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Special night

Hillbillies run table in Class C South, defeat Golden Cougars, 39-14

Fredonia running back Matt Lotter breaks a tackle on his way to a 28-yard touchdown run against Falconer/Cassadaga Valley/Maple Grove on Saturday at the Orange Bowl. The score was the first of Lotter's two touchdowns in the 39-14 Class C South victory. OBSERVER Photo by Tim Frank

It was a special night at the Orange Bowl for the Fredonia Hillbillies football team, but their special teams must have misread the memo thinking it was a special teams kind of night.

In Fredonia’s final Class C South game of the year against the Falconer/Cassadaga Valley/Maple Grove Golden Cougars its special teams recorded not one, but two momentum swinging safeties that helped power the Hillbillies to a 39-14 victory and with it clinched the Class C South league title.

“Believe it or not, we work a lot on special teams,” Fredonia head coach Greg Sherlock said about focusing on special teams. “These guys love special teams. We pride ourselves, we want to be the best special teams team there is around, we put a whole lot of time into it at practice.”

The first key safety came in the second quarter with the score tied at 7-7, with around five minutes left to play. Just inside their own 20-yard line, the Golden Cougars were on fourth down and elected to punt, but the routine play went haywire when the snap didn’t connect with punter Kynan Egan. Egan raced into the end zone to scoop up the ball, preventing a Hillbillies touchdown, but the Fredonia rushers would not let him escape the safety to regain the lead at 9-7.

Egan robbed the special teams of a touchdown, but the fired up Hillbillies squad made up for it working with the short field off the punt. Starting at midfield Fredonia ran right through the Golden Cougars’ defense and scored quickly when senior running back Matt Lotter busted up the middle and into the home stretch for a 28-yard rushing touchdown that increased the lead to 16-7.

With not much time remaining in the half, on the next drive the Golden Cougars attempted to move quickly in response to the two Fredonia scores. Golden Cougars’ quarterback Jackson Gowan dropped back and went for a deep strike, but Fredonia’s Ethan Fry was lurking in the secondary and snagged the ball for an interception. Fry gathered himself and began darting across the field with blockers in front of him, Fry broke an early tackle and made his way up the field with his eyes set on the end zone, after dodging tackles and cutting back he found himself diving past the goal line for what was thought to be a pick six.

A flag way back where Fry got his first big block sent the crowd and Fredonia bench into a frenzy, it was an illegal block in the back and it wiped the score off the board. The flag could not stop the momentum of the Hillbillies as they once again marched right into the red zone. Lotter capped off the drive once again, but this time from five yards out to give Fredonia a 23-7 lead at halftime.

“We thought we had the athletes to do that this year,” Sherlock said about scoring three quick times before halftime. “We’ve got a lot of athletes, there’s one ball so I think we use everybody pretty well. It’s helped us this year score points.”

After giving up three scores in the final five minutes of the half, the Golden Cougars started the second half exactly how they needed to if they wanted to win. Beginning with a strong return the Golden Cougars offense was able to march their way deep into Fredonia territory. Noah Abram capped off the impressive drive with a 3-yard run into the end zone, making it 23-14.

Fredonia matched the tempo of the Falconer/Cassadaga Valley/Maple Grove offense, scoring just as quickly when Fry finally got his touchdown on a 32-yard reception from Nick Whitfield making it 30-14.

“They had an answer for our answer,” stated Falconer/Cassadaga Valley/Maple Grove head coach Dan Greco. “They’re very good, you’ve got to give them all the credit in the world. But the game didn’t change at that point, the game changed in the first half with about three or four minutes left.”

On the ensuing kick off, the ‘Billies trapped the Golden Cougars inside their own 5-yard line. With no room to move, another punt was on the way. The Fredonia special teams once again made the night about them, breaking past the offensive line the ‘Billies this time were able to block the punt in the end zone and make a tackle for the second safety of the game.

“The mark to a team is how they respond to adversity,” Sherlock said about responding to the Golden Cougars opening second half drive. “They came down and ran it down our throat, quite frankly. In the past that’s maybe where our team starts to fold and questions themselves. This team never questions, they know that offensively we can score in bunches.”

The second safety snatched any hope of a comeback away from the Golden Cougars as Fredonia won 39-14, following a second Whitfield rushing touchdown. Fredonia’s senior night victory capped off running the table in Class C South and set them up at 7-0 overall heading into its rivalry game at Dunkirk on Friday.

“This senior group I will never forget,” Sherlock said about his group of seniors. “They have been around for so long, they’ve stuck with it. I will always remember this group.”

Falconer/Cassadaga Valley/Maple Grove 0 7 7 0 — 14

Fredonia 7 16 9 7 — 39

Fred–Whitfield 15 run (Tabone kick)

F/C/M–Caldwell 37 run (Paladino kick)

Fred– Safety

Fred–Lotter 28 run (Tabone kick)

Fred–Lotter 5 run (Tabone kick)

F/C/M–Abram 3 run (Paladino kick)

Fred–Fry 32 pass from Whitfield (Tabone kick)

Fred — Safety

Fred–Whitfield 3 run (Tabone kick)

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