CICERO, NY – It was a season to remember for the Holland Patent Golden Knights, one that will forever be etched in the town’s history. The team had won their first Section III championship in 29 years, and had many in the town thinking about making a return trip to the Syracuse area in two weeks for the New York State Class C Championship game.
“Everyone was calling us up and wanting us to win,” Holland Patent senior quarterback Nick Herringshaw said. “We got the whole community behind us…we put Holland Patent football back on the map.”
Unfortunately for Herringshaw and the rest of the Golden Knights, their dreams ended with a horrific thud on the bitterly cold turf at Cicero-North Syracuse on Saturday. Behind a three-pronged running attack of seniors Billy Sheridan, Ed Lavin and Kyle Leonard, the Susquehanna Valley Sabers scored 37 unanswered points en route to a 43-7 trouncing of the Section III champions. Sheridan scored three of the Sabers’ touchdowns while their defense forced the Golden Knights to punt on four of their first six drives.
“The weather shut down our passing game today, so it was just run on run,” Herringshaw, who was named the game’s MVP for Holland Patent, said. “Their coaches came up with a great game plan… They were loading the box, they were putting pressure on us.”
The Sabers put the pressure on almost immediately, forcing the Golden Knights to punt on their first two drives, while holding them to just 18 yards midway through the first quarter. That’s when the Sabers struck first, with Leonard breaking off a huge 20-yard run on the first play of their second drive. Senior Josh Rudock would also contribute, slamming the Holland Patent defense for another 12 yards, helped along by a big personal foul penalty that put the ball on the one-yard line. That would be all Sheridan would need, smashing his way into the end zone from one yard out to give the Sabers an early 6-0 lead.
“We have six guys we’ve been rotating in all season,” Susquehanna Valley head coach Mike Ford said. “We’ve been able to wear teams down with out run game. Once we were able to get it going, we were able to find the holes.”
The Golden Knights finally found their footing late in the period, and Herringshaw helped guide them there. Firing off two quick passes of 24 and 23 yards, Holland Patent quickly found themselves deep in Saber territory. That was when the senior would find his favorite target on this day, classmate Jason Haas, down the right sideline for a 28 yard touchdown, Haas shedding tacklers all the way down the field to give the Knights and their well-traveled fan base a 7-6 lead late in the first period.
The defense would also find success on the very next drive, stripping senior quarterback Jarred Freije just one play into the ensuing drive to give Holland Patent the ball and momentum heading into the second quarter. Unfortunately, that momentum would not last very long, as Herringshaw would throw one of his two interceptions on the day, right into the hands of Sheridan in the end zone. Another four plays later, Susquehanna Valley would jump right back into the lead on the feet of Freije, as the quarterback found a hole on the right side of the field, and didn’t stop running until the turf turned from green to blue, 63 yards later. That would give them a 12-7 lead at that point, a lead, as it turned out, they would not relinquish.
The Sabers forced another Holland Patent punt soon after, getting the ball near midfield. Susquehanna Valley took full advantage, this time with Leonard pulling off runs of nine, six and four with Freije and Rudock contributing 14 combined yards as well. That would be all Sheridan would need to score his second touchdown of the day, rumbling right up the middle of the Golden Knights’ defense for another touchdown, this time from 19 yards out to move the lead to 20-7.
“They started off with power, and they just ran it the rest of the game,” Holland Patent head coach Brian Briggs said. “They kept running the counter and we just couldn’t stop it.”
The Sabers wouldn’t stop either, and they proved that after forcing the Golden Knights into another punting situation. This time, it would be Lavin gashing the Holland Patent defense, breaking out on a key 46 yard run deep in their own half to flip the script and put themselves deep in Holland Patent territory. Sheridan would also break off huge gains, slamming the defense for runs of 10, seven and three to put them inside the Holland Patent five-yard line. That would be all Leonard would need to cap off the 77-yard drive, bursting into the end zone to give the Sabers a 28-7 lead going into the locker room.
Susquehanna Valley came out of the locker room firing on all cylinders, needing only 45 seconds from their own 36-yard line to extend their lead even further. This time, though, it was Lavin and Leonard doing all the heavy lifting for the Sabers, helped along by two flags by the Golden Knights’ defense.
“The kids started getting chippy,” Briggs explained, “We haven’t been in a situation like this all year…I told them all week they were a tough, physical football team.”’
Those two penalties, including one after a 18 yard touchdown by Lavin, allowed the Sabers to kick from Holland Patent territory. While the Golden Knights were able to get the ball past midfield, they were forced to rely on both Herringshaw’s arm and feet, taking every single play they could get. Unfortunately, the Golden Knights’ next two drives would end on fourth down, with Herringshaw and Haas putting the team on their backs and trying to run for glory.
The Golden Knights’ defense would try their hardest to bail their offense out, however, forind a huge fumble late in the third quarter to give the Knights good field position. Unfortunately, the Sabers’ defense was on another level, forcing yet another punt from there, and this time, Susquehanna Valley would take full advantage, needing just one play, ten seconds and a 44-yard run from – who else? – Sheridan to finally put away Holland Patent’s historic season. The defense would grab another desperate interception, this time from Leonard, and the Sabers’ second string would literally run out the clock to give Susquehanna Valley its first regional championship since 2000.
“It was a shot to the heart,” Herringshaw said of the loss. “We had the talent, we had the coaching…We came out all fired up
“We played as a team, all 11 guys,” Sheridan said of the Sabers’ effort, which will earn them a date in the state semi-finals with Section VI’s Cleveland Hill at Union-Endicott High School next week. “We knew it was going to be windy, so we just kept it on the ground.”
For Briggs and the rest of the Holland Patent football team, a historic season ended just short of their intended goal, but according to Briggs, they still have a lot to celebrate.
“They should have a lot to be proud of,” Briggs said. “This is nothing to hang their heads about. The whole community of Holland Patent should be proud of them. They had a great season…I couldn’t be prouder of these guys.”
“I love these guys with my whole heart,” Herringshaw said of his teammates, while also issung a challenge to them: “I told them to bring a state title home next year and make us proud… We couldn’t get it done, but that goal is there, to beat what we did this year.”
Given all that the Golden Knights did this year, the bar is set pretty high for the next crop of Golden Knights to come through the village of Holland Patent.
Susquehanna Valley Sabers 43, Holland Patent Golden Knights 7
NYSPHSAA Class C East Regional Championship
Sabers 6 22 15 0 43
Golden Knights 7 0 0 0 7
SV – Billy Sheridan 1 yard run (run failed), 2:41
HP – Jason Haas 28 yard pass from Nick Herringshaw (Hunter Tarbania kick), 1:11
SV – Jarred Freije 63 yard run (run failed), 9:50
SV – Sheridan 19 yard run (Sheridan run), 5:46
SV – Kyle Leonard 3 yard run (Dan Matthews pass from Freije), 3:04
SV – Ed Lavin 18 yard run (Lavin run), 11:12
SV – Sheridan 44 yard run (Lavin kick), :58
Records: Holland Patent 10-1 (6-0 Class C East), Susquehanna Valley 11-0.