FREWSBURG - For the first time all season, the Randolph Cardinals found themselves trailing in a Class D East football game.
Against Frewsburg on Friday night, the Bears took the lead 13-12 with 7:07 left until halftime, but it was how the Cardinals responded to the adversity that justified their No. 1 ranking for Class D schools in New York state.
Frewsburg (4-2) held the lead for a mere 10 seconds, and Randolph (6-0) never looked back, prevailing 47-13. The win sets up a showdown in the final game of the regular season with unbeaten Portville (6-0) next week.
The Randolph Cardinals take on the Frewsburg Bears
''As a coach, you're always looking to improve,'' Randolph coach Pat Slater said. ''I'm really happy with the way they played tonight. I think the kids played hard. They came out and did a lot of great things.''
The Cardinals got on the board first when quarterback John Morgante ran an option to the right side of the line, waited until the defense committed inside and then pitched the ball outside to tailback Mason Burch. All Burch did with the toss was run 55 yards for his first of four touchdowns on the night.
On Randolph's next possession, Burch punched one in for a five-yard score and the Cards' were rolling early.
The Bears responded in a hurry with a 23-yard touchdown pass from Preston Wiltsie to Thad Johnson. Kevin Strong had a 34-yard run to highlight the drive.
''We thought we had a good game plan coming in, and we did,'' Frewsburg coach Terry Gray said. ''The kids worked really hard in practice and we came out and did all of the things I thought we could do. In the couple of games we've lost, I think it keeps coming back to we're young. When adverse times arise and things are tight, we lack experience - not ability, not toughness, none of that.''
With the score, 12-7, the Bears recovered an onside kick and were back in business. A hand-off to Devon Adelgren went for a 65-yard touchdown as the sophomore hit the corner and was gone in an instant to give Frewsburg its first lead of the game.
''I'll tell you what, they played superb,'' Slater said of Frewsburg. ''It was a great game back and forth the whole time there (in the second quarter).''
When the Cardinals got the ball back, all it took was one play.
A dive up the middle from fullback Brent Robbins silenced the home crowd as quickly as it erupted, when Robbins blasted through a big hole for a 45-yard score.
Burch added a 40-yard touchdown before halftime and Nick Milliman kicked a 38-yard field to complete the scoring. The Cardinals went from one point down, to up by 17 in a matter of 6:57.
''They have the attitude and they've won a lot of football games,'' Gray said of Randolph. ''When it was 13-12 us, they turned right around and scored. There was no stopping that.''
Burch finished with 143 yards on 10 carries while Robbins had 141 on 13 carries. As a team, the Cards rushed for 350 on 32 carries. Gray and the Bears knew Randolph was going to run the ball, but that didn't make stopping the option game any easier.
What makes their rushing attack so successful?
''I think it's their running backs,'' Gray said. ''Their fullback and tailback are extremely hard and athletic. Their whole team is very physical and one part of football - maybe the most important part - is about physicality.''
Senior Ben Fluent anchoring the offensive line doesn't hurt, either.
''The kids execute,'' Slater said. ''It's plain and simple. They all do it. It's where they have to be. Everyone gets a helmet on somebody, they get everybody accounted for and they execute.''
In the second half, the Randolph defense buckled down, forced two more turnovers and held the Bears scoreless. Adelgren finished with 78 yards on nine carries, Chad Intihar had 41 yards on 10 carries and Wiltsie went 8-for-16 with 103 yards through the air. Frewsburg posted 253 total yards.
''We knew it was going to be tough,'' Slater added. ''This wasn't going to be an easy game. I told the guys, 'You're going to have to come and you're going to have to play. Don't get discouraged if something goes wrong, don't drop your heads and go into a panic. Keep your heads up and try to make something happen.''
The Cardinals handled adversity well, outscoring the Bears 35-0 after losing their lead for the first time all year.
''I know the score looked bad, but I told my kids I'll take my team any day,'' Gray said. ''I'm proud of who they are as people and I'm proud of the way they played. Randolph is a state championship team and when they got up, they finished.''
Randolph12 18 14 3-47
Frewsburg7 6 0 0-13
Ran-Burch 26 run (kick failed)
Ran-Burch 8 run (kick failed)
Frews-Johnson 23 pass from Wiltsie (Adelgren kick good)
Frews-Adelgren 65 run (kick failed)
Ran-Robbins 45 run (Burch run)
Ran-Burch 40 run (Milliman kick good)
Ran-Milliman 38-yard field goal
Ran-Burch 24 run (Milliman kick good)
Ran-Robbins 13 run (Milliman kick good)
Ran-Milliman 37-yard field goal