High School Football: Olean hands Eden its first loss
Raiders fall playing without leading rusher Smythe
Eden has found a way to pull out its first four games, three by the slimmest of margins, to start the season unbeaten despite being one of the younger of the teams in a very tight division.
Facing a big, physical and hungry Olean team without their top running back, the Raiders were unable to pull through for a fifth time this season.
The Raiders marched down the field on their opening drives in both halves, but playing without standout junior Alex Smythe, couldn’t muster much punch other than that in falling 28-14 on Saturday (Sept. 29) to an Olean team that was affective both through the air and running the ball.
“We were doing the things that we normally do (on the first drive) and I was thinking, ‘maybe we can get this thing done without Alex,’” Eden head coach Chuck Tilley said. “Olean really cranked up the intensity and played hard. It wasn’t so much us playing bad, although we made a lot of silly mistakes, Olean was aggressive today. Olean was the hitter, we were the hittee.”
Playing in a division in which most games have been decided on a mere few plays, Olean virtually saved its season by ratcheting up one of its best performances in 2012 to improve to 1-2 in Class B South and 2-3 overall.
“We told the guys before the game that we’re in the playoffs starting now and we have to win this game and (the last) three to have a shot at moving on,” said Olean coach Mike Kane, who noted that his team had a good week of practice after a disappointing loss last week. “It’s very even in our division. Everybody is in it and there’s not a big falloff from team to team. You’ve got to come and bring your best every weekend.”
Garrett DiStefano capped a 65-yard scoring drive for Eden with a 23-yard run on the opening possession of the game, and Nick Sarratori hit Brady Bermingham on a 12-yard scoring pass with 4:03 left in the third quarter, but in between Olean ripped off 21 straight points.
After Eden’s score to cut the deficit to 21-14, Olean held off the surging Raiders on two drives, then used consecutive big plays to increase its lead once again to two scores. Chance Anzivine, who enjoyed a big day throwing the ball, connected with Wil Bathurst for a 24-yard pass play, before Dante Tarr shot up a gap in the middle of the field, then down the right sideline for a 36-yard score. It was the Huskies’ third rushing touchdown of the game.
“We expect to be able to throw but what I was happy with is that we were able to run the ball,” Kane said. “We probably ran the ball more today than we did all year. Our passing game is what sets that up. It backs people off, then we’re able to run the ball.”
Having experienced little success on the offensive side of the ball after the game’s first drive, the Raiders went to their shotgun package with Sarratori at quarterback and drove the field 80 yards in 10 plays. Kyle Gibbon nailed both of his extra points in the game.
Sarratori ran for 18 yards on a gutsy fourth-and-three play call on Eden’s 27, then Joe Tripi ripped off 25 yards on the ground to keep the drive moving.
Eden got as far as the Olean 47 on the next drive, but much of the remainder of the game, the offense was once again stalled.
“In the second half I was happy. I thought we came out with Sarratori in the gun, established something, we were physical and coming off the ball,” Tilley said. “That’s something we’re going to build on.”
Down 7-0, Olean found success spreading the field and getting the ball into the hands of its lanky wide receivers in the second quarter. The Huskies tied the game on an Anzivine to Bathurst 20-yard pass play 7:57 before halftime.
On their next drive, Anzivine was 3 for 3 for 30 yards and Jaryd Plaud scored the first of his two touchdowns from two yards out with 1:58 left in the half.
Olean would benefit from an Eden fumble with a short field. After a pass to Case Cole was lateralled to Bathurst, who took the ball to Eden’s 1, Plaud scored again just over a minute later. Cole knocked down all four extra point attempts in the game.
Eden, which fell to 4-1 overall and 3-1 in Class B South, now faces a Pioneer team in almost the same spot after falling to 3-1, 4-1 with a loss to Springville over the weekend.
Like Olean, hard-luck Springville picked up its first division win and created what may become a must-win scenario on Friday, Oct. 5 when Eden meets host Pioneer, although the two teams are still tied for first place. The loser could still make the playoffs but may need some help.
These close games are nothing new to Eden and the entire division. The Raiders came into the game needing a comeback to beat East Aurora 28-26 in Week 1, edging Springville 19-13 in three overtimes a week later and last week, holding off Dunkirk 35-21.
Eden was able to easily handle Gowanda in its only non-league game this season.
“We’re a half of dozen plays away from being (1-4),” Tilley admitted. “Springville is 1-4 and are literally four plays away from being 5-0. That’s how it is in this division.”
Not making it any easier on the Raiders is now having to play without Smythe, who has been very sick over the past week with what school officials believe may be mono.
Smythe came off racking up 190 of Eden’s 400 total yards the week prior at Dunkirk, but by Monday, he was in the hospital.
“No doubt, losing Alex hurts us a lot,” said Tilley, who is not optimistic about his tough back being able to return before the playoffs, if, he noted, his team can pull through and get in.
“There were two or three runs that went for seven or eight yards today that Alex probably puts in the end zone,” he added. “Our kids have to get better; we all have to get better. We’re very young and there are very few seniors on this team. We lost a guy who isn’t the team, but is a very important part of our team. It’s a big void to fill.”