DOLGEVILLE, NY – The Herkimer Magicians needed a big win to solidify their playoff standing on Saturday. There’s no bigger way to establish yourself as a playoff contender than knocking off perennial power Dolgeville, whom the Magicians haven’t beaten in three years.
“It’s huge in terms of momentum,” Herkimer head coach Jason Alexander said. “We’ve faced a lot of adversity this year. We knew we had to step up and make the big play.”
That’s exactly what the Herkimer defense did. They stopped Dolgeville on three different two-point conversions, including one late in the game, to come home from Bill Bynon Field with a 14-12 victory and an almost-guaranteed first round home game.
“We worked hard all week,” Alexander said, “and we were able to counter everything they threw at us. The boys stepped up and played a great football game.”
The Magicians defense did that and more to start the game, holding the Blue Devils to just 20 total yards in the first quarter. They also forced a punt, a turnover on downs and a turnover on a muffed kickoff return. Luckily, the stout Blue Devil defense was up to the task, forcing a turnover on downs and a punt of their own.
“I’m pretty happy with our defense today,” Dolgeville head coach Dan Zilkowski said. “Both teams played pretty solid defense.”
Unfortunately, it would be the Blue Devils who would blink first, and in doing so, they missed junior running back Adam Green streaking down the sideline, right in front of the Dolgeville bench. 57 yards later, Green had managed to elude the secondary and dragged a couple of other defenders en route to the end zone. The Magicians’ usual workhorse, senior Wyatt Renshaw capped off the very short drive, pounding the two point conversion in and knocking all of the figurative air out of Bill Bynon field very early with an 8-0 lead.
The two teams would trade punts a couple of times for the rest of the first and most of the second quarters before the Herkimer offense came back to life. After returning a long punt back into Dolgeville territory, the Magicians hit the Blue Devils’ defensive line hard and often, with Renshaw and Green taking them all the way to the outskirts of the red zone. However, it was Aiello’s arm that capped off the drive for the Magicians, finding junior Tyler Steele for a 20-yard gain and putting Herkimer within ten yards of the goal line. Aiello would finish the drive off two plays later, finding sophomore Braden Alexander, who fought for the last ten yards and a 14-0 lead. That was the score the shocked crowd at Bill Bynon Field would see going into the half, with the Blue Devils held to just 41 yards of total offense.
“We just had to fight and hold our blocks, and we did that today,” Herkimer senior quarterback James Aiello said.
Luckily for the crowd sitting on the home side, the Blue Devils are not a team that would just roll over and die. After forcing a punt on the first drive of the second half, Dolgeville got to work as only Dolgeville does, pounding the Herkimer defense with a two-headed attack of the Two Zachs: quarterback Smith and running back Carpenter. Smith picked up the lion’s share of the work, weaving around the ends and picking up 20 of the team’s 73 yards. The drive did get bogged down near midfield, but a fake punt by junior Toby Weber gave the Blue Devils new life, and they used it to their full advantage, getting all the way down to the one-yard line. It would take three plays from there, but junior Kyle Getman cut the lead to just a touchdown, slamming right into the middle of the line and taking several defenders with him over the goal line.
“It was a tale of two halves,” Zilkowski said of his team’s performance down the stretch. “They converted one two-point conversion and we didn’t. Their athleticism hurt us[, but] it was a very good defensive game.”
The Blue Devils’ defense would solidify from there, holding them to zero yards in the final quarter and three punts, one that was partially blocked. After a punt early in the fourth quarter, the Dolgeville offense went to work once again. This time, Smith ripped off gains of 19 and 24 yards, with Carpenter contributing 11 yards and Getman adding another 15 en route to another touchdown early. The Blue Devils would get two chances at a game-tying two-point conversion, and came within inches of converting both, but were turned away by the Herkimer defense.
“We needed that stop,” Aiello said. “That was literally the game.”
Dolgeville would have one more chance after a penalty on the final Herkimer punt (and subsequent re-kick) to pin them deep in their own territory. From there, the Magicians’ defense held firm, harassing Smith for four straight downs. When it came down to the final play, sophomore Andre McNair jumped up and grabbed Smith’s pass to seal the game for the Magicians, as he was escorted off the field by raucous cheering by the visiting side of the field.
“We fought hard when we needed to,” Aiello said of his team’s performance. “They got down to the red zone a couple of times, but we held them down today. The past three years we’ve come here, we’ve lost. If we lost today, the playoffs were going to be harder. Now we’re going in with this win…it’s big for us.”
Big is an understatement, as the victory has all but guaranteed the Magicians will host a first-round playoff game in two weeks, while also forcing Dolgeville on the road. The win by the Magicians also gave them the inside track for the D East title, locked in a race with Frankfort-Schuyler heading into the last week of the season, while at the same time, eliminating Dolgeville from that race.
“It’s huge for the kids and the community,” Alexander said. “They love to see these guys play,” Aiello added his own sentiment on the first home playoff game in several years for the Magicians: “It’s going to be nice playing in our home environment,” he said.
On the other side, Zilkowski now looks forward to some travel as they head toward the Section III playoffs. However, the Dolgeville head coach was not worried about any sectional playoff travel prospects.
“We’ll play a football game wherever we go,” Zilkowski said. “Right now, we’ll just get ready for Westmoreland.”
Herkimer 14, Dolgeville 12
Magicians 8 6 0 0 14
Blue Devils 0 0 6 6 12
H – Adam Gteen 57 yard run (Wyatt Renshaw run), 4:07
H – Braden Alexander 10 yard pass from James Aiello (run failed), :52
D – Kyle Getman 1 yard run (run failed), :37
D – Zach Smith 24 yard run (run failed), 8:35
Records: Herkimer 5-1, 3-1 D East; Dolgeville 3-2, 2-2 D East.