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Proctor too much for rival Rome in football rout

Steve Jones
Sports writer
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Posted 9/25/22

The Thomas R. Proctor offense kept rolling this week in a 52-14 win at home over Rome Free Academy, a week after a 62-60 win hosting Whitesboro.

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Proctor too much for rival Rome in football rout

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The Thomas R. Proctor offense kept rolling in a 52-14 win at home over Rome Free Academy, a week after a 62-60 win hosting Whitesboro.

The two Class AA schools met Saturday afternoon at D’Alessandro Stadium in Utica for a game that is part of the Great American Rivalry Series.

“We played well. We improved, improved on defense,” said Proctor head coach Steve Strife after the win that got his team to 2-1 on the season. “This league is a meat grinder.” He added, “It was more of a grindy game, not wide open,” compared to the wild 122-point combined effort against Whitesboro.

The Utica offense put the pressure on from the moment it got the ball. The Raiders scored on their first drive, with senior quarterback Todd Abraham stuffed on his first keeper but he found daylight up the middle on his second try and took it all the way, 49 yards for a score to make it 6-0. He hit Joseph DePaul with a 33-yard pass for a score with 13 seconds left in the first quarter to push the lead to 12.

RFA cut the lead back to one possession on the next drive, with receiver Jack Lawless throwing the ball, connecting with Austin DeJean for an acrobatic catch with one foot in play as he went out the back of the end zone. That made it 12-7.

The hosts scored two more TDs before halftime to lead 26-7 at the break. First it was Abraham tossing a 21-yard pass to Jerquell Henderson for a score then he scored his second rushing touchdown of the game on an eight-yard run with a minute left in the half.

Henderson took an end around all the way from 39 yards out on the first possession of the second half. The Black Knights scored to open the fourth quarter when RFA quarterback Evan Carlson-Stephenson hit Surafia Norries — first with a 16-yard pass then on a jump ball that he pulled down and brought to the house from 33 yards. That made it 34-14.

Carlson-Stephenson was 17-of-28 passing for 163 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He also ran five times for 47 yards.

With RFA bringing in reserves, the Proctor offense struck again with seven minutes left, an 18-yard passing touchdown from Abraham to Genero Clemente. After the Proctor defense made a tackle in the end zone for a safety, the hosts capped off the win with a three-yard TD plunge by J’Quan Simmons.

Abraham, who was named the player of the game for the Rivalry Series, said after the win that the team was unsure what RFA’s plan would be on defense. So they kept the offensive plan simple: “Run the ball down their throat and then get the pass working.” On defense, he said, “We knew they’d pass the ball a lot,” so the Raiders focused on that.

Abraham finished the day with 11 carries for 106 yards and a pair of scores as well as completing five of seven passes for 107 yards and three TDs.

Strife said the defensive plan was to put two defenders around Lawless and make the other players beat them. When his team was on offense, “We tried to get the other guys the ball,” trying not to rely on Abraham to do it all. “We don’t do anything different,” he said of the team’s run-heavy style. This time, he noted, he was able to get Clemente and Kenijaymes Johnson the ball more after they spent so much of last week’s game blocking. Clemente had 77 yards rushing and the TD catch while Johnson carried 13 times for 96 yards.

“We’re not where we want to be,” Abraham said, but after the opening loss to a strong Christian Brothers Academy team, the Raiders have improved their blocking assignments on offense and their coverage on defense to win the next two games. “If we do what we’re supposed to do, we can make a little playoff run,” he said.

“We didn’t get into a rhythm. We never found our mojo,” RFA head coach Jake DerCola said. “We had a couple good drives and we’d shoot ourselves in the foot. We were a step too slow or we went to the wrong place. It didn’t feel like the offense we’ve had in the last couple games.”

DerCola said the Proctor pass rush ran some stunts that gave his linemen some assignment issues. He also noted that senior lineman Brian East’s neck injury that caused him to leave the game late in the first half was a key loss for the team. “Losing East in the middle hindered us too,” he said, and while East was down on the field for a while he walked off on his own power.

Of the Proctor offense, DerCola said: “They did a good job.” And while he said his defense took the Raiders out of some of what they did well against Whitesboro, Proctor adjusted and ran some new plays. “The Abraham kid is a heck of an athlete,” smart, fast and can throw, he said. “We had some blown assignments. We gave up some easy passes.” He continued, “At times we showed we could stop them then we’d give up a big play.”

RFA falls to 1-3 on the season and will host Section IV’s Elmira (2-1) at 6:30 p.m. Friday at RFA Stadium for Homecoming. “The atmosphere will be great,” DerCola said. Elmira is a wing T offense, “so they’ll smash it down your throat.” But, he noted, the team gives up a lot of points so it could be a high-scoring affair.

“We’re still growing. We still have a young team,” DerCola said. “You can definitely see improvement week to week, so we’re encouraged by that. We need to not have the mental mistakes on offense and defense,” and trust that you do your assignment and each teammate will do theirs.

Proctor will travel to play Class AA opponent Liverpool at 6 p.m. Friday.

VVS 49, Westmoreland/Oriskany 14

Senior James Wheeler IV rushed for 199 yards on 15 carries and scored three touchdowns to lead Vernon-Verona-Sherrill to a 49-14 victory over host Westmoreland/Oriskany on Saturday afternoon in a Class C-2 game at Bernie Block Field in Oriskany.

Wheeler scored on touchdown runs of 1, 2 and 60 yards as the Red Devils jumped out to a 29-8 halftime lead and never looked back.

VVS quarterback James Ward threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Wittman and scored another touchdown on a 35-yard run. Matthew Rossi and Wittman added touchdown runs of 2 and 6 yards to closing the scoring out for the Red Devils, who evened their record at 2-2.

The Bulldogs, who dropped to 0-4, got a 4-yard touchdown run by senior quarterback Michael Scalise in the first quarter and Scalise threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Rautenstrauch in the fourth quarter.

Scalise finished the game with four completions for 122 yards and had 16 carries for 50 yards. Rautenstrauch had three receptions for 87 yards.

Mitchell Holmes led the Bulldogs defensively with eight tackles and Jack Williams added five tackles.

VVS was paced defensively by Rossi with five tackles including two for a loss, seven assists and one sack.

The Red Devils are home for Lowville on Friday night, Sept. 30, at 7.

The Bulldogs host General Brown this Saturday afternoon, Oct. 1, at 1.

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