by Batavia Daily News Sportswriter Brian Hillabush
PARK - Tim Dieffenbacher and Andrew Fox remember the final game of the
2002 season very well.
In that game the Le Roy football team - including sophomores Dieffenbacher
and Fox - lost a heartbreaker to current Michigan running back Mike Hart
and Onondaga in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association
semifinals. Theyre going back to Syracuse after the Oatkan Knights
beat Section 6 Class C champion Falconer 14-7 in the Far West Regionals
Saturday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Having leaders like Joe Shaughnessy and those other guys that led
us to that game (will help the current team leaders), said Fox,
a senior linebacker/running back. That was the hardest game Hart
had played in he said after the game, and it was the greatest game I have
played in. That gives us a ton of experience.
Shutting down Jones was the key in the second half for Le Roy, but Falconer
shot themselves in the foot on their final drive of the game. You
cant make mistakes in the Regionals or the state playoffs,
said Le Roy coach Brian Moran.
Cody Spicer picked off a Mark Bennetti pass with just over 7 1/2 minutes
left in the game. He returned the ball from the Falconer 35-yard line
to the Le Roy 40, but an illegal block was called and the Falcons had
to start the drive at their own 40. Running back Curt Jones had a 13-yard
run and followed it up with a 15-yarder. But on the second run, holding
was called, pushing the Falcons back. Then on third-and-5, John Whiting
stopped Jones for loss and the senior back was stopped on fourth down,
allowing Le Roy to run out the clock.
We just have to take advantage of those mistakes, Fox said.
Thats exactly what we did and we were able to stop them, take
time off the clock and drive. When you play great backs, you
just try and limit the damage, Moran said. I thought we did
a good job of just limiting the damage.
The first half was a battle. The Falcons started the game with the ball
and were able to gain some initial yards but Jones was tackled by Pacer
for a 5-yard loss and Spicer was sacked by Matt Forti, setting up a punt.
The Oatkan Knights only needed five plays to score as Farabella took a
pitch to the right side of the line on a third-and-two and took it 39
yards for a score.
It was early and we hadnt run that play yet, Moran said.
We thought they were squeezing down a little bit and we tossed it
off tackle. We were in a situation where we figured wed toss it
and see what happens. Mike made a couple of nice moves and he played extremely
The next three possessions were all punts as the defenses for both teams
tightened up. Jones did have a 25-yard run near the end of the first quarter
but Phil Niccloy had a sack after Falconer had a false start penalty,
forcing the Falcons to punt. In the second quarter the Oatkan Knights
had took a 14-0 lead after Pacer caused a fumble that Niccloy recovered.
The scoring drive was huge. Le Roy had a 10-play drive that went for 61
yards and ended on a 2-yard touchdown run by Fox, who had a key 16-yard
run on third-and-17.
I knew we had to get up near the first down, Fox said. We
had great field position and we had to do something, so I worked my hardest
and the line blocked great for pretty much the whole game.
Falconer answered right back, driving 70 yards on 11 plays. Jones had
an 18- and 24-yard run before scoring on a 17-yard run. Jones - the offensive
player of the game - had 126 yards on 19 carries in the first half. But
the Oatkan Knights had an answer for Jones in the second half, holding
him to 55 yards on 14 carries.
He was fast and he was quick, said Niccloy, the defensive
player of the game. But after we hit him a few times, he broke down
and couldnt do what he was able to do earlier. We knew
he was a good runner, but weve gone against good runners like Hart
before, Dieffenbacher said. We just had to wrap him up and
Le Roy managed a first down on a fake punt to open the second half, but
Bennetti was picked off by Kevin Vincent to kill the drive. Falconer managed
one first down but was forced to punt the ball away. After an incomplete
pass and a short run, Fox gained 25 key yards on a draw up the middle.
This allowed Le Roy to get to midfield and punt the ball deep into Falconer
They are big runs because it tilts the field defensively for us,
Moran said. It gives us an opportunity to defend the entire field
and when you are playing against a great back like Jones, 80 yards is
easier to defend than 40.
Jones got three straight carries and only picked up five yards, meaning
the Falcons had to punt again. Le Roy was able to run some time off the
clock before Bennetti was picked off, setting up Falconers final
Le Roy (11-0) will play against Walton (11-0)/General Brown (11-0) in
the state semifinals at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.
Its going to be tough, everybody at this level is tough,
Dieffenbacher said. We just have to go play Le Roy football and
hopefully we will get a win.