WATERLOO — Revenge and redemption serve as intangible motivators in rematch situations.
Meanwhile, schematic and personnel adjustments are tangible, and can be more easily seen as affecting an outcome compared to emotional factors. Friday night’s Section V Class D state-qualifying football play-in could be offered as Exhibit A.
Red Jacket coach Marc Vitticore altered his team’s defensive look Friday against Clyde-Savannah, which had narrowly beaten the Indians three weeks earlier. The change paid big dividends: Red Jacket forced six turnovers and limited the Clyde-Savannah to eight first downs, winning 44-14 at Waterloo High School’s Tom Coughlin Stadium.
The Tribe advances to play Section VI representative Randolph in the state Class D quarterfinal round. Randolph is seeking to repeat as champs.
“Our alignment and assignment was corrected,” Vitticore explained. “In the first game it was really poor, and that’s on me. Clyde’s a fantastic team, and if you don’t align to them properly, they’re going to hit (a lot of) big plays.
“We just needed to be in the right spots, and being in the right spots allows our guys to make plays.”
Vitticore moved Tyler Garnder (defensive end) and Sean Sheets (cornerback) out of their normal positions and used them as hash-mark safeties. He said he liked how they play the pass while it’s in the air; Vitticore also was confident in their ability to play laterally.
Sheets collected four interceptions. Red Jacket (9-1) came up with six turnovers overall.
“They had a little bit of a different scheme on defense that we didn’t practice against, because they hadn’t shown it all year,” C-S coach Nick DerCola Jr. said. “My hat’s off to the coaching staff for coming up with that.
“You can scheme all you want, but they blocked and tackled better tonight,“ DerCola added. “That’s what this game is all about.”
The Indians powered down the field on their first series. It took them only four rushes to cover 64 yards, the capper an eight-yard touchdown by Sheets just 51 seconds into the game.
The teams committed turnovers on five of the ensuing six possessions. Clyde-Savannah (8-2) leveled matters at 6-all on Todd Romano’s 76-yard scoring sprint.
The Tribe reassumed the lead 2:37 into the second frame behind a nine-play, 52-yard drive. Kory Fogarty dashed 24 yards to pay dirt before Lee Perry passed to Gardner for the conversion.
Sheets and Andrew North sandwiched interceptions around a fumble recovery by Eagles defensive back Joe Faniel. Red Jacket capitalized on North’s pick; Andrew Ogrodowski plowed in from four yards away 2:28 before intermission.
Trailing 22-8, Faniel returned the kickoff to the Indians 24. Seven plays later, the Indians made a goal-line stand, stopping Faniel’s quarterback sneak at the one on fourth-and-goal.
The Tribe pinned Clyde-Savannah deep in its own territory on the second-half kickoff. Red Jacket forced a three-and-out and took over at the Eagles 30. Fogarty delivered a 15-yard scoring run and conversion for a 30-6 lead less than four minutes into the second half.
“Even with the score at half and having stopped them, I didn’t feel like we had a tremendous amount of momentum,” Vitticore reflected. We were stopping them on defense, but at any point I felt like they could break one. So pinning them deep, keeping them there and then getting a short field and scoring relatively quickly, that told me that our guys started to gain confidence.”
DerCola felt things could have been different had the Eagles scored prior to halftime.
“We get in before halftime and now it’s a [one-score] ballgame, and we get the ball coming out in the second half,” he said. “Hopefully that kickoff goes in the end zone, but it doesn’t and we get it down deep. It still goes back to execution, and we didn’t execute on offense tonight.”
Romano’s 12-yard rushing tally helped make it 30-14 with five-plus minutes left in the third. Romano finished with 106 yards on seven carries.
Ogrodowski and Sheets completed the scoring with one- and 17-yard touchdown runs. Sheets had 15 totes for 152 yards while Ogrodowski netted 67 yards on 13 rushes.
Fogarty led all ground-gainers with 23 rushes for 213 yards.
The loss capped a season in which C-S collected its 14th gridiron title.
“I think it was a good thing we got beat by Dundee: Our kids realized that they could play, but they have to play hard every play,” DerCola said of the Week 5 setback. “We had to win every week since losing to Dundee to keep things going. The kids found a way to win. I am very proud of what they accomplished this year.”
In addition to winning states last season, Randolph had won it twice previously.
“We’re going to take it one game at a time,” Vitticore said of the next round. “Randolph’s the returning state champion, and we know they’re loaded. We’re going to give them everything we’ve got.”