Tigers find final-minute magic

Ruffing’s late touchdown catch keeps SE unbeaten

PHOTO BY STEVE WILLIAMS Seneca East’s D.J. Ruffing runs downfield for the game-winning touchdown in the final minute against Mohawk in Attica Friday. Ruffing’s catch and run came after a pass from Chase Foos.

ATTICA — It was a battle right down to the final seconds between Seneca East and Mohawk in a Northern 10 Athletic Conference showdown.

Both coaches said that this was going to be a tough and physical game — and it was.

It was a back-and-forth battle with Seneca East (6-0, 4-0) coming out on top by a narrow 24-21 margin over Mohawk (5-2, 3-2). When one team scored, the other responded.

It was too early to call it the game winner, but a 36 yard field goal by Tyler Turek to end the first half was a deciding factor.

The Tigers got on the board first early in the second with Bo Smith on the receiving end of a 58 yard pass from Chase Foos. On the play the Warriors missed several tackles, which allowed Smith to make his way to the end zone.

PHOTO BY STEVE WILLIAMS Mohawk’s Zach Hayman pulls down an interception in front of Seneca East’s Blaine Swartzmiller Friday.

“Tackling. At this point our tackling throughout… on the first score we flat-out missed two tackles and the score before the half,” said Mohawk coach Brent Konkle. “We let (Seneca East) get a field goal before half because of missed tackling.”

It didn’t take the Warriors too long to respond. Keith Jenkins led his team down to field on three carries for 23 yards and then used a 14 yard pass to Jesse Leeth and a nine yard pass to Tyler Hayman. With the ball at the SE 9, Jenkins found Hayman in the end zone, making it a 7-7 game.

On the final drive of the first half, Seneca East took the ball from its own 48 to the Mohawk 15. A false start and a holding call gave the Tigers a first and 25. Foos got 22 yards back with an 18 yard toss to Collan Martin and a four yard run. With just a few seconds left in the half, the Tigers sent out their field goal unit for the 10-7 lead going into the half.

The Tigers kept a 3-point lead through the third quarter, as neither team was able to take the advantage. The longest drive of the third was a seven play drive from SE. Toward the end of the period, Mohawk started to make a drive after taking the ball at its 20.

With the clock winding down in the quarter, the Warriors started clicking. Bryce Kiran took the ball up the middle for three yards before Jenkins found an opening for a 27 yard sprint. After the quarter break, Mohawk came out with a big play. Parker Brown took a handoff to the outside and gave it to Leeth — who came back the other way — and he launched the ball down field to a wide open Jenkins for a 50 yard touchdown and a 14-10 lead.

Seneca East responded about three minutes later. With the ball at the SE 35, Foos tossed the ball to Brock Martin for a big gain, taking it to the the Mohawk 30. A few short runs by Martin and a 10-yard pass interference call moved the ball to the 5 where Foos found Blaine Swartzmiller for the score.

Down 17-14, the Warriors needed to make a drive and find the end zone. Jenkins was sacked for four yards to open the drive after the score. Leeth made a quick recovery with a nine yard catch, followed by an incomplete pass. Mohawk lined up for the punt on fourth down, but the play was a direct snap to the back who got the first down. A pair of Jenkins runs, a 15 yard defensive chopping penalty, two short runs from Kirian, a three yard push from Brown and another three yard run by Jenkins put the Warriors at the SE 13. Leeth capped the drive with a 13 yard catch in the endzone for a 21-17 lead with 1:51 left in regulation.

The following drive by the Tigers looked like it would bethe end of their undefeated streak. A pair of incomplete passes led to a third-and-long. Collan Martin made a 14 yard reception to get the first. Seneca East looked for the long ball but Hayman jumped the route and made an interception that seemed to take the air out of the Tigers’ fans. Just 1:22 remained

“When (Mohawk) got the ball with a minute and thirty-seconds — or whatever it was,” said Seneca Eats coach Ed Phillips, “I told (my guys) ‘We got three timeouts. We can get the ball back.’ … Our kids just find a way. They believe they should win and they certainly did.

“It just happens,” he said. “That’s high school football. Kids intercept passes and (Mohawk’s) defense is really good. We have to get the stop and play offense again.”

Mohawk went three-and-out on the ensuing drive.

Seneca East got the ball at their 46 after a punt.

Foos scrambled to the outside to avoid pressure but got taken down at the line of scrimmage on first down. On the next play, Foos was being pressured again and avoided being taken down, launching the ball downfield to DJ Ruffing for a 54 yard score to take the 24-21 lead with less than a minute to play.

The Warriors tried to respond after a personal foul penalty on the Tigers following the kickoff. After a pair of incomplete passes and a run for no gain, Brown was able to break away for a 10 yard rush. Kirian made an 20 yard catch and got out of bounds at the Mohawk 44 following another incomplete pass. With :05 left in the game, Jenkins had to extend the play to avoid a sack. After scrambling around in the backfield, he tried to cut up field and was tackled to end the game.

“Coming into this game I knew (Mohawk’s) defense was capable of pitching a shutout against anybody,” said Phillips. “So for us to put 24 points on them… I think that’s the most by a long shot.

“We ran the ball pretty well and threw the ball really well for a defense that is really, really, really good.”

“I’m proud of our effort,” Konkle said, whose team has playoff hopes on the line. “We backed ourselves in a corner now. We better come out fighting for the next three weeks.

“We gotta win the next three games. We gotta take care of what we can take care of,” Konkle said. “The only thing we can take care of is game-by-game. Get back. Get healthy. Get working at it. Fix some things… We got to fix fundamental mistakes at this point of the year. Being one step out of position against good teams is going to put you at a bad angle to tackle.”