Voorheesville drops the ball at Corinth

The Enterprise — Jordan J. Michael

Faced with the end of his football season, Voorheesville quarterback Robert Denman gets warmed up on the sidelines in Corinth last Friday night. The Blackbirds struggled in the Class C quarterfinal game, turning the ball over five times. Corinth won, 39 to 19, rushing for 326 yards; Alex Jenkins had 210 of those yards.

The Enterprise — Jordan J. Michael

Push to shove: Slater Nolan, right, turns after making a catch for Voorheesville last Friday, but he fumbled seconds later after a Corinth player hit him. The Blackbirds had five turnovers in the Class C quarterfinal game, losing, 39 to 19. Alex Minnick had two touchdown catches for Voorheesville.

CORINTH — The turnover bug hit Voorheesville during its Class C football quarterfinal at Corinth last Friday. It was bad timing for such an illness.

Voorheesville turned the ball over — four fumbles and one interception — on five of its eight drives in the first half, including its first three possessions of the game. The Blackbirds were also forced to punt two times in the first half.

Corinth scored 18 of its 24 points in the first half off drives that started after a Voorheesville turnover.

No doubt, the game would have played out differently if the Blackbirds held onto the ball. The Tomahawks advanced to the semifinals with a 39-to-19 victory on a chilly night.

“It made every difference in the world, and it’s on us,” Voorheesville Head Coach Joe Sapienza said of the turnovers. “It was sloppy play by us. You can never really tell for sure [what caused the fumbles] without looking at the film, but we have to execute better than that. You’re asking your defense to overcome a lot.”

The Birds got possession at the 35-yard line to start the game, but running back Matt Feller coughed up the ball after being hit at the line. Voorheesville’s defense was able to prevent the Tomahawks from scoring, but the home team got the ball right back after another Birds’ fumble.

Anthony Abare and Alex Jenkins had three great runs for Corinth on the ensuing drive; Jenkins scored on a 19-yard carry.

On the next Voorheesville possession, quarterback Robert Denman threw a pass that was tipped by his receiver, senior Slater Nolan, getting intercepted by Jenkins, who ran the ball back to the Birds’ 26-yard line. Three minutes later, Abare was in the end zone.

“We kind of killed ourselves,” said Nolan after the game, looking sad. “We could have put ourselves in a position to win.”

Voorheesville didn’t turn the ball over on its fourth possession, but Zen Baudoux sacked Denman for a 12-yard loss. Corinth got the ball at the 50-yard line to start the second half, and Jenkins busted out a 39-yard run. Later, quarterback Chantz Baudoux completed a touchdown pass to Jenkins, who was all alone for the catch.

Sapienza came into last Friday’s game knowing that Corinth (6-2) was good, but the Tomahawks were better than he thought, he said. For the entire night, the Corinth crowd was enthusiastic.

“That’s not the way we’ve played all season, but I’m proud of their effort,” Sapienza said of his players. “They played their hearts out to the end.”

The Blackbirds were finally able to get some offense going midway through the second quarter when Denman ran for 70 yards. Scott Roney had a powerful run to get Voorheesville close to the end zone, but Feller fumbled on the next play near the goal line, a Corinth player recovering in the end zone for a touchback.

“That killed us even more,” said Sapienza. “I don’t mean to be a downer, but we have to do better than that.”

Shortly after, Jenkins broke for 55 yards on the ground. Abare put Corinth ahead, 24 to 0, with a wide sweeping run to the left.

Voorheesville had another promising drive with 3:30 left in the second quarter, but, after Nolan made a catch, a Corinth defender speared his helmet right on the ball, forcing a fumble. Bob Millis recovered for the Tomahawks as painful sighs seeped out from the Birds’ fans.

Was Voorheesville able to swallow this rough loss?

“Yes and no, man,” said Nolan. “It’s our last game, and I may not play anymore. It’s tough, but you have to keep your head up and deal with what you’ve been dealt.”

Even though Corinth initially went up by 24 points, Voorheesville outscored the Tomahawks, 19 to 15, down the stretch. Alex Minnick had two touchdown catches for the Blackbirds.

“They play with a lot of heart, and that’s something we can’t teach them to do; it comes from them,” Sapienza said. “We’re outsized in every game we play, but we battle. I’m proud of that.”

Nolan told The Enterprise that every team gets down, loses drive, but Voorheesville always came back. “Maybe not score-wise, or winning the game, but we’re always pushing,” he said. “You got to love it.”

At 4-4, Voorheesville beat the average or below average (Cairo-Durham, Watervliet, Taconic Hills, and Coxsackie-Athens) Class C teams this season, but lost to the top talent (Fonda, Chatham, Granville, and Corinth) in the league.

In those four losses, the Blackbirds were outscored, 183 to 37.

“We’re not at the level of the very good teams, but we’re a good team,” Sapienza concluded. “We’re better than the average.”