RFA’s home-opener spoiled by rival Proctor

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Utica Proctor extended its win streak over Rome Free Academy football to five with a 52-18 win Friday night in the Black Knights’ home-opener at RFA Stadium.

The Great American Rivalry Series game was played in ideal conditions, a cool, clear night with the stands full of fans from both schools. RFA hasn’t won this matchup since 2014, dropping games in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

RFA was already shorthanded, with four starters out of action due to COVID-19 protocol. “They did a great job firing off (the ball),” said RFA head coach Jake DerCola of Proctor’s offensive line after the game. “We didn’t do a good job starting off.”

The Raiders set the tone with a touchdown on the game’s opening drive. Proctor drove 60 yards on five run plays, capped by an eight-yard rushing score by Jerquell Henderson 2:02 into the game. The Raiders took the ball back with a strip sack of RFA quarterback Evan Carlson-Stephenson on the next drive. A pass from Brandon Peterson to Xavier McLean in the end zone on the first play of the drive was wiped out by a penalty and the drive would end later on a sack by RFA’s Salvatore Martelli on fourth down.

Near the end of the first quarter, RFA took the ball away on a fumble recovered by Ryan O’Connell but Jayden Green of Proctor intercepted a pass in the flats by Carlson-Stephenson on the second play of the second quarter. Treshawn Patterson ran twice — for 14 then for a three-yard score — for a quick touchdown to make it 14-0 after a two-point conversion.

After an RFA punt, Proctor marched 68 yards to another score. Patterson ran it in from seven yards out for his second touchdown of the game to make it 22-0 after the conversion. RFA fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Proctor grabbed the ball at the opponent’s 17. Todd Abraham finished that drive with a one-yard plunge up the middle to push the lead to 30-0 with 5:24 left in the half.

The teams traded scores to end the half. RFA got on the board with a 58-yard touchdown drive. Carlson-Stephenson connected with Kaiden McCaskill for gains of 30 and 20 during the drive, and Nevaeh Baez ran it in from the two-yard line up the middle to cut the lead to 30-6. But Proctor would counter that with its own score, Patterson’s third touchdown of the game. His 36-yard weaving run to the sideline made it 36-6 with 1:21 left in the half.

DerCola noted that the turnovers and turnovers on downs gave Proctor too many drives starting in RFA territory. With Proctor runners breaking tackles and RFA defenders in new positions due to players out of action, it left the Black Knights in a tough spot.

RFA outscored Proctor in the third 12 to eight, but it wouldn’t be enough. When Proctor went for it on fourth-and-two, the RFA defense stuffed a run play and ripped the ball loose. McCaskill scooped up the loose ball and shed a few tackles to return the ball 28 yards for a score. That cut the lead to 36-12.

Proctor got the points back and more with a 46-yard run by Domante Cook on the following drive. The two-point conversion made it 44-12. RFA scored next when Carlson-Stephenson hit McCaskill on a fade in the end zone from 22 yards out to make it 44-18. Jayden Green scored the game’s final touchdown on a two-yard run with 6:59 left in the contest, pushing the lead to 52-18.

“This week we improved a lot offensively, on the offensive line,” said Proctor head coach Steve Strife after the win. After improving to 2-1 on the season, he said, “We’re still figuring (it) out.” He continued: “We’re a run-first offense anyway,” building off jet sweeps and counters. “I wanted to come out and play a solid game,” controlling the ball and managing the clock. Proctor, he said, has an inexperienced roster, with only Peterson back from the team that got to the Section III final in 2019. Peterson didn’t finish Friday’s game, coming out late in the first half after getting his leg rolled over. Strife said he was unsure of Peterson’s status for next week.

“We can throw the ball,” DerCola said. “We have some playmakers on the outside. If we’re fully healthy we have Dayton Kelly back there with Nevaeh Baez,” a combination that can present multiple looks for defenses.

Carlson-Stephenson ended the night 17-of-29 passing for 213 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Baez led the team with 93 yards rushing and a score. McCaskill had five catches for 134 yards and a touchdown.

Next up for RFA, which fell to 1-2 on the season, is Homecoming at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 1 against Nottingham. For DerCola that means “figuring out our best personnel” to get the ball to players in space via the run and the pass. “We have to get the confidence back that we had against Henninger.” The defense, he said, has to get back to basics, especially concerning missed tackles.

Bulldogs win big on road

Quarterback Michael Scalise accounted for all of the Westmoreland/Oriskany scoring Friday night as the Bulldogs picked up their first win of the season, defeating host Waterville, 28-7.

Scalise ran for three touchdowns, from seven, two and eight yards and threw a 14-yard strike to Cameron Rautenstrauch. Jacob Ingersoll made all four of his extra point kicks.

Scalise finished with 22 carries for 68 yards and the three touchdowns and he was 3-of-9 through the air for 29 yards. Jerry Fiorini rushed 14 times for 83 yards for the Bulldogs.

Joe Bulischeck led the Westmoreland/Oriskany defense with 11 total tackles and a fumble recovery. Mitchell Holmes made eight tackles and Dylan Tophoven made three tackles and had an interception. In all, the Bulldogs forced four Waterville turnovers.

Westmoreland/Oriskany, 1-2, hosts Onondaga Central next Saturday at 1 p.m. at Bernie Block Field in Oriskany.

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