Rivals RFA, Proctor look to bust into win column
The football rivalry between Rome Free Academy and Proctor High of Utica runs deep.
Over 121 years deep, in fact. The clash began back in 1891 when Proctor was known as Utica Free Academy. Over the years the two crosstown rivals have had their fare share of memorable moments that people still associate with the two tradition-rich football programs over the past 12 decades.
Their latest encounter will occur tonight at 7 as RFA travels to Utica at D’Alessandro Stadium at Proctor High School with both schools sitting at 0-2 overall and searching for their first wins of the season as the two open their Class AA-1 league schedules.
According to The National Federation of State High School Associates record book, the battle between Rome and Utica is the oldest football rivalry in the state and seventh-oldest in the nation.
Rome leads the series 60-33-5 and since 1940 sports a 45-14-1 record over Proctor, including an emotional 24-21 victory last season when since graduated Dylan Thomas booted the 31-yard game-winning field goal with 7.9 seconds remaining. The game-winning kick snapped Rome’s three-game losing streak versus Proctor, including a 42-28 defeat in the two school’s first-ever Section III Class AA playoff clash in 2010.
RFA dominated the series in the past, going a consecutive 39-0 before it was snapped in 2001 following a 55-50 shootout loss, but over the last 11 years Proctor leads Rome, 7-4, in head-to-head meetings.
The game will be televised live on Time Warner Cable Sports on channels 17 and 813.
Week 3 of the football season continues on Friday and Saturday.
On Friday, Camden wraps up its three-game road trip against South Jefferson at 7 o’clock in a Class B East contest, as South Lewis hosts Sandy Creek for a Class D Central game at 7. On Saturday, Westmoreland travels to Beaver River for a Class D Central clash starting at 1, as Holland Patent will look for its first victory of the season against Class C East hosts Little Falls at 1:30, Adirondack will host Altmar-Parish-Williamstown at 2 in a Class C North game, Vernon-Verona-Sherrill takes on visiting Notre Dame at 3 during a non-league game, and Oriskany goes to West Canada Valley at 2 for a Class D crossover game.
Tonight’s RFA-Proctor clash comes five days after RFA suffered a tough 18-13 loss to Corcoran, making it a quick turnaround for fourth-year RFA head coach Ted Swavely and his Black Knights.
"It’s a short week for us to get ready for this one. It feels like we have been going 1,000 miles per hour in practice to try and get ready for this game," said Swavely, who was an RFA lineman from 1989-91 and defeated Utica 21-7 in his only meeting between the two schools.
"There was a pregame tradition that was said to the team before the Black Knights took the field against Utica back then and I still carry that tradition out to this day for our teams. All week long we have talked about this matchup, and we know Proctor hasn’t forgotten about what happened at our house last year. They’re going to be ready for us," added Swavely.
Longtime Proctor head coach and 1985 RFA graduate Jerry Fiorini said that his team will certainly be ready and is expecting another intense, close game to add to the already great rivalry.
"It’s been that way for the last few years now. It’s a great rivalry between two passionate football towns. Every game has been a close battle coming right up until the final play. We’re desperate right now because we don’t want to start our league play out at 0-1 and we certainly don’t want to begin our season at 0-3," he added.
The recent bouts have been somewhat historic, coming right down to the finish.
Last year, workhorse tailback Rich Stapleton ran for 218 yards and two touchdowns off of 37 carries and was apart of a running back stable that finished second all-time at the Stadium in single-game rushing attempts with 63 rushes of the team’s 77 total plays, which was also the most offensive plays executed during an RFA team in a game. There were 21 first downs — 18 via the run.
Stapleton churned his way into field goal range for the big-footed Thomas with two huge first down runs in the closing seconds, before Thomas’ game-winner.
In 2010, it was Thomas who missed a potential game-winning 39-yard field goal attempt in the closing seconds that helped Proctor escape with the 24-21 win. Walkery Mills led the way catching 11 balls for 104 yards receiving and two scores, while Jordan Treen threw for 180 yards and two scores and added another rushing TD and the Raiders’ defense stopped Rome twice on fourth-and-short inside the 25.
In the sectional playoff game, it was Mills again, this time on a double-reverse TD pass from Treen with 4:38 left that handed the Raiders a 33-28 lead, as Richard Pete rushed for 204 yards and three TDs, and as the Black Knights fumbled five times in the loss.
Rome held a 27-26 lead with 6:13 remaining, but a botched kick on their ensuing kick off put the Raiders on the RFA 47 to set up the go-ahead and eventual game-winning double-reverse play.
Six times in the last 11 meetings have the games been decided by six points or fewer.
This is Fiorini’s 13th year at Proctor, which is coming into the game 0-2 overall after dropping to Corcoran, 42-30, and Christian Brothers Academy, 35-6. Fiorini is 56-52 overall.
SL opens league play
South Lewis will have its first league game of the season as the Falcons battle unbeaten Sandy Creek in a Class D Central Division contest in Turin.
South Lewis is coming off of two non-league losses with its most recent against Clinton, 14-8.
Senior Dominick Ventura has been the Falcons’ lone scorer thus far, claiming four touchdowns with his most recent on a 15-yard run to put his team up 8-0 over Clinton.
Sandy Creek is 2-0 overall and has one league victory, coming against Beaver River in the season’s first week.
APW meets Adirondack
Adirondack will try to rebound from last Saturday’s 69-0 rout at the hands of General Brown when the Wildcats host APW in a Class C North matchup.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound quarterback Joe Marks is expected to lead the 1-1 overall and 0-1 in the league Wildcats offense as he holds two rushing touchdowns to his credit this season. Running back Cody Lutz also has over 100 yards rushing thus far.
APW comes into the contest on the heels of a 19-18 overtime loss to Lowville themselves. The Rebels are 1-1 in overall and league play to start the season.
Red Devils battle Jugglers
VVS and Notre Dame will square up in the Red Devils’ home opener in a non-league matchup.
VVS captured its first win of the season last weekend following a come-from-behind rally over league foe Mexico.
Junior quarterback Matt McCoy stepped up and collected 152 all-purpose yards for 1-1 overall VVS last week, passing for 85 yards on nine completions off 16 attempts and also rushing for 67 yards on six carries. Chris Beavo is also coming off a 87-yard rushing performance against Mexico.
Dane Carlson will be the head of the defense following his 18 tackles last week, as well as Ryan Oliver and Josh Bush after each made 15 tackles apiece.
Notre Dame is 2-0 to start the season following wins over Ilion, 31-30, and Holland Patent, 28-14.