SAUQUOIT, N.Y. — Jake Spina got a stop when Frankfort-Schuyler needed it most.
Spina, a senior defensive back for the Maroon Knights, preserved a seven-point lead with a huge fourth-down tackle in the final minute of Friday night’s regular-season finale at Sauquoit Valley High School.
Frankfort-Schuyler was able to contain Sauquoit Valley — nicknamed the "Cardiac Kids" for their comeback wins last season — and hold on for a 29-22 victory, clinching a share of the Class D East title and the league’s top seed in the Section III Class D playoffs.
Friday’s contest almost didn’t end in a thriller. Leading by seven, Frankfort-Schuyler’s offense was milking the clock inside the red zone when Ryan Inglis intercepted a pass and returned it to his own 37 with 3:22 remaining. Ryan Howe, Ryan Dittmar, Ethan Martin and Zack Martin marched down the field with huge chunks of rushing yards before facing a fourth-and-three from Frankfort-Schuyler’s 31.
Howe, a senior quarterback, kept the handoff, juking away from a defender and headed toward the sideline. Spina, however, met Howe with a sideline pop, tackling him for a loss of three yards with about 30 seconds remaining.
Coach Jeff LaGase’s Maroon Knights improved to 3-1 in league play and 5-2 overall, numbers matched by Herkimer which was beaten in a non-league game Friday by Cato-Meridian; the playoff tie-breaker goes to the Maroon Knights because they beat Herkimer head-to-head. Sophomore quarterback Jeff DeSarro completed 8-of-13 passes for 141 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also ran for a score.
Junior Tyler Rosati had 13 carries for 78 yards and scored on a 95-yard kick return. Junior receiver Michael DeRollo caught five passes for 58 yards and a touchdown. John Banas made his lone PAT and made huge tackles alongside Spina, who recovered one of three fumbles.
Coach Joe Inglis’ Sauquoit Valley team finished the regular season 1-3 in league play and 2-5 overall, but made the playoffs with a head-to-head tie-breaker win over Waterville (1-6, 1-3 D East). Sauquoit Valley defeated Waterville 8-7 on Sept. 22.
Inglis, Austin Bullock and the rest of Sauquoit Valley’s offensive line led a rushing attack that accumulated more than 300 yards. Gifford had 19 carries for 116 yards and two touchdowns. Martin had 18 carries for 110 yards. Dittmar ran 14 times for 71 yards and a touchdown.
Gifford’s four-yard touchdown was followed by Martin’s two-point conversion run to give Sauquoit Valley an 8-0 lead for the only first-quarter score.
In the second, DeSarro found DeRollo for a 12-yard touchdown, connecting on a curl route at the three before walking in the end zone. Joe Parrotta caught the two-point conversion to tie it at 8 early in the second.
A 25-yard reception by Spina and a 16-yard run to the one by Rosati set up Nick Maneen’s one-yard touchdown run. DeRollo’s catch on the two-point try gave Frankfort-Schuyler a 16-8 halftime lead.
In the third, a block in the back brought Martin’s 40-yard run to the Frankfort-Schuyler two back, but Gifford ran over a few defenders a few plays later on his way to a 22-yard touchdown run to put Sauquoit Valley within 16-14.
Frankfort-Schuyler responded immediately when Rosati returned the ensuing kickoff 95 yards, stretching the Maroon Knights’ lead to 23-14 with 7:19 left in the third.
Sauquoit Valley answered with an 89-yard touchdown drive, scoring on Dittmar’s five-yard run. Gifford ran in the two-point to put the hosts within Frankfort 23-22 after three.
In the fourth, DeSarro found a hole on the right side and ran 20 yards untouched to stretch the Maroon Knights’ lead to seven.
Spina recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff in the waning minutes, giving Frankfort-Schuyler an opportunity to run out the clock before Inglis picked it off to set up a thrilling ending.
The Maroon Knights play at home Friday against Cato-Meridian. Sauquoit Valley travels to Beaver River for its sectional opener.
FRANKFORT-SCHUYLER 29, SAUQUOIT VALLEY 22
Frankfort-Schuyler 0 16 7 6 - 29
Sauquoit Valley 8 0 14 0 - 22
SV – Zack Gifford 4 run (Ethan Martin run).
F-S – Michael DeRollo 12 pass from Jeff DeSarro (Joe Parrotta pass from DeSarro).
F-S – Nick Maneen 1 run (DeRollo pass from DeSarro).
SV – Gifford 22 run (run failed).
F-S – Tyler Rosati 95 kickoff return (John Banas kick).
SV – Ryan Dittmar 5 run (Gifford run).
F-S – DeSarro 20 run (pass failed).
Records – Frankfort-Schuyler 5-2, 3-1 D East; Sauquoit Valley 2-5, 1-3 D East.