Blue Devils lose to Sandy Creek in semifinals

ROME – The Dolgeville Blue Devils couldn’t overcome a dominant defensive performance by the Sandy Creek Comets, falling in the Section III Class D football semifinals 24-12 at Rome Free Academy on Friday.

Entering the game, Dolgeville head coach Dan Zilkowski said that to be successful, his team needed to combat Sandy Creek’s size up front.

“I think for three quarters we handled them very well and we were winning the battle up front,” said Zilkowski. “I think in the fourth quarter, obviously, their size weighed on us a bit.”

The Dolgeville Blue Devils got on the scoreboard first following punts on the first drives of the game for both teams. Quarterback Reid Johnson led a long drive all the way down the field. On fourth down, Johnson found Devin Coonradt, who lost his balance after the catch but stumbled into the end zone. Dolgeville missed the extra point and walked away with a 6-0 lead.

Sandy Creek put together an impressive drive of their own after taking over at their own 40-yard line. Bobby Cornell and Cameron Hall pounded the ground, but it was a 33-yard third-down pass from Kyle Fayette to Zach Halsey that kept the drive going. After picking up another first down, Tyler Swarthout took the ball into the end zone from 15 yards out. A missed extra point kept the game tied at six apiece.

Both teams punted on each drive of the second quarter, a quarter that featured penalties galore for both squads.

“I think as a team we played very well at times overall, but I definitely think some of the mistakes we made cost us,” said Zilkowski.

The third quarter was marred by turnovers for both teams. Fayette used his legs on the opening drive of the second half after Cameron Hall returned the opening kickoff to the Sandy Creek 46-yard line. Fayette scrambled 19 yards on the first play of the drive, but a sack later in the drive by Dolgeville’s Jason Nastovski dropped the Comets back. Fayette was intercepted by Coonradt on the next play.

Johnson and the Blue Devils were unable to take advantage of the Sandy Creek miscue, however, as Johnson tossed an interception to Zach Brown following three hard runs by Nastovski. The Comets proceeded to go three and out before punting, but Nastovski fumbled the ball at the Dolgeville 4-yard line to give Swarthout and the Comets an easy crack at the end zone. Swarthout scored on his second run at the goal line to give Sandy Creek a 12-6 advantage.

With the quarter winding down, Nastovski redeemed himself by rumbling down the field before a Sandy Creek penalty put Dolgeville at the Sandy Creek 1-yard line. Nastovski plunged into the end zone, but the extra point was blocked to keep the score knotted 12-12 with one quarter left to play.

Early in the final quarter, Hall put together runs of 26 and 16 yards to set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Swarthout, his third of the game. After Sandy Creek forced Dolgeville to go three and out, the Comets were able to whittle down the time on the clock with a series of short runs. On the seventh play of the drive, Brown found a wide open hole and ran 47 yards for a score to give Sandy Creek a 24-12 lead with under four minutes remaining in the game.

Johnson attempted four straight passes on Dolgeville’s ensuing drive, but the Blue Devils turned the ball over on downs. Sandy Creek ran the clock down with a series of successful running plays before celebrating their trip to the championship game.

“We could have taken advantage of our field position a little better,” said Zilkowski. “We also made some mistakes on special teams that hurt us a little bit and those things kind of turned the tide in the game a little bit.”

Dolgeville’s season comes to an end after going 7-1 in the regular season and picking up two victories in sectional play.

“This is a fantastic group of seniors,” said Zilkowski. “They gave their hearts and souls into the season and it’s something they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.”

Sandy Creek will face Herkimer for the Section II Class D title next Saturday at noon at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. Herkimer (8-1 overall) posted a 29-20 win over Westmoreland in Friday’s other semifinal contest at Utica Proctor.

Sandy Creek 24, Dolgeville 12

Dolgeville 6 0 6 0 – 12

Sandy Creek 6 0 6 12 – 24

First Quarter

D – Coonradt 10 pass from Johnson (kick failed)

SC – Swarthout 15 run (kick failed)

Third Quarter

SC – Swarthout 2 run (kick failed)

D – Nastovski 1 run (kick failed)

Fourth Quarter

SC – Swarthout 2 run (kick failed)

SC – Brown 47 run (kick failed)