Golden Cougars QB steps up big-time in tight win

OBSERVER Photo by Lisa Monacelli: Golden Cougars’ quarterback, Connor Crabtree (16), makes a play rolling out of the pocket.

GERRY — Explosive plays made the back-and-forth second half between Cassadaga Valley-Falconer and Gowanda-Pine Valley unpredictable. The Golden Cougars (1-1), however, pulled away with it and got their first win of the season, 27-26, over the Panthers (0-2) Saturday afternoon.

Gowanda/Pine Valley had the game going in its favor going into half. The Panthers’ run-heavy offense had a drive that lasted 10:17 in the second quarter, which converted two fourth-and-short situations, and put Gowanda/Pine Valley up 14-6 with :36 remaining.

The Golden Cougars quarterback Connor Crabtree threw an interception in the team’s final drive to put them into halftime.

Cassadaga Valley/Falconer coach Jeff Smith’s halftime ignited the Golden Cougars. With only 3:48 left in the third, the Golden Cougars scored a touchdown by a running back Robbie Penhollow run and the game tying two-point conversion was scored by a Crabtree throw to Penhollow, making the score 14-all.

Momentum was a pendulum in the final quarters as the Panthers running back, Caleb Maloney, breaks one from 56 yards out to get Gowanda-Pine Valley back on top, 20-14.

OBSERVER Photo by Lisa Monacelli: Gowanda Panthers’ quarterback, Justin Kohn (7), looks to make a throw from the pocket in Saturday’s 27-26 loss to Cassadaga Valley-Falconer.

The answering score by the Panthers only took off 1:33, although the two-point conversion was no good.

Tension rose in the fourth quarter as Cassadaga Valley-Falconer was driving. The Golden Cougars converted a tough fourth-and-three run up the middle. The drive was in Crabtree’s hands. The quarterback stepped back on first and goal at the 10-yard line, rolled to his right and found a hole to squeak into the end zone.

Gowanda-Pine Valley’s No. 1 struggle in the game was Crabtree’s mobility.

“Tackle the quarterback. No. 16, we had to contain him,” Gowanda-Pine Valley coach Sean Gabel said. “He had a good game, we can’t stop him. The special teams, that hurt us, too. The holding penalties on big plays.”

The Golden Cougars were successful on the point-after attempt and went up 21-20.

OBSERVER Photo by Lisa Monacelli: Robbie Penhollow breaks past the Gowanda defense for the first touchdown of the game in the Golden Cougars 27-26 victory over the Gowanda Panthers.

Just when the home crowd at Cassadaga felt the energy go their way, Maloney took it back. The running back returned the kick off 51 yards to land the Panthers on the Golden Cougars’ 24-yard line with 8:43 remaining in the game.

Gowanda-Pine Valley had another quick drive — that went 24 yards in 3:03 — which was capped off by running back Jordan Bailey, who powered it in from 6 yards out. The team failed the two-point conversion and had a 26-21 lead with 5:40 remaining.

When the Panthers kicked it off, Penhollow had to turn around to get under it. The farthest Panthers’ kick on the night turned into the farthest return on the night as well. From his own 15-yard line, Penhollow bolted through defenders, but was caught up at Gowanda-Pine Valley’s 1-yard line. A yard away from an 85-yard kick return to the house.

“Never quit,” Cassadaga Valley-Falconer coach Jeff Smith said of his team. “No matter what the outcome is, it is always: forget the last play and move on to the next one. And you can see that we did that. We could have easily gave in when they scored that last long (kick return) of theirs. And we could have easily said, ‘OK, they have the momentum on this.’ But they did not.”

Cassadaga Valley-Falconer lost two yards on the following play, but it was no one other than Crabtree who found the end zone get the lead, 27-26, with 4:33 left in the game. The Golden Cougars missed the two-point conversion to go up by three.

Gowanda-Pine Valley could not answer with another tremendous kick return and the run-heavy scheme was facing an uphill battle against the Golden Cougars and the clock.

“It’s not a two-minute offense,” Gabel said. “You have to get your way out of that (offense we run).”

After a holding penalty that set the Panthers back the play before, a failed fourth-and-15 gave the ball back to the Golden Cougars and secured the win.

Crabtree led the offense for Cassadaga Valley/Falconer. The mobile quarterback had 10 rushes for 75 yards and threw 4 of 8 with one interception.

“Connor is a special player, just like the other 10 on the field but, he has an ability where he can run, he can throw and he is also a smart kid,” Smith said. “When he gets into danger and gets into trouble, he can get out of it by using his ability. … You don’t teach that, that’s natural ability.”

The Golden Cougars’ running game was strong all around. Penhollow had 13 rushes for 77 yards and Daniel Torres added 59 yards on six carries.

Gowanda’s ground-and-pound approach was led by Maloney, who had 19 rushes for a stunning 183 yards.

“Excellent,” Gabel said of Maloney’s play. “He’s a tough, young man. He works hard and he is a tough runner. He has a 200-pound heart with a 150-pound body. But even he made mistakes, too. We all did. The only way it’s going to work is if we stay together.”

Bailey added 64 yards from 15 rushes and tailback Adam Sisti had 12 rushes for 35 yards.

Cassadaga Valley/Falconer will have a bye this upcoming weekend and then host Eden/North Collins in Falconer on Sept. 22. Gowanda/Pine Valley will host Silver Creek/Forestville on Sept. 15. Both games are expected to start at 7 p.m.

NOTES: Torres led the Golden Cougars in tackles with 12 with Penhollow right behind him with 10 … The Panthers tackling was led by Maloney with eight as Nate Brawdy and Hunter Ring had seven each … Gowanda/Pine Valley quarterback Justin Kohn threw 3 of 13 for 18 yards … Maloney started the scoring with a 60-yard run in first … Penhollow scored a 10-yard run to tie it 6-all before the Panthers’ long drive in the second.

Twitter: @Kuczkowski95