By Rob Centorani
The Daily Star
---- — SIDNEY – Even with senior quarterback Patrick Vibbard throwing for 350 yards in the second half, Sidney couldn’t overcome a lackluster first half Friday.
Vibbard threw scoring passes of 66, 52 and 33 yards to senior Billy Kozak after halftime, and Kozak also had a 1-yard rushing touchdown in the second half, but the Warriors fell, 28-26, to unbeaten Harpursville in an exciting Section Four Football Conference Division VI game.
The two smallest player on the field, Kozak and Harpursville’s Steven Lee put on a display of no-you-see-now-you-don’t playmaking that appeared to delight fans on both sides.
Lee finished with three touchdowns, including two in the first half as the Hornets (4-0, 2-0) took a 14-0 lead into halftime.
“The big guys opened the holes for Steven,” said Sidney coach Jeff Matthews, whose team played its third two-point game of the season, beating CV, 42-40, in its opener and falling, 32-30, to Unatego in Week 2. “He had a big game. He’s very elusive. If you give him a little bit of space, you’re in trouble and it’s the same thing with Billy. Both of them are fun to watch.”
With Sidney (2-2, 1-1) trailing, 28-20, it took over at its 13-yard line with 3 minutes, 20 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Vibbard went 5-for-10 on an 87-yard drive that included an 8-yard completion to Dillon Rutenber on fourth-and-8, a 16-yarder to Kozak, who made a sliding catch after teammate Tanner Schunk tipped the ball in front of him and a 12-yarder to Rutenber that gave Sidney possesion at Harpursville’s 33.
On first down from the 33, Vibbard lofted a long pass down the left-middle of the field. Kozak adjusted nicely between two defenders, made the catch at the 5, avoided a defender and dived into the end zone with 1:58 left.
“We like to throw the ball,” Matthews said. “We’re pretty effective throwing the ball, so it’s fine (we didn’t use our ground game). If we can be a little more balanced, that would help us, but we did a good job throwing the ball.”
With a chance to tie on the two-point conversion, Vibbard moved to his right and tried to throw over the middle but his pass one-hopped a Sidney receiver in the middle of the end zone.
Sidney forced a three-and-out and got the ball on its 23 with just under 40 seconds left.
When Vibbard hit Kozak hit for 26 yards near the left sideline, Sidney had the ball at Harpursville’s 46 about 20 seconds left, but Harpursville’s Cody Snow intercepted Vibbard’s next pass along the left sideline to seal it.
“Not at all,” Harpursville coach Tim Petras said when asked if he ever felt comfortable. “Until that scoreboard read all zeroes, we weren’t comfortable. We knew at halftime, there’s too much talent with Kozak, one heck of an offensive line and a tough quarterback. It was only a matter of time before their offense opened up.”
When Lee scored the last of his touchdowns on a 4-yard run up the middle, the Hornets had a 28-14 lead with 6:49 remaining.
That set up Kozak’s best play of the night. On a third-and-35 from Sidney’s 48, Vibbard threw a swing pass to the speedy Kozak along the right sideline. Kozak weaved way his up the right sideline, avoiding several tacklers en route to a 52-yard scoring play to make it 28-20 with 4:34 to go.
“Third-and-50, or whatever it was, at that point I knew that was our best choice, because if you give (Kozak) an open space, it would be good,” Matthews said.
Vibbard finished with 364 passing yards.
Rob Centorani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-432-1000, ext. 209.