SYRACUSE – It would take a total team effort for Holland Patent to take home its first Section 3 football banner in 28 seasons.
The Golden Knights got just that as the defense, led by Hunter Tarbania’s 49-yard interception return, got things started and the Knights forced crucial stops late to give its high-powered offense a chance to score 14 fourth-quarter points in their 21-14 victory over General Brown Saturday at the Carrier Dome.
Quarterback Nick Herringshaw hit Jeff Sobel with the game-tying score and the senior then snuck in with the eventual game-winner for Holland Patent (10-0), which plays unbeaten Section 4 champ Susquehanna Valley in a regional final at noon Saturday at Cicero-North Syracuse High School.
“It was insane,” Herringshaw said. “We had a few down parts in the game, but finishing like that is insane. It’s insane for everyone in here. I know it’s pretty loud. I never had a game in my life that loud … so it’s just nuts for everyone.”
Herringshaw finished 13 of 26 passing for 276 yards. Jason Haas led the ground game with 70 yards on 15 carries. Josh Ernst, Sobel and D.J. Harter had 93, 79 and 63 yards receiving, respectively for the Golden Knights.
As much as Ernst and Haas contributed on offense, their enormous defensive plays helped the Knights take the lead, and then hold on for the title.
Tied at 14, General Brown was driving for the go-ahead score in the final minutes. Facing a 2nd-and-3 from Holland Patent’s 28-yard line, Haas forced a fumble on what would’ve been a first down carry and Ernst jumped on it to set up the championship-winning 82-yard drive.
“We were down 14-7 and we knew we had to make a stop,” Ernst said. “And then we needed another stop and we forced a fumble, came back and won the game.”
After an incompletion, Herringshaw found Sobel for 12, then hit Bryce Dare for 23 more to move into General Brown territory. Three plays after a very tough pass interference penalty on the Lions (8-2) negated an interception, Herringshaw lofted a perfect throw down the right sideline to Harter, who was knocked out at the 2-yard line. Herringshaw drove it in from there behind 315-pound center Orlando Cross for the winning points with 25 seconds remaining.
“We’ve had success all year running that wedge, that QB sneak,” Herringshaw said. “So, we got up and we were going to do what we’re good at. … That was a great game and we stayed in it all game.”
The Lions, who have now dropped three straight finals, showed their heart and fight in almost making it really interesting. A nice return by Matt McMananman set General Brown up at its own 45. Following an incompletion, quarterback Jake Heller hit McMananman on a skinny post. The speedy senior made a nice cut and appeared to have a clear path to the end zone, but Ernst made a touchdown-saving stop at the 30-yard line.
“I was worried a little bit and knew I had to grab his legs and bring him down,” Ernst said. “It’s really crazy. We knew that it’s been so long that we’ve been to the Carrier Dome and we wanted to complete the 10-0 and bring the championship home.”
With just five seconds remaining, the Lions made one last heave, but pressure put on by Tarbania and a few other Knights forced Heller’s connection with Dominick Lutz to fall five yards short of the goal line as time expired.
“They were driving and I was getting nervous but our defense stopped them and we scored,” said Holland Patent head coach Brian Briggs, who was a player on Holland Patent’s last title team. “And then they were driving again and we came up with the big turnover. … It was an unbelievable job. We didn’t stop. I’m short of words right now. It’s been 28 years and it is an unbelievable feeling and I’m so excited guys (that) it’s hard for me to talk.”
General Brown finished with 176 yards rushing and 131 passing, while Holland Patent totaled 358 total yards. Tre’ Coney’s 77 yards led the way for the Lions.
Holland Patent’s high-powered offense was held scoreless through the game’s first 44:07. Their only points came on a great defensive effort by Tarbania on the opening drive of the game. The senior linebacker’s preparation was crucial in taking an interception back 49 yards for a score.
“I watched a lot of film on them this week and noticed when the linemen released down field it was going to be a screen pass,” Tarbania said. “I waited for the quarterback to look at him. He opened up hips and as soon as he threw I bit down and went and got it. After that I just took off and headed to the Promised Land.”
Trailing 7-0, the Lions finally got their ground game rolling midway through the second with an 11-play, 65-yard drive capped by Heller’s two-yard plunge. The conversion pass sailed wide and the Knights held a 7-6 lead.
Holland Patent turned the ball over on downs to start the third and the Lions rumbled for another long drive, extended by a facemask penalty. A few plays later, Heller rolled left and found De’Shaun Thorigal-Brown at the goal line for the go-ahead 5-yard score. Heller’s conversion run put the Lions up 14-7 with 3:47 remaining in the third.
After another turnover on downs the Knights’ offense was running out of time but got the job done with two championship drives.
The first culminated when Sobel took a receiver screen, charged toward the corner of the end zone and extended the ball inside the pylon for the score. That set up the dramatic final 3:53 that Holland Patent fans will never forget.
It’s an extremely satisfying victory for the team in being able to record a historic victory in what has been a banner fall season for Golden Knights athletics.
“This is big for us,” Tarbania said. “Ever since August our goal was to get to the Dome. We had a lot of seniors and a lot of leadership, so we knew this was our goal. We weren’t going to be happy if we didn’t get this. We wanted to win it because girls field hockey and soccer won sectional titles, so that’s three banners for fall sports this year.”
Section 3, Class C Final
Holland Patent 21, General Brown 14
GB 0 6 8 0—14
HP 7 0 0 14—21
HP-Hunter Tarbania 49 interception return (Josh Ernst kick)
GB-Jake Heller 2 run (pass failed)
GB-De’Shaun Thorigal-Brown 5 pass from Heller (Heller run)
HP-Jeff Sobel 12 pass from Nick Herringshaw (Ernst kick)
HP-Herringshaw 2 run (Ernst kick)