BINGHAMTON — There’s no disputing Unatego’s football team finished 22 yards short of a go-ahead touchdown on the game’s final play.
When Tyler Butler’s final pass was batted away by Tioga’s Ryan Vergason on the game’s final play, Unatego left the field on the wrong end of a 26-21 outcome in a Section Four Class D semifinal Saturday at Binghamton Alumni Stadium.
But from the Spartans’ viewpoint, an official’s whistle will be disputed and it played a decisive role as the Spartans’ rally from deficits of 20-0 and 26-7 fell just short.
The play that those from Otego and Unadilla likely will talk — rather, complain — about for some time happened early in the third quarter.
Facing a 19-point deficit, the Spartans went to a play they’ve called so many times this season. With Butler in his customary shotgun position and backfield mate David VanAlstine lined up about a yard to his left, Butler received the snap, put the ball in VanAlstine’s stomach as both headed right. When defenders converged on VanAlstine, Butler pulled the ball back and started running free up the right sideline. But when VanAlstine was tackled, the whistle blew.
An official apparently thought VanAlstine had the ball.
Instead, it was in Butler’s possession running free along the right sideline for what would have almost certainly resulted in a 53-yard touchdown run.
But the Spartans (6-3) settled for a 1-yard gain by VanAlstine.
“The defensive end flew out, so David and I took it to the next level,” Butler said. “The linebacker moved up and hit David, and I ripped the ball out and took it down the sideline. They thought David was down … dumb call.
“I was furious,” he continued. “I went right after the ref. It was a terrible call — a terrible, terrible call. That’s a game-changer.”