Le Roy’s football team came up just short as they fell in overtime to Wayland-Cohocton in the Class C championship, 14 to 8.
Head Coach Brian Moran was in search of his 14th sectional championship in 25 years, and a Section V record, 15th in school history, but it was not to be for the Oatkan Knights.
“They really worked hard and both teams were well prepared,” Moran said. “That led to a defensive struggle all day.”
The game was the definition of a defensive struggle for the majority of the game, as the game headed into the fourth quarter with a scoreless tie.
Class C Offensive Player of the Year Devon Harris entered the game averaging over 170 rushing yards per game and yet to be held under 100 all season long for Wayland-Cohocton. However, the Oatkan Knights managed to bottle him up for most of the game, holding him to 98 yards on 18 carries.
“I thought we played very well defensively against a young man who is an extremely talented athlete,” Moran said. “I thought we shut him down pretty well, but we just didn’t make plays when we needed to.”
The Eagles struck first, as quarterback C.J. Ellis found tight end Darren Becker for a 40-yard gain down to the Le Roy 15-yard line. Two plays later, Ellis found Reece Chapman for a 13-yard score. Harris would punch in the two-point conversion to give Way-Co the lead two minutes into the fourth quarter.
Le Roy wouldn’t need long to respond, as quarterback Mike McMullen found Ryan McQuillen two plays later, and he sprinted 70 yards down the sideline to put the Knights on the scoreboard. McMullen then found Nick Egeling for the two-point conversion to knot the game at eight apiece with nine minutes to play.
The Eagles appeared to be driving again, but Egeling managed to step in front of an Ellis pass to halt the drive at Le Roy’s 30-yard line.
After failing to move the ball, Way-Co drove the ball again deep into Le Roy territory, but it was the Knights’ defense who came up big again, stopping the Eagles inches short of a first down late in the ball game.
Le Roy took possession and marched onto Wayland-Cohocton’s side of the 50-yard line, but a rare Knight turnover halted a chance at a go-ahead score as McMullen and running back Peter Privitera were unable to complete at handoff late in the game.
“It happens, it's high school football,” Moran said. “It's 16-, 17-, 18-year-old kids, and you can’t worry about it. You just have to pick yourself up and keep playing.”
The Eagles would take the first offensive possession on overtime and marched inside the Le Roy 10-yard line, but the defense would initially hold strong.
Zach Fitzsimmons came up with a big sack on third down to knock Way-Co back to the 12-yard line, but Ellis would find Chapman on the exact same play as the first touchdown to put the Eagles in front 14-8.
On Le Roy’s first offensive play of overtime, McMullen found Egeling for a gain of nine yards, but the Knights were never able to pick up that final yard as McMullen was unable to connect with Pierce in the end zone on second down, and Privitera was stopped short on the final two plays of the game to give Wayland-Cohocton their first sectional championship in school history.
“We just tried to get the first down,” Moran said. “We just tried to score and hopefully get a chance to kick an extra point to win, but today it just didn’t happen.”
The Le Roy trademark rushing attack was held in check all game, as the Eagles held them to a season-low 76 yards. Privitera finished with just 30 yards on 11 carries in the final game of his superb high school career.
McMullen finished the game 10-of-22 for 165 yards and a touchdown. McQuillen caught five of those passes for 108 yards.
Le Roy’s defense played well, holding the Eagles to under 200 yards of total offense, registering four sacks and forcing three turnovers.
Ellis entered the game having thrown only one interception all game, but the Knights managed to intercept him twice on the game, and he finished 5-of-12 for 73 yards to go along with his two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Wayland-Cohocton (9-1) will go on to face the winner of the Section VI championship game next week in the Far West Regionals.
Le Roy will finish their season at 8-2 as they fell in the Class C final for the second consecutive season.
“They had a great game plan defensively,” Moran said. “We played well, but obviously they made one more play than us and congratulations to them.”
Top Photo: Reece Chapman, Wayland-Cohocton's running back, crosses the goal line for the game's first points in the fourth quarter after catching a 13-yard pass from C.J. Ellis.
Ryan McQuillen outruns the Wayland-Cohocton defense after grabbing a swing pass from QB Mike McCullen for an 80-yard TD reception to tie the score in the fourth quarter.
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