Knights lose semifinal clash 13-10
to Onondaga Tigers on late TD run
Running sensation Mike Hart runs for 64 yd score in closing minutes to lift #1 state ranked OCS Tigers
Recap by BRIAN HILLABUSH - Batavia Daily News Sports

Syracuse - LeRoy only allowed Onondaga star Mike Hart to make 2 big plays running the football Friday night (11-22). But those 2 big plays and the 4 defensive turnovers he caused allowed the top-ranked Tigers to counter a strong LeRoy defense and escape with a 13-10 win in the NYSPHSAA Class C semifinals.

Hart picked off 3 Joe Shaughnessy passes and stripped the ball from Brendan Fulmer, stopping LeRoy scoring threats. "I knew I wasn't getting it all done on offense so I knew we had to step up on defense," Hart said. "We relied on our defense to win the game."

Hart's biggest plays came in the 4th quarter. With just over 5 minutes to play in the game, the Oatkan Knights defense stopped Hart on a 4th-and-2 and took over the ball at the Onondaga 43. But 4 straight runs resulted in only 7 yards and the Tigers had one more chance. LeRoy had a 4th-and-4 at the 37 and rather than trying a pooch punt with Fulmer, Shaughnessy tried to run a keeper, only getting one yard.

"I did think about punting," LeRoy coach Brian Moran said. "He might get a few yards, but it doesn't matter where Hart is. He can score from anywhere. If you are going to shut him down, you are going to shut him down at the line of scrimmage. If he breaks the line of scrimmage, it doesn't matter where he is. He can score from the 10-yard line or the 30."

It took just one play. Hart took a handoff to the left side of the field and broke 6 tackles to 64 yards for the touchdown. "I knew I had to get in the endzone," Hart said. "I was doing everything I could to get in the endzone. It was great blocking down field. I broke a couple of tackles. The line kept blocking down field and made a couple of crack blocks and it was off to the races."

The Tigers missed the extra point, meaning LeRoy could still tie the game with a Fulmer field goal or win it with a touchdown. With 2:42 left in the game, Shaughnessy and his offense started a drive from the LeRoy 28. Two straight passes fell incomplete before the QB avoided the pass rush and scrambled for 15 yards and a first down. Then came 2 straight first down passes to Fulmer. Shaughnessy's next pass ended up in the hands of Hart at the Onondaga 13-yard line to end the threat.

"I got a little mad and a little anxious to get that first down," Shaughnessy said. "But I really think we could have moved against them defensively. But we didn't." Hart had just 123 yards on 27 carries before the long TD run. Holding Hart, who had 2,482 yards on 169 carries coming into the game, was LeRoy's best chance for the win. "I was never frustrated," Hart said. "It was the best game I ever played in my life. It was not the most yards ever, but it was great competition."

Everything started well for LeRoy in the second half. The opening drive took almost 6 minutes off the clock as the Oatkan Knights went 53 yards on 13 plays. Shaughnessy scored the TD on a 3-yard keeper. "You could not have drawn it up any better," Moran said. "We moved the ball well, took time off the clock and put ourselves in a situation to go up. We just left them too much time in the end."

After 3 turnovers in the first half, the Oatkan Knights were fortunate to only trail 7-3 at the half. Hart made the first impact play of the game on the defensive side of the ball. On LeRoy's third play of their first series Hart, who matched up with Fulmer all day, picked off Shaughnessy's first passing attempt of the game at the Onondaga 35-yard line and returned it to the LeRoy 45.

"He is just a great athlete," Fulmer said. "Everything he does is out there. He tries to be the best. I'm sure whatever else he does, he is the best. It is in his mentality." The Tigers moved the ball to the Oatkan Knights' 28, but Jason Hodge stuffed fullback Chad Amidon at the line of scrimmage on a 4th-and-3.

LeRoy went 3-and-out before Fulmer booted a 58-yard punt that pinned Hart and the Tigers at the 10-yard line. Onondaga QB Ryan Hotaling hit Justin Graham on a deep strike that he took 59 yards. Fulmer showed his speed and caught the senior speedster at the LeRoy 35. A few plays later, Hart made his only big run of the first half, a 25-yard cutback from the right side of the backfield to the left that he took in to put the Tigers up 7-0. Hart was held to 68 yards on 15 carries in the first half.

