VESTAL Carthage coach Sam Millich and his standout senior quarterback, Bailey Wilkinson, agreed on one thing after seeing a fantastic season come to an inglorious end Friday night.
It stinks that we have to go out this way, and that I cant coach these seniors again, Millich told his Comets after they suffered a 43-7 loss to Union-Endicott in the state Class A football quarterfinals at Dick Hoover Field. But we cant forget how much fun weve had as a group this year. And that nobody can ever take our sectional title away.
Wilkinson, who guided the Comets (9-2) to comeback wins the last two weeks in the Section 3 playoffs, said the fact that this particular club ended with a loss is tough because of what we went through to get this far. They outplayed us, and were certainly the better team tonight. But nothing can take away what we accomplished as a team this year.
Quarterback Joey Orlando passed for 213 yards and fired five touchdown passes for the Section 4 champion Tigers (8-3), who advance to play either Eastridge of Section 5 or Williamsville North of Section 6 in next weekends state semifinals.
Union-Endicott dominated from the outset, scoring on just its fourth offensive play of the game after forcing Carthage to punt on the Comets initial possession.
Orlando, operating from the spread formation with several wide receivers, hit C. J. Krowiak for a 22-yard score just 3½ minutes into the game and Sammy Davis ran in the 2-point conversion to set the tone of the game.
Davis added a 7-yard TD run and Orlando passed to Osama Barwani for a 58-yard score before the first period ended to make it 20-0.
A 19-yard hookup with Nick Yanesky and another 25-yard TD pass to Krowiak in the second quarter upped the Tigers lead to 36-0.
Ive got so many good receivers, I can go to almost any of them on any play, said Orlando, who has passed for nearly 2,000 yards this season. My line did a great job because I just sat back in the pocket until someone was open.
The Comets failed to generate any kind of pass rush on Orlando. And when he wasnt hitting open receivers, Davis was rushing for 118 first-half yards on just 12 carries as Carthage was unable to slow the Tigers down.
They sure had a lot of weapons, Wilkinson said. Unfortunately, our offense couldnt get anything going the first half and that put a lot of pressure on the defense.
Carthage was held to only 40 rushing yards and just 23 passing yards the first half. The Comets managed just two first downs, punted five times, had one punt blocked and suffered one interception.
We knew they were really good, Millich said. We came in pretty banged up, but thats no excuse for executing so poorly tonight.
The first half ended with 1:13 left in the second quarter when Carthage senior Tim OConnor took a hard hit and was taken away in an ambulance on a U-E 2-point conversion.
Millich was told after the game that OConnor was OK, and that he would recover from concussion symptoms.
A fumbled punt led to the Tigers final score early in the third quarter, another 27-yard TD strike from Orlando to Lucas DePofi.
Second teamers finished the game on both offense and defense for Union-Endicott.
Wilkinson finally got the Comets on the board with 9:14 left in the game on a 21-yard run. Shortly thereafter, Millich pulled his senior leader and they hugged each other.
What a great senior class and what leadership we received from them this season, Millich said. These young men made a lot of people proud this year. They shouldnt forget what a special season this was.
Millich said that he could sense early in the week that last Saturdays emotional win over Indian River in the Section 3 title game was still weighing heavily on the Comets minds.
Practice Monday and Tuesday was pretty sluggish, then we were hopping again by Wednesday, he said. But the last few days we were kind of drifting. I knew it would take a lot for us to win this game.
Wilkinson said the thing he will take most from this season is the team chemistry and how everybody seemed to like and take care of each other. Its disappointing now, but I know Id love to do it all over again.