Weekly Feature

2017-09-07 / Sports

Flyer gridders top Eagles for second straight year

Maryvale rallies from 24-8 deficit to earn rare win on Cleve Hill’s field

Cleveland Hill’s football team still holds the all-time lead in its rivalry series with Maryvale, but the Flyers have slowly but surely been chipping away at the Eagles’ advantage recently — including Saturday’s 30-24 comeback victory that not only cut Cleveland Hill’s series lead to 25-20-2, but was also the Flyers’ first at Cleveland Hill in a decade.

It was also Maryvale’s second consecutive conquest of the Eagles, its third in the last four years and its fourth victory in the previous 11 attempts.

“I’m just very proud of these guys,” Maryvale coach Jeff Buccieri said. “I think this will serve us well for the weeks to come, knowing that we could overcome mistakes — not that we want to be making mistakes — and win in the end. It just speaks to the quality of young men we have on this team. They kept after it and continued to battle against a team as great as Cleveland Hill, and they eventually got to see things go their way.

“This rivalry game really has been something over the past four years,” Buccieri continued. “It’s come down to the last play every time. I truly think it helps both of our programs, win or lose. Cleve Hill is the defending sectional champs in ‘C’ football, but if they were a ‘B’ school, they’re so talented that I think they really could win that title too.”

First-year player Ray Blackwell was the one who provided the last-second heroics this year, hauling in a 5-yard pass from Connor Desiderio with just over a minute to play to push the Flyers out front for the first time all day. But it was possible Blackwell wouldn’t have even been in position to make the game-winning play if Dylan Casey hadn’t scored on a 75-yard kickoff return to start the frame — it was the second year in a row Casey took a kick to the house in the rivalry game — to bring Cleveland Hill’s lead back down to just one touchdown, 24-16.

“Before Dylan’s kick return things were looking pretty bleak,” Buccieri said. “We had scored in the third to cut the deficit back to 16-8, but then some mistakes were made and they scored to make it 24-8. We just never looked back after that touchdown. To take the momentum back right away from them, it was huge. Dylan is quite the gamer; when he sees Cleveland Hill out there, you know he’s going to come out with some of his best football.”

“That kick return was a tremendous play for them,” Cleveland Hill coach Glen Graham said. “Nothing swings the momentum like when you return a kick after Cleveland Hill’s Ryan Majerowski holds on tight as a flock of Flyers defenders try to strip the ball away during Saturday’s 30-24 season-opening loss to crosstown rival Maryvale. Photo by Dan NesselbushPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Cleveland Hill’s Ryan Majerowski holds on tight as a flock of Flyers defenders try to strip the ball away during Saturday’s 30-24 season-opening loss to crosstown rival Maryvale. Photo by Dan NesselbushPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com the other team scores. Maryvale just did a great job of hanging in there and believing in what they were doing. They played hard all the way, and that never-say-die attitude and execution is what ultimately sealed our fate.”

It was Maryvale whose fate seemed sealed in the first half after the Eagles jumped out to a 16-0 halftime lead thanks to a 30-yard run by Aaron Wahler and a 95-yard interception return by Ryan Majerowski. Majerowski’s pick-six is what actually broke the scoreless stalemate.

The Eagles bumped their lead back up to two scores, 24-8, in the third quarter on an 8-yard run by Brett Kochanski that answered Blackwell’s first touchdown reception of his career, an 11-yard strike. After Blackwell’s go-ahead touchdown, the Eagles were able to drive the ball down the field and got as close as Maryvale’s 27 before a last-ditch pass to the end zone went a little wide.

“It was definitely a defensive struggle early on where we played a lot of snaps on that side of the ball for sure,” Graham said. “We only had three offensive attempts in the first quarter. We just have to do a better job in terms of playing fundamental football. We were better in the second half in that regard, but when we looked at the film Monday we saw that we were making mistakes that you can’t make against a good team like Maryvale.”

Casey also scored Maryvale’s second touchdown of the fourth quarter, following up his kickoff return with an 18-yard scamper into the end zone later in the frame that made it a 24-22 game in Cleveland Hill’s favor.

“It was almost like the perfect storm for us in the first half, where whatever could go wrong did,” Buccieri said. “So, we challenged the boys at the half to move on and focus on taking it one play at a time, and they responded. I think that’s a testament to these guys; I wanted to see their character and their mental toughness in the second half, and they responded in a huge way.”

Desiderio picked up right where he left off last season for Maryvale, completing 13-of-24 passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns. Blackwell caught eight of those passes for 159 yards, while Rashad Law led the Flyers’ ground game with 89 yards on 10 carries. Dylan Casey chipped in with 69 yards on seven carries, while Jay Henley contributed 53 yards on nine carries.

Defensively, Nick Costanzo paced Maryvale’s efforts with 11 total tackles, while Donovan McCoy added nine total tackles. Syncier Middlebrooks chipped in with seven total tackles and a forced fumble, while Montell Ferguson added four tackles and a fumble recovery for the Flyers, who take on Buccieri’s alma mater — Pioneer — in Friday’s home opener.

“Pioneer is a good football program and it’ll be emotional going against my alma mater; their head coach is a really good friend of mine, and their staff over the years have been mentors to me along the way,” Buccieri said. “We can’t let them pound the ball and hold the ball for the entire game, so we’ve got to be stout against the run. We definitely have to do a little better of a job with our tackling, and we need to do a better job of moving the defensive line up front to where we’re getting a better surge and limiting the hits on our quarterback more consistently.

“But, we should have a lot of confidence moving forward because I think Cleveland Hill is one of the top five programs in Western New York,” Buccieri continued. “They’re always in the thick of things every year, so to take our lumps and face the adversity we did but find a way to pull it out, it says a lot about what we have this year.”

Cleveland Hill, meanwhile, was led by Wahler’s 122 yards on 19 carries. Kochanski finished 10-of-14 through the air for 62 yards, with David Grant catching six of those passes for 35 yards. Majerowski and D’Mario Grant each had 10 total tackles to pace the team’s defensive efforts, while James Purpura added seven tackles. Kochanski added an interception, while Majerowski forced two fumbles for the Eagles, who will look to get back on track Friday at Wilson.

“We’ve just got to clean up our mistakes from this past week, but that’s the advantage of playing your non-league rival the first week,” Graham said. “Maryvale has as good of a team as they’ve had in a while, and they’ve had some good teams. They showed us some of the areas where we’ve got to improve, and if we can make those improvements then I like our chances of bouncing back this week.”

email: jnadolinski@beenews.com

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