NEWPORT, NY– It was the kind of day you expect for the Battle of Barto Hill—cold and wet.
If you asked a fan from either Dolgeville or West Canada Valley on Saturday, they would probably tell you that the weather was perfect for their team.
That isn’t far from the truth—both New York State ranked teams (Dolgeville was third, West Canada Valley 15th) love to play in the mud and rain. However, Saturday afternoon’s rain made for a long bus ride home over Barto Hill for the Blue Devils.
West Canada Valley scored 27 unanswered points on the back of quarterback Matt Tobin and running back Shawn Pierson, as the Indians made their homecoming one to remember, defeating the previously-unbeaten Blue Devils 27-12.
With the win, the Indians set up a scenario where they can still clinch a share of the Class D East championship, but they will need help from their biggest rivals. A Dolgeville win against Frankfort-Schuyler next week, combined with an Indians win over winless Morrisville-Eaton/Hamilton. All three teams have made the Section III playoffs, but the championship would go a long way toward securing a first-round game at home.
For West Canada Valley head coach Todd Hobin, his Indians aren’t looking past the winless Emerald Warriors.
“You don’t play these games on paper,” Hobin said after the game.
From the outset, however, the rain definitely played a factor, as players from both sides had trouble holding on to the wet football and ball carriers. The first two drives of the game both ended in punts, and while aided by a long run by Devin Gorinshek, the Blue Devils saw a big opportunity to take an early lead fall by the wayside after turning the ball over on downs deep in West Canada Valley territory. Another fumble by the Indians after the kickoff gave the Blue Devils another chance at an early lead, but, aided by the wet football, the Indians came away unscathed.
Hobin attributed the early miscues not to the wet football, but to the excitement that the rivalry brought.
“They were just so excited to start out,” Hobin said, “We just needed to settle down.”
However, after a first quarter that saw both teams get very close to the end zone, but not into it, the Blue Devils finally broke the tie early in the second quarter. After an Indians punt that put Dolgeville near midfield, Chase Doxtader needed only one play and 12 seconds to find the end zone and put the Blue Devils up 6-0.
The Devils would get the ball back on an interception by Zach Smith, and while they needed a little bit longer, the Blue Devils used the good field position to their advantage. Behind the three-pronged attack of Doxtader, quarterback Aasin Claus, Devin Gorinshek and Cole Harlow, the Blue Devils ground out another touchdown, this time on a two-yard run by Harlow.
That was when the Indians began to come alive. On the backs of Pierson and Tobin and aided by a face mask penalty on the Blue Devils, West Canada Valley went on a 64-yard drive that ate up most of the second quarter. The drive ended on a one-yard plunge by Tobin to cut the lead to only five, at 12-7.
The wet ball came back to haunt the Blue Devils on the ensuing drive, as another fumble ended the drive before it even began. Aided by the good field position, Tobin pounded away at the Blue Devils’ defense, breaking off considerable chunks of yardage before handing it off to Pierson to take them the last five yards and give the Indians a one-point lead going into the halftime break.
Coming out of the break, West Canada Valley went right back to work. After a Dolgeville punt, the Indians only needed five plays to extend their lead. Tobin was able to get into the Dolgeville secondary and 43 yards later, the Indians enjoyed an eight-point lead.
West Canada Valley finally put the game away in the waning seconds of the third quarter, when—who else?–Tobin managed to get the edge and made a diving play at the one-yard line to score and put the Indians up by 15 going into the fourth quarter.
For Hobin, that was when he knew the game was theirs. “By the end of the third quarter, I said, ‘We’ve got them,’” Hobin said, with one instruction to his Indians: “’Just hold on to the ball.’”
The final frame was just like the first frame, except now with Dolgeville becoming more and more desperate. They would continue to pound away with their running game, but with Pierson and Tobin leading the way, both on offense and defense, the Blue Devils were not able to get anything going, and when the final whistle blew, a mighty cheer went up from the home team’s cheering section, celebrating the victory for the Indians.
For Pierson, the stakes could not have been higher at Koch Field. “It was big [today],” Pierson said. “We knew we had to give it everything we had. We knew we had to win as a team…we had to come together.”
For Dolgeville head coach Dan Zilkowski, the wet weather, which the Devils are used to at Bill Bynon Field, seemed like a detriment.
“We didn’t have any advantages today,” Zilkowski said.
However, Pierson, one of the captains for the Indians, was quick to praise the Blue Devils’ hard-fought effort today, as was Hobin. “[Dolgeville] brought everything to the table today,” Pierson said. “I give all the credit in the world to them.” “They have strong backs,” Hobin said, citing Dolgeville’s hard-nosed running game. “I give all credit to their backs.”
The win by the Indians not only shakes up the New York State rankings, but also creates a little bit of a scenario in which West Canada Valley can still lay claim to the Class D East league championship and a de facto league championship game next week. A win by Dolgeville against Frankfort-Schuyler at Bill Bynon Field next Saturday, along with a win by West Canada Valley at winless Morrisville-Eaton/Hamilton next Friday, will create a three-way tie for the top of the league, and the guaranteed home game that comes with it. Then, it will be up to the section to decide who goes where to start the Section III playoffs.
For now, all that matters to West Canada Valley is that they are still in the hunt, and they did it by beating their oldest rivals. That certainly made the dreary day in Newport just a little more bearable for Hobin and the rest of the Indians.
West Canada Valley Indians 27, Dolgeville Blue Devils 12
WCV 0 13 14 0 27
Dolgeville 0 12 0 0 12
D- Chase Doxtader 51 yard run (run failed)
D- Cole Harlow 2 yard run (pass failed)
WCV- Matt Tobin 2 yard run (Bailey Chapin kick)
WCV- Shawn Pierson 5 yard run (run failed)
WCV- Tobin 43 yard run (Chapin kick)
WCV- Tobin 15 yard run (Chapin kick)