HOLLAND PATENT — The Holland Patent Golden Knights gave it their all to battle back from more than a two touchdown deficit.
When they accomplished the feat, the momentum appeared to be on their side.
But Golden Knights coach John Hurteau knew that it would take a whole lot more from his squad to hold off the undefeated Cazenovia Lakers for long.
As soon as Andy Hurteau, the coach’s son and the team’s senior tri-captain quarterback, connected on a 77-yard touchdown strike to Mark Parshall and running back John Iselo converted on a 2-point conversion to tie the game at 16-all, the Lakers scored four touchdowns to run away with a 44-16 Class B East Division victory on Saturday afternoon.
John Greacen rushed for four TDs on runs of 2, 4, 2 and 8 on 21 carries for 107 yards, while quarterback Jeff Hopsicker completed 15-of-22 passes for 245 yards and two TDs.
"The game got a little out of our hands in the third quarter. We pinned them back early in the quarter, but Caz is a great team, and when they get it rolling, it keeps rolling," said coach Hurteau after the Lakers had amassed over 444 total yards of offense.
"They have a lot of great skill kids and they are tough to bring down. Our kids played as hard as they possible could and I give them a lot of credit, they didn’t give up. We did the best we could do today," he added.
The victory gave Cazenovia coach and 1974 Rome Catholic graduate Tom Neidl his 150th career coaching victory. His 150-40-1 career mark ranks him third among active Section III football coaches, behind leader Tom Schoen of Whitesboro, with 213, and Carl Sanfilippo of Baldwinsville, with 154.
"Well, I’ve never counted them," Neidl said about his feat. "I just enjoy working with the kids. This is great, but it’s always been about them," he added.
"We played a good football game. We really played against a good football team to start this season and really found out where we stand as a team. Yeah, I was proud of the way the kids came out and performed. When things got tight, they buckled down and they didn’t get too nervous and make mistakes," added Neidl.
Buckled down, indeed.
The Golden Knights, which moved to 1-1 in the league and 2-1 overall, faced an uphill battle when the Lakers opened the game with a 16-0 lead less than 8 minutes into the game.
In the second quarter, the Golden Knights went for it on fourth and 9 on the Cazenovia 20 yard line and Hurteau hooked up with senior Dan Mower for an 11 yard catch for the first down. Two plays later, Iselo ran in a 2-yard scamper for the score. Robert Smith caught a two-point conversion pass from Hurteau for the Lakers’ first points allowed all season.
Iselo, who entered the game with 208 yards and three rushing TDs, finished with 78 yards on 18 carries.
The Golden Knights’ defense held down the visitors on their next possession and then went 80 yards on two plays, 77 of them coming on a catch and run from Parshall, to punch in their second score in four minutes. Iselo ran hard for the two-point conversion and the score was knotted at 16-16 with 6:33 left in the half.
The Lakers, who moved to 3-0 overall and 1-0 in the league, had outscored their opponents 110-0 in their first two games. Neidl knew that this test would be pose as a different challenge.
He spread out the Golden Knights’ defenders and then mixed up his ballhandlers, taking what the defense gave them.
"We are blessed to have pretty good depth at the different positions. That’s key because if someone tries to take something away we tend to take what they give us, but you really have to give credit to those front five. They control that line of scrimmage when we are running that spread it makes things a lot easier," said Neidl, who had six different rushers and eight different receivers contribute during the victory.
That spread formation is what worked as the Golden Knights didn’t know who was getting the ball on every play. The Lakers drove down 56 yards capped off by a Greacen 4-yard TD.
They stuck to the same game plan in the second half with a non huddle, five wide formation with Hopsicker in shotgun the entire drive and the Lakers marched 82 yards — 44 coming on a reception by Tanner Whiteman — to score another touchdown run from Greacen to put the guests ahead, 30-16.
"We didn’t start real well, we made some mistakes early. I think we were nervous, but we got right back in it and tied it up. They had a lot of success in their spread offense running the little zone option and quarterback keeper. They had success with that right at the end of the half and came right out with that in the second half. We just didn’t execute," said Hurteau.
Jose Wells then scored on an 18-yard TD catch from Hopsicker and Greacen ran in his fourth TD of the afternoon on an 8-yard burst to see the game turn into a clear-cut victory.
Greacen now has seven TD runs and has accumulated 364 yards on the ground this season.
"They’ve got seven, eight, nine kids that can hurt you. You really can’t key in on any one kid. That’s a testate to Coach Neidl and his staff they are very well coached football players," said Hurteau.
"They’re confident kids, and they’ve won. They’re confident and they know how to win," he added.
Cazenovia will host Vernon-Verona-Sherrill in another key league matchup next Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
Hurteau finished with 9-of-22 passing for 154 yards and the one TD pass for his fourth TD pass on the season.
The Golden Knights will play their next three games on the road, the first coming on Friday night when they travel to league foe South Jefferson beginning at 7 o’clock.