LeRoy followed the drive with a 13-play, 80-yard drive that resulted in a 27-yard field goal by Fulmer. Shaughnessy took a 3rd-and-inches QB sneak and bounced to the outside for a 19-yard run to the Tigers' 6, but a sack by Kyle Martin took LeRoy out of TD range.

Hart fumbled the handoff 2 plays into the ensuing drive and LeRoy linebacker Tim Dieffenbacher fell on the ball. Two plays later Hart picked off his 2nd pass of the game in the end zone. The Tigers moved the ball 19 yards, but had to punt. Four plays into the LeRoy drive, the Oatkan Knights made an attempt at a big play and looked like they had it. Shaughnessy hit Fulmer with a 51-yard pass, but Hart stripped the ball and Graham returned it to the Onondaga 42.

The Tigers drove deep into LeRoy territory, but Joe Cosimeno picked off a Hotaling pass and LeRoy took a knee to end the half.

Hart ended the game with 187 yards while LeRoy struggled to run the ball. Shaughnessy led the way with 52 yards on 11 carries and Andrew Fox rushed for 43 yards on 8 carries. But the Onondaga defense focused on Caccamise and Joe Cosimeno, who combined for 45 yards on 19 carries.

"If you go back and you look at the whole game, we had to throw the ball to get the first downs or Shaughnessy ran to get the first downs," Moran said. "You want to take some time off the clock and get manageable second and third down situations and throw the ball sometimes if you have to."

LeRoy finished the season at 11-1. Onondaga now 12-0, plays Briarcliff of Section 1 in the state C finals, Friday, November 29th at the Carrier Dome (1 pm).


Joe Shaughnessy 11-52 yds, TD
Andrew Fox 8-43
Joe Caccamise 15-39
Joe Cosimeno 4-6

Joe Shaughnessy 6 of 12
for 85 yds - 3 INTs
Brendan Fulmer 1-1 for 10 yds

Brendan Fulmer 3-56
Sam DeFazio 3-29
Joe Cosimeno 1-10

Jason Hodge - 13 (8 solo, FF)

Joe Shaughnessy - 7
Jake Syracuse - 7
Kenny Smith - 7 (sack)
Don Miller - 6
Tim Dieffenbacher - 5 (FR)

Jake Whiting/JerCosimeno-sacks
Joe Cosimeno - INT

Total Yardage
LeRoy - 235 yards (140 rush/95 pass)
Onondaga - 344 yards (207 rush/137 pass)


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The Knights cover the opening kickoff with vengeance

The Knights surround OCS star RB Mike Hart on this punt coverage

Onondaga's Mike Hart scores his 56th touchdown of the season

LeRoy soph RB Andrew Fox finds a big opening up the middle

LeRoy QB Joe Shaughnessy turns a 3rd-and-1 into a big gainer

The swarming LeRoy defense sacks OCS QB Ryan Hotaling

Jeremy Cosimeno gives the Knights a great drive start with this 2nd half return

Shaughnessy gives LeRoy the lead with this determined run

The Knights bottle up the middle and stop Hart right in his tracks

The Knights take over late in the game after this 4th down stop

OCS star Mike Hart breaks off "THE RUN" to propel the OCS Tigers to victory

The LeRoy tandem of Shaughnessy to Brendan Fulmer keeps hope alive

Mike Hart snags his 3rd interception of the game to preserve the OCS win

Contributing Videographer
- Rick Stewart of Allsport USA -

SCORING SUMMARY - LeRoy vs. Onondaga - Friday, November 22, 2002
1st Quarter      
Mike Hart - 25 yd run Graham kick
Onon 7 LR 0
2nd Quarter
Brendan Fulmer - 27 yd FG  
Onon 7 LR 3
3rd Quarter
Joe Shaughnessy - 3 yd run Fulmer kick
LR 10 Onon 7
4th Quarter      
Mike Hart - 64 yd run Kick failed
Onon 13 LR 10