Westmoreland, NY – Heading into Saturday afternoon’s game against the Frankfort-Schuyler Maroon Knights, Westmoreland head coach Tim Gates knew he was up against some heavy odds. After all, Westmo’s first three games this season are against teams that had made an appearance in the Section III playoffs last year.
“I told them, it’s going to be a test this season,” Gates said. “We have to handle success and adversity.”
Saturday afternoon, the Bulldogs tasted both in the span of 48 minutes.
Michael Sweeney and Donte Hubal almost singlehandedly kept Westmoreland in the game all day, coming up with big plays almost as if by magic. Unfortunately, it was not enough, as Joe Streeter scored four touchdowns in a back and forth 36-32 victory for the Maroon Knights.
“It was back and forth all day…we just kept saying, we’re okay,” Gates said. “Hopefully, we can learn some lessons from this.”
“At times we played good stiuational football, other times we got into bad situations,” Frankfort-Schuyler head coach Jeff LaGase said of his team, who scored 14 unanswered points to turn a 14-7 halftime deficit into a seven point lead in the third quarter. “We played well enough to overcome the bad situations today. Overall, it was a good learning experience.”
The game started out as a dogfight for both sides, with two Maroon Knight punts and a Westmoreland fumble. Late in the first quarter, senior quarterback Michael Sweeney led them on the first scoring drive of the day. Though it started inauspiciously for the Bulldogs, with Sweeney bobbling the first snap of the drive, it ended beautifully for the Westmoreland faithful. The Bulldogs would not go backwards for the rest of the drive, tearing off passes of 22 and 12 yards to get to the Maroon Knights’ one-yard line. Sweeney would finish off the drive after the pass to Dominick Russello, diving in from one yard out to give Westmoreland a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter.
On the very next drive, the Maroon Knights shook out the cobwebs and got right to work. Senior running back Joe Streeter bulled his way through the Westmoreland defense, culminating in a 37-yard touchdown around the right end to tie the score back up at seven.
The two teams would exchange punts for the rest of the first half, until the Bulldogs began gaining some momentum just before the halftime whistle. Starting off with a Joseph Schreck punt return into Frankfort-Schuyler territory, Sweeney would rev his team into action. Spreading out the Maroon Knights’ defense with passes all over the field, the senior would drive his team all the way to the two. After Hubal managed to pick up another yard, Sweeney found Cory Andron in the middle of the end zone with just nine seconds left to put the Bulldogs up 14-7. Frankfort-Schuyler tried one more hail mary before the halftime whistle, but while Streeter was able to haul in the Jason Yelle bomb, he was tackled just short of the goal line as the clock ticked to zero.
“We were excited,” Sweeney said of the touchdown pass. “That was a huge momentum shift, but we knew we had to keep playing.”
“Halftime was upbeat…there was a lot of confidence,” Gates said. “That was how you were supposed to play in that situation.”
However, all that lead served to do was fire up Streeter and the rest of the Maroon Knights. After forcing Westmoreland to punt, Frankfort-Schuyler went right to work. Taking advantage of a pass interference call, Streeter broke off more runs, this time of 32 and 12, to bring the Maroon Knights to within one.
The Maroon Knights would force another punt, but during their ensung drive, they would force a heavy dose of senior fullback Josh Morgan and passes from Yelle to junior DeVan Leon. The only thing that stopped the Knights’ momentum was the Westmoreland Fire Department’s siren. The game was delayed after the siren, which is right next to the football field, went off and kept going for almost five minutes. After the delay, Morgan took the ball four times in the Maroon Knights’ seven play drive, bashing his way the final 16 yards to give Frankfort-Schuyler a 21-14 lead. Suddenly, the momentum was in Frankfort-Schuyler’s favor.
Unfortunately for the Maroon Knights, they would give the momentum right back to the Bulldogs on their next drive. After forcing yet another punt, Frankfort-Schuyler would drive yet again into Westmoreland territory. This time, Joe Shreck picked off Yelle’s pass at the Westmoreland two-yard line. After giving the Bulldogs a little bit of room with a four-yard run, Sweeney showed off his throwing prowess, finding Schreck again for a 94-yard touchdown. However, Frankfort-Schuyler blocked the tying extra point to maintain a one-point lead.
Westmoreland would take the lead right back after another Frankfort-Schuyler punt. Giving the Maroon Knights’ defense a heavy dose of Hubal’s running acumen, they also got to see how good his hands were. Taking advantage of a big Hubal catch, Sweeney found Russello in the end zone for a quick 3-yard touchdown. However, their two-point conversion fell short, giving them a five point lead with just four minutes left in the game.
Frankfort-Schuyler would take the lead right back, this time for good, taking advantage of a return by Streeter to the Westmoreland 36-yard line. Streeter continued to assert his dominance from there, ripping off runs of 15 and 26 yards to put the Maroon Knights ahead, 29-26.
Westmoreland turned the ball over on downs on their next drive, and Frankfort-Schuyler would take the final advantage and put the game away for good. Streeter needed just one play and 51 yards to finally give the Maroon Knights their first multi-score lead of the game. The kick by John Banas gave Frankfort-Schuyler a ten-point lead.
The Bulldogs were not going to roll over and die, according to Sweeney.
“We told them to keep their heads up,” Sweeney said. “We fought hard all the way to the end today.”
Nowhere was that more evident than the Bulldogs’ final drive of the game. Relying solely on the passing game, Sweeney drove Westmoreland all the way from their own 46-yard line, culminating in a 24-yard touchdown to Hubal to pull the Bulldogs to within four. Unfortunately, they were not able to recover the onside kick, and Frankfort-Schuyler was able to escape Westmoreland with a 36-32 victory.
“It stinks,” Sweeney, who finished up with 279 yards and four touchdowns, said after the game. “We needed one more stop today, but everybody did well. [Coach Gates] said he was proud of us, but now we have to go get ready for Bishop Ludden [Westmoreland’s Week Two opponent].”
“You had two teams that worked hard and never gave up,” LaGase said. “Obviously we were happy that we came out with a victory and gained some momentum.”
“You come into the season, there’s a lot of unknowns,” Gates said. “We made aa few mistakes, but all in all, we played more physical than I thought we would.”
The physical play by the Bulldogs also sent a message to the rest of the Class D Central: Don’t sleep on Westmoreland.
Frankfort-Schuyler Maroon Knights 36, Westmoreland Bulldogs 32
Knights 0 7 14 15 36
Bulldogs 7 7 0 18 32
W — Michael Sweeney 1 yard run (Joseph Schreck kick), 1:57
F-S – Joe Streeter 37 yard run (John Banas kick), 11:13
W – Cory Andron 1 yard pass from Sweeney (Schreck kick), :09
F-S – Streeter 12 yard run (run failed), 8:46
F-S – Josh Morgan 11 yard run (DeVan Leon pass from Jason Yelle), 2:25
W – Schreck 94 yard pass from Sweeney (kick blocked), 10:56
W – Dominick Russello 3 yard pass from Sweeney (pass failed), 4:06
F-S – Streeter 26 yard run (Streeter run), 3:04
F-S – Streeter 51 yrd run (Banas kick), 1:08
W – Donte Hubal 24 yard pass from Sweeney (kick failed), :23