GENEVA — Focus, block, tackle and win. Four simple words for some but these elements are exactly what Red Jacket football coach Marc Vitticore is telling his players entering their biggest game of the season tonight.
The Indians, fresh off a 44-14 state qualifier win over Clyde-Savannah that avenged their only loss of the season, will take on the top-ranked team in the state in Section VI power Randolph in a state Class D Tournament Far West Regional round game at Rochester’s Sahlen’s Stadium. Game is set for 5 p.m.
“It is a great test,” Vitticore said. “Forget the records. Forget the nonsense. Focus, block, tackle, win.”
Red Jacket (9-1), which is ranked fifth in the state in the latest New York State Sportswriters Association poll, lost in their last two state tournament appearances: a 50-8 loss to Clymer-VI in 2000 and 35-20 defeat at the hands of Maple Grove-VI in 1998.
However, this year’s version from Manchester-Shortsville posts a vaunted running attack led by junior running back Kory Fogarty. The tailback has rushed for 1,896 yards and 23 touchdowns this season.
Sophomore Sean Sheets completes the Indians’ two-headed monster ground attack after posting 737 yards and 10 scores.
It’s these two rushing weapons, running behind some great offensive line play, that has Red Jacket playing its best football of the year.
“We’ve put together some good football in the playoffs,” Vitticore remarked. “It’s taken a lot of effort from our players and coaches to work on our blocking techniques and assignments. Our frontage has been key to our success on offense.
“Kory and Sean both run hard and fast and bring energy to every run. That’s what I’m looking for as a coach. Energy, speed and power. On defense, we are improving our open field tackling, which was marginal throughout the season. Also, our guys are playing with more and more confidence and anytime that happens, you are likely to battle with any opponent.”
The Indians, who are averaging 324.8 rushing yards per game, set a Section V single game postseason rushing record with 567 yards in their semifinal win over Cuba-Rushford.
Fogarty’s 336 yards in the victory ranks third all-time in Section V for ground yards in a postseason game.
Red Jacket also sports an air attack led by junior quarterback Lee Perry, who has thrown for 706 yards and eight touchdowns. Sheets has hauled in 214 of those yards and three scores.
In the end, Vitticore hopes to maintain a consistent approach that will keep his team’s offense on the field.
“On offense our goal is to sustain drives, convert on third down and move those chains,” Vitticore commented. “We will look to key on our blocking assignments as they have several active players that have a great nose for the football.”
The defending state champion Cardinals (10-0) showcase their own offensive prowess behind running back Chris Doubek who has totaled 936 yards and 27 touchdowns. Quarterback Mitchell Maycock has thrown for 692 yards and 12 scores.
Randolph’s offense reminds Vitticore of his own in many respects.
“Their offense is similar to ours, in fact, if we ran more option it would be eerily similar,” Vitticore explained. Even the play calling makes it seem like I’m coaching against myself. “They like straight ahead ISO with a cross block, option and they love counter trey.
“Their quarterback is savvy and seems like a really good player who makes big plays for them when they need them. Their running back is very, very good and he played fullback last season. They will power you with power I, spread you in the gun, wildcat and whatever else could be in the playbook. They aren’t afraid to try it. We plan on playing our game as usual. Limit big plays, get hats to the ball and tackle.”
Red Jacket’s defense is led by standout linebacker Andrew Ogrodowski who leads the team with 96 total tackles, 58 solo, and six tackles for loss. Defensive lineman Patrick Smith-Labombard has totaled a team-leading five sacks.
Sheets leads the secondary with five interceptions, all of which have come in the last two games. Sheets tied a Section V postseason record for interceptions in a game with four against Clyde-Savannah last week.
If the Indians plan on ending the Cardinals 20-game win streak, Vitticore believes it will come down to a component that helped his team capture their first sectional title since 2000: Mental toughness.
“We must endure,” Vitticore said. Cool heads will prevail. We must be patient. Games like these are rarely won early. It takes four quarters of all out football and that’s what we aim to bring.”