- October 2, 2021
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Turnovers and a goal-line stand help the Rams weather early deficit against the Eagles and earn rain-soaked victory.
OAKLAND — It was far from a shutdown defensive effort from the Cony football team Friday night.
The Rams did, however, make all the big plays they needed to ensure a rain-soaked evening was also a victorious one.
Cony recorded three turnovers and two fourth-down stops on Messalonskee’s last six drives, underclassmen Conner Heidle and Davyn Flynn ran for second-half touchdowns, and the Rams stayed undefeated with a 23-14 victory over the Eagles at their home away from home.
Cony, which turned the game with a goal-line stand that denied Messalonskee a two-score lead right before halftime, improved to 3-0.
“It just shows that we’re tough,” said senior linebacker James Presti, who sealed the game with an interception in the closing seconds. “Everyone counts us out, but we’re still here.”
“Our defense really stepped up this game,” said junior running back Elijah Klaiber, who ran 22 times for 85 yards. “I feel like this team has something special.”
Messalonskee, which got 108 rushing yards from Giovanni Caccamo and 87 from quarterback Brady Doucette thanks to an option offense that gave Cony fits early, fell to 2-2 but continued to show the signs of growth that have been apparent this season after two winless campaigns.
“Our kids, they’re starting to believe,” said coach Walter Polky, who also got two interceptions from Garrett Card. “Two victories back-to-back, (then) playing how we did today. But we do still make young kid mistakes. But that’s part of the progression. That’s how you learn. But a game like this … showed that we can play against the big, physical teams.”
The Eagles had no trouble moving the ball in the first half, answering a touchdown on Cony’s opening drive by going 63 yards on their second drive, capped by a 1-yard Simon Bessey run, and 68 yards on their third, with Doucette’s 14-yard keeper making it 14-7.
Messalonskee continued to push Cony back, moving to their 2-yard line for first-and-goal with halftime approaching, but the Rams made their first stand. Cony kept the Eagles out on three straight carries, and then Derek Totten came down with Doucette’s fourth-down pass to preserve the one-score deficit with 10 seconds to go.
Messalonskee’s Bryce Crowell (28) gets tackled by a Cony High School defender during a game Friday at Messalonskee High School in Oakland. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel
“They controlled play for the better part of the end of the first quarter and the entire second quarter,” Cony coach B.L. Lippert said. “Derek Totten picking off that pass the last play of the half really kind of kept us in it. … It’s the play of the game. They go up 20-7 there before the end of the half, mentally, that’s a little bit taxing.”
Messalonskee reached midfield on the opening drive of the second half, but the Rams forced a fumble that was recovered by Ashton Dennett at the Cony 43. Five plays later, Heidle, a freshman, broke tackles at the line and got free for a 17-yard touchdown, putting Cony ahead 15-14 with 7:47 to go in the third.
Messalonskee went three-and-out on the next series, but a Cony fumble set the Eagles up near midfield. They eventually faced a fourth-and-6, but Totten and Casey Mills sniffed out a screen for no gain and a turnover on downs.
Cony took advantage, finding the end zone in nine plays. Klaiber had a 9-yard catch on fourth-and-8 from the Messalonskee 24, and Flynn (13 carries, 52 yards), who had Cony’s first touchdown, ran in from 14 yards out for his second and a 23-14 lead with 11:20 to play.
“Our line did what they had to do,” Klaiber said. “Blocking-wise, it was great. In the second half, we all grouped up, we all talked, coach talked to us about what we needed to run, and we executed.”
Messalonskee’s Giovanni Caccamo (11) is tackled by Cony’s Logan Tyler (15), Casey Mills (88) and Adam Baugh (75) during a game Friday in Oakland. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel
Messalonskee went to work rallying back, getting a first-and-10 at the Cony 20, but again the Rams had an answer, forcing a turnover on downs three plays later. Messalonskee’s duo of Doucette and Caccamo had 127 yards rushing in the first half, and 68 in the second.
“In the second half, we were able to make a few adjustments. We figured out who’s taking the dive back, who’s taking the quarterback, and it paid dividends in the second half,” Lippert said. “I think it was just a little bit more about being disciplined. We haven’t seen an option offense like that in a few years.”
Cony bled more than five minutes on its next drive, forcing Messalonskee into desperation mode.
“We’re definitely moving in the right direction, we’ve just got to clean up little things,” Polky said. “The process is working. We just have to finish the little things. … For us, it’s just playing, and it’s getting out and competing. The more that we do it, the better our team’s going to be.”
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