HERKIMER, NY – The Section III schedule-makers were not kind to the Herkimer Magicians this season. Four of their first five weeks looked to be a test in intestinal fortitude, with two straight games against cross-town rivals Little Falls and Frankfort-Schuyler, with the next three against Section III powerhouses.
The Magicians have not only passed the written exam with flying colors, but with results that would make even the most confident person bite their nails.
Wyatt Renshaw scored the game-winning touchdown, then had to watch as James Aiello made the game clinching interception, as Herkimer eked out a 23-16 victory over their most hated rival, the Frankfort-Schuyler Maroon Knights.
“I wanted that ball more than anyone else,” the junior defensive back said. “I just went up and got it.”
“We were hoping [Aiello] would come up with the ball,” head coach Jason Alexander said. “We were expecting a tough game, and we got it.”
That was evident from the opening kickoff, as both teams smashed their way through their respective defenses for 12 minutes of hard-fought football. Frankfort-Schuyler used senior running back Joe Streeter to grind out yards, while the Magicians countered with healthy doses of Renshaw and passes to senior wide receiver Ethan Swald to keep the Maroon Knights guessing. However, the weapons of both teams pushed the game to a scoreless stalemate after one quarter of play.
However, it would take just five seconds and two plays to put the Magicians on the board. Renshaw would find Swald on a slant route in the middle of the field, and the senior would slash his way into the end zone for a quick 7-0 lead in the second quarter.
The Maroon Knights answered back just as quickly. After being forced to turn the ball over on downs after a long drive, Michael DeRollo stepped in front of Renshaw’s pass deep in Herkimer territory and rumbled into the Frankfort-Schuyler end zone. Streeter would pound the ball in for the two-point conversion to give Frankfort-Schuyler an 8-7 lead.
From there, the game continued to be fought in the trenches, with neither side giving an inch, and Streeter, along with senior Josh Morgan, grinding out each yard. The Herkimer defense would not give, however, forcing a Maroon Knights’ punt. Luckily, the Maroon Knights were able to keep the Magicians off the scoreboard as well, and went into the halftime break clinging to an 8-7 lead.
“It was definitely a hard game,” Renshaw said. “We just go out there and hit as hard as we can. We played as hard as we could.”
“It was a hard fought game,” Aiello said. “We were on them 24-7.”
As the third quarter began, the Maroon Knights started from their own 43-yard line and began a 13-play drive toward the lead. Led by Streeter, who missed some time after a helmet-to-helmet hit late in the first half, and quarterback Jason Yelle, Frankfort-Schuyler took the lead 13 plays and almost 7 minutes later on a sweep from Josh Morgan. The two-point conversion made the score 16-7 in favor of the Maroon Knights.
That score was how the quarter would end, but it was not how it would finish. Just four seconds into the final quarter, sophomore running back Adam Green would get the Magicians to within one point on a sweep play three yards out.
From there, the Herkimer defense began to take control of the game. After allowing a touchback, the Maroon Knights were only game to get to about the 40-yard line before having a punt partially blocked.
After the two teams traded punts, the Magicians got right back to work. Starting at the Frankfort-Schuyler 33 yard line, Renshaw and Greeen managed to get the ball down to the three-yard line. That’s where Renshaw took over, diving over and through several Frankfort-Schuyler defenders to put the game away. There was just one problem with the Magicians’ game-winning drive: they still had over a minute to defend that newfound lead.
“Even the kids said, we’re not going to take it for granted,” Alexander said. “One big play is all it takes to change things.”
“We wanted that game more than anyone,” Renshaw said. “We showed them Herkimer football tonight.”
The Maroon Knights found it, however, and it almost carried them to glory. Catching one pass and throwing another – completing it for a 31-yard gain to sophomore Tyler Rosati — the senior got his team deep into Magicians territory. However, two incompletions forced the Maroon Knights into a desperation play. From there, Yelle’s pass did not find a Frankfort receiver, but Aiello, making the Herkimer sideline explode with jubilation as all Renshaw kneeled the ball down once to put the game in the win column for Herkimer.
“It was great,” Renshaw said. “We played as hard as we could.”
Right now, that hard play has the Magicians sitting at 2-0, atop the D East with their next opponent, the Dolgeville Blue Devils, who took down Mount Markham 40-20 on Friday to set up a big matchup with the Magicians next Saturday.
“We’re in the position we wanted to put ourselves,” Alexander said. “We want to get better, and our goal now is to improve from this week’s game.”
“We’ve been working since Day One,” Aiello said of his team. “Tomorrow, it’s all about getting ready for Dolgeville.”
If tonight’s game is any indication, Saturday’s game at Bill Bynon Field in Dolgeville could be one for the ages.
Herkimer Magicians 23, Frankfort-Schuyler Maroon Knights 16
Magicians 0 7 0 16 23
Knights 0 8 8 0 16
H- Ethan Swald 14 yard pass from James Aiello (Marshall Borek kick), 11:55
F-S – Michael DeRollo 15 yard interception return (Joe Streeter run), 4:40
F-S – Josh Morgan 2 yard run (Joe Parrotta pass from Jason Yelle), 4:40
H – Adam Green 3 yard run (Wyatt Renshaw run), 11:56
H – Renshaw 4 yard run (Renshaw run), 1:23