DEXTER Sandy Creek proved it was the superior team for almost 30 minutes Friday night, racing to a three touchdown lead.
But just when the top-seeded Comets thought things would be easy, they let down their guard over the final quarter-and-a-half and allowed No. 8 Dolgeville to think it still had a chance to win.
In the end, Sandy Creek came up with a defensive stop deep in its own territory in the final seconds, and hung on for a 28-21 Section 3 Class D football victory at General Brown High School.
The game was moved to the turf field due to poor conditions on Sandy Creeks grass field.
The Comets (8-0) advanced to a semifinal next weekend against No. 4 Weedsport, a 28-19 winner over No. 5 Sauquoit Valley on Friday night. But they realized that playing only part of the game wont be good enough the next time.
We got a little too cocky with that 28-7 lead and thought things were over, said Sandy Creek junior John Shirley, who scored a touchdown and played another big game at linebacker. Coach warned us Dolgeville (a 12-time sectional champ) would play us hard to the end, and they did.
Leading 28-7 following Mason McNitts 18-yard touchdown run with seven minutes left in the third quarter, Sandy Creek did not record another first down.
Dolgeville (5-3) scored on a Jason Nastovski 2-yard run in the first minute of the fourth quarter, then blocked successive Sandy Creek punts.
After the second one, the Blue Devils perfectly executed a double pass, with quarterback Andrew Drumm passing to Johann Doerrer behind the line and Doerrer hitting a wide-open Alex Johnson in the end zone for a 22-yard score.
When Drumm passed to Johnson for the 2-point conversion, suddenly the Comets big lead was trimmed to just seven points with still 3 minutes, 34 seconds left on the clock.
Give them credit for making adjustments, but it was our own stupid mistakes that hurt us, said Sandy Creek coach Mike Stevens, who beat Dolgeville for the first time as a Sandy Creek player and coach. We got caught looking at the clock instead of playing like we did the first half.
Needing a couple of first downs to seal the win, Sandy Creek could not execute. And when Johnson returned McNitts punt to the Comets 32, Dolgeville still had a minute and a half left and one timeout.
Our whole season was on the line, so we knew we had to get a stop, McNitt said.
Junior linebacker Jake Benedict sacked Drumm on second down, and McNitt did the same on third down from the Sandy Creek 33. When Drumms desperation pass on fourth-and-17 sailed out of bounds, the Comets breathed a sigh of relief.
That was a championship team, and they played like one, Stevens told his team. We got the win, and thats all that matters. Fortunately, most of our mistakes are easily correctable.
Sandy Creek built their big lead behind a ball-control offense that featured McNitt (27 carries, 157 yards) and Shirley (15-52) toting the ball behind a strong offensive line.
The Comets put together long drives on each of their first two possessions, with Shirley going 10 yards for the first score and Cameron Hall running 26 yards for the second.
Drumm passed to Doerrer for a 6-yard score early in the second quarter. But the Comets forged another time-consuming drive at the end of the first half and scored when Tyler Swarthout hit Andy Carter for a 2-yard score with 10 seconds left before halftime.
After a 7-play, 65-yard drive was capped off by a McNitt TD run and a Swarthout conversion run in the third quarter, the Comets got complacent. And it almost cost them.
It feels great to 8-0 because I wasnt really sure if wed win more than two or three games early in preseason, McNitt said. Weve had a lot of different guys step up this year, and tonight was no different.
Stevens said his club lost their composure on offense the second half. We havent done that all year. But we found a way to survive, and thats all you want.