Junior Ryan Marszal scored no touchdowns and made no interceptions, yet his impact on Unatego’s 42-14 Section Four Football Conference Division V victory over Deposit/Hancock on Friday was huge.
He made key blocks from his wide receiver position that sprung Josh Feyerabend and Corbin Henry for touchdown runs in the second quarter. In the same quarter, while covering D/H’s speedy Brandon Macumber, he deflected two deep passes down the right sideline, and did it again in the third quarter.
Also in the third quarter, after D/H pulled to 32-14, he leaped to grab on onsides kick, giving the Spartans possession at their 45.
Marszal also caught a 22-yard pass over the middle from Feyerabend on Unatego’s second scoring drive.
“If you had a game ball, he’d get it,” Unatego coach Frank Microni said of Marszal. “It’s hard to block on the perimeter, but we don’t score those touchdowns if he doesn’t make those blocks. Then he made key defensive plays. He makes us a lot better.”
It’s all about timing
In the third quarter of Friday’s game, Feyerabend and Tanner Winchester showed just how eye-pleasing a simple down-and-out can be.
From the left side, Winchester ran about 8 yards up the field before making that sharp cut to the sideline. Feyerabend released the ball just before Winchester made his cut. As Winchester turned his head, the ball was right there. He caught it in stride, beat a defender to the sideline and sprinted 43 yards for a touchdown.
Normally, that’s a play seen Sundays or at the major college level. For high school teammates to have that kind of timing is impressive.
“They worked on it a lot,” Microni said. “They did the 7-on-7 stuff over the summer and they learned the offense.”
Unatego junior linebacker Ethan Barber had a big series midway through the third quarter Friday night.
It started with a 7-yard sack of Deposit/Hancock quarterback Matt Mills. Then, after Marszal broke up a deep pass, D/H tried a middle screen to Marcus Shaver. For a brief instant it seemed open. But Barber shed a blocker before unloading on Shaver on a play that went for no gain.
OK, there are 18 teams playing Class D football in Section Four.
Eight will make the playoffs that start in Week 8.
The teams that are locks to make it are Tioga (6-0), Unatego (5-1), Harpursville (5-1) and Elmira Notre Dame (5-1). The teams no longer in contention are Bainbridge-Guilford, Unadilla Valley, Oxford, Candor, Seton Catholic Central and Odessa-Montour.
That leaves Walton (4-2), Sidney (4-2), Deposit/Hancock (4-2), Groton (4-2), Spencer-Van Etten (4-2), Moravia (3-3), Watkins Glen (3-3) and Delhi (2-4) vying for four spots this weekend.
“Most of the games are Friday, so we should have a good idea after Friday,” said Walton coach Jim Hoover, whose team will travel to B-G on Friday. “I just hope we find out, if we do get in, who we’re playing by Saturday. Last season, we didn’t find out until Tuesday afternoon.”
All on the line
Those who enjoy watching interior line play would be wise to head to Tioga on Friday night and then to Delhi on Saturday afternoon.
Tioga will host Sidney at 7 p.m. Friday and Deposit/Hancock will head to Delhi on Saturday.
The Tigers have won the past two Section Four Class D titles and they’re big. Many of the same players that helped Tioga to a 19-18 win over Walton in the sectional final two years ago, and led the Tigers to a 26-21 squeeze past Unatego in a sectional semifinal last season are back.
Carter Jackson and Dylan Babcock make up a massive right side of Tioga’s line. Both weigh over 250 pounds.
Sidney standout junior lineman Austin Dean, a 6-foot-6, 260-pounder, will be waiting on the other side.
“It’s going to be a tall order,” Sidney coach Jeff Matthews said of a Tioga squad that beat Class C power Chenango Forks, 7-0, in Week 2. “Hopefully, we’ll have some success doing the things we do, but we’ll have to work real hard.”
Depending on how things shake out Friday night, the D/H-Delhi game could be for a playoff spot.
Both teams are big up front.
The Bulldogs will need to pay special attention to the 6-1, 285-pound Scott Bowie, who had a big game against Unatego.
“They’re big and they’re physical,” Delhi coach Dave Kelly said. “They have nice speed at wideout and their quarterback (Mills) is 6-2 and 180 pounds. He’s hard to tackle and can throw it 55 yards down the field. They’ve been winning.”
Also this weekend
Oneonta High (1-5) will host Johnson City (3-3) and Unatego will travel to Unadilla Valley (0-6) on Friday. Cooperstown (0-6) will play visiting New York Mills at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Rob Centorani covers high school football for The Daily Star. Email him at email@example.com.