By Jay Young
ROCHESTER - The Randolph Cardinals have been ranked No. 1 in the state since they won last year's New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class D football championship, and now they will make a return trip to the Carrier Dome next weekend to defend their crown.
With his 203 yards rushing Friday night, Randolph tailback Chris Doubek is 185 yards shy of the Section 6 record for career rushing yards set by Southwestern’s Dustin Bowser in 2003. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Jay Young
Randolph fullback Lucas Brown (25) takes a handoff from quarterback Mitchell Maycock in the first half of Friday’s New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class D semifinal. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Jay Young
It will be another Thanksgiving in Syracuse.
The Cardinals (12-0) laid a 35-6 beatdown on second-ranked Tioga (11-1) of Section 4 on a rainy Friday evening at Sahlen's Stadium to extend their winning streak to 22 games.
The performance featured another flawlessly executed game plan from Coach Brent Brown, added yet another brilliant chapter to Randolph football history and sets up a meeting with Chester of Section 9 (10-1) at noon next Friday with the state title on the line.
"We want to come out every game and prove that we own that number one spot," said offensive Most Valuable Player Chris Doubek.
Well, the Cardinals, who will be looking for their fourth state crown next week, certainly did that, and a whole lot more.
Coming into the matchup between the returning semifinalists, many expected to see a replay of last year's defensively battle, which Randolph won, 7-6. But this year was a totally different story.
The Cardinals put on another decisive postseason showing, once again led by the tenacious running of Doubek and astoundingly strong defensive play.
Just how good has the Cards defense been? In their last two games, opposing quarterbacks have gone 0-16 and thrown two interceptions.
Meanwhile, Doubek finished the night with 203 yards on 27 attempts for two scores, both in the first quarter that gave Randolph a 14-0 lead. The senior tailback now has 2,263 yards on the ground, 185 shy of Southwestern's Dustin Bowser, who holds the Section 6 mark of 2,447 set in 2003. Fullback Lucas Brown added 110 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown as the Cardinals outgained the Tigers 413-152 and won the first-down battle, 21-5.
"None of this happens without our offensive line," Brown said. "They faced some big guys out there tonight, and they played as great as they have all year. It didn't make a difference who was on the other side."
After promptly forcing a three and out from Tioga on their opening possession of the game, Randolph's line opened holes that led Doubek and Lucas Brown down the field like they have countless times before.
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A long rush by Brown down to the Tigers 16-yard line got the Cards in scoring position, and from their Doubek finished the job with a punishing isolation run up the middle at 8:19 of the first quarter.
On the subsequent Tioga possession, the Tigers were once again stymied by Randolph's oversized defensive front and the Cardinals got the ball back on their own 44.
"Our line was opening up holes for Chris and Lucas all night," Randolph quarterback Mitch Maycock said. "We are just coming out and doing what we do best."
It was senior receiver Nick Hettenbaugh who really took the wind out of Tioga on a 45-yard catch following an end-around pass by Bryce Morrison. Hettenbaugh was interfered with on the play by a Tigers defensive back, but came down with the ball anyway.
Once again it was Doubek who finished the drive with a 16-yard carry to paydirt.
Another Micah Kehoe point-after kick made the game 14-0 with seven minutes left in the opening period. After that, the outcome was pretty much decided.
Tioga quarterback Ryan Vergason struggled to throw the entire night in the blustery conditions, and Randolph was more than up the challenge of stopping the Tiger rushing attack.
Lucas Brown and Maycock were also benefactors of the Cardinals' superb blocking in the second half. Brown was able to finish a drive with 46 seconds remaining in the third quarter from 9 yards out, while Maycock added the next score on a 1-yard quarterback keeper. Both runs came courtesy of gaping holes up the middle.
The lone passing touchdown of the game came during a series that did not feature Doubek, who hobbled off the field following a hard hit. But missing their most dominant player did not appear to change much for the Cardinals. Maycock quickly tossed a 20-yard throw to Morrison who found his way into the end zone.
Morrison was all over the field against the Tigers, he finished with 60 yards receiving and had the long pass to Hettenbaugh.
The Cardinals defense has made a serious habit of devouring opposing running backs in the postseason, even ones like Tioga's record-breaking Jesse Manuel. The talented underclassmen finished with 115 yards, but a sizeable chunk of those came on one late run that set up the lone Tioga touchdown. After Manuel broke two tackles and ripped off a 50-yard gainer, Brad Jump put the Tigers on the board with less than two minutes to play.
At the conclusion of the game offensive MVP's were awarded to Manuel and Doubek, while Hettenbaugh and Tioga's Mike Mellela captured the defensive awards. Mellela finished with eight solo tackles while Jump recorded six stops.
Hettenbaugh recorded four tackles as well as an interception in the fourth quarter, while Doubek also had four stops.
Randolph 14 7 7 7 - 35
Tioga 0 0 0 7 - 6
Ran - Doubek 17 run (Kehoe kick)
Ran - Doubek 16 run (Kehoe kick)
Ran - Morrison 20 pass from Maycock (Kehoe kick)
Ran - Brown 9 run (Kehoe kick)
Ran - Maycock 1 run (Kehoe kick)
Tio - Jump 15 run (kick fail)