. However, the Raider defense stiffened, and it all came down to fourth down. Unfortunately for the Knights, the pass feel just out of the hands of Powell, and the Raiders came away with the victory.
After the game, Proctor head coach Steve Strife was quick to heap praise on his vanquished opponents.
“It was a tale of two halves,” Strife said. “It was a great win for our community and team. It was a great game, and winning is better than losing.”
For Swavely, it was a matter of what might have been.
“We did a lot of good things,” Swavely said, “We have to do a lot of better things. Powell’s a great kid…It’s devastating.”
However, once tomorrow rolls around, the devastating what ifs will be gone (for the Knights at least), and it will be time to move on to what needs to be done next week, for both teams.
Proctor 35, RFA 32
Proctor 14 14 0 7 35
RFA 0 12 8 12 32
P- Nick Abraham 83 yard run (Abraham kick), 7:28
P- Jalen Woodson 6 yard run (Abraham kick), 1:13
P- Jamarious Morgan 68 yard pass from Logan Wilcox (Abraham kick), 10:00
RFA- Dylan O’Connell 12 yard pass from Tristan Hunzinger (pass failed), 5:01
P- Abraham 15 yard run (Abraham kick), 2:25
RFA- Ethan Powell 75 yard pass from Hunzinger (conversion failed), 2:02
RFA- O’Connell 18 yard pass from Hunzinger (conversion from Hunzinger to O’Connell) 3:00
RFA- Remmy Edwards 67 yard run (conversion failed), 11:50
RFA- Ja-Quan Rollins 69 yard run (conversion failed), 6:14
P- Jamarious Morgan 3 yard run (Abraham kick), 2:35