CAIRO — One of the first things Dan Hatch wanted to accomplish when he accepted the job as head coach of the Catskill/Cairo-Durham football team was to create a winning culture for the program.
Saturday’s season opener against cross-county rival Coxsackie-Athens was certainly a step in the right direction.
Down by two touchdowns entering the fourth quarter, the Mustangs scored 22 points in a five-minute span to take the lead, then held off a late rally from C-A to earn a thrilling 36-34 victory at Angelo Canna Town Park.
The victory not only ended the state’s longest current losing streak at 29 games, it gave the Mustangs the Greene County Cup for the first time since the 2009 season.
Hatch couldn’t have been more pleased with his team’s play, calling it a total team effort from the coaches and the players.
“It’s not all about me,” Hatch said. “We’ve got coach Dave Wagner, who runs our offense, we’ve got coach Nick Fitzgerald, who runs our defense, coach Mike Murphy runs the special teams. Everybody knows what they’re doing, we’re very cohesive as a coaching staff, we’re very regimented as a coaching staff and the players are the same way now. That’s the way it needs to stay. I couldn’t be prouder of these boys. They could have given up and folded when they got down 26-14, but they didn’t.”
Instead of getting down on themselves as might have been the case in previous years, the Mustangs rose up and battled back in the final quarter. The comeback began when a bad snap from center sailed over Colby Lord’s head while the Indians were lined up in punt formation, giving CCD a first down at the C-A 25.
After Jake Hall threw an incompletion, the Mustangs’ quarterback got it done on the ground rushing, gaining nine yards on second down, then racing the remaining 16 yards to paydirt one play later. Hall also ran in the two-point conversion to pull CCD to within 26-22.
A minute later, the Mustangs took the lead as sophomore Cameron Lyles picked off a Joe Notabartolo pass and raced 60 yards for a touchdown. Hall ran for two points to put CCD on top, 30-26, with 7:37 left to play.
C-A gave the ball right back to the fired-up Mustangs as Ryan Mattice recovered a fumble at the Indians’ 26. Two plays later, Hall took off on a 22-yard scoring run. The two-point try failed, but CCD was suddenly up, 36-26.
The Indians seized the momentum right back after recovering a short kickoff at their own 48. Two plays later, Jaylen Buckner broke off a 41-yard touchdown run. Notabartolo’s two-point pass to Brandon Wolbert cut the deficit to 36-34 with five minutes remaining.
C-A appeared to be headed for the go-ahead score, driving down to the CCD six after recovering a perfectly executed onsides kick. But on a fourth and goal play, Notabartolo was dropped for a loss, giving the ball back to the Mustangs, who then ran out the clock, converting a fourth and four situation along the way.
“We were down around their 20 and we asked ourselves ‘do we want to punt it or do we want to win the game right now?’ We ended the game right there,” Hatch said.
There were plenty of heroes for CCD, including several of the new additions from Catskill. Lyles, Logan Denniston and Jesse Davies all played key roles in the victory.
“In the beginning when we joined we didn’t know if we were going to mesh well, but we took a brotherhood mentality and we have eachother’s backs no matter what, we fight for each other,” Hall said.
Hall had a huge game for the Mustangs, coming through when his team needed him most. The senior signal caller completed 9 of 20 passes for 134 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also rushed for 65 yards and two scores on eight carries.
“It’s not all me, that’s my line and everyone blocking for me. It’s a team effort, we’re all in it,” Hall said. “This feels amazing. We’re talented and we don’t want to be the laughing stock of Section II anymore.”
“Jake is an awesome athlete and he’s a great kid,” Hatch said. “He get his teammates involved, but when it’s time to take the ball, winners want the ball. Jake wants the ball.”
Hall gave CCD the early lead when he tossed a 10-yard TD pass to Denniston. C-A answered with the next two scores, the first on a 13-yard run by Notabartolo and the other on a 30-yard run by Julian Cruz.
An 82-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Jordan Gooch and two-point pass from Hall to Lyles gave CCD a 14-12 lead, but C-A answered just before halftime on a 38-yard run by Notabartolo and a two-point pass from Buckner to Timmy Simmons.
The Indians padded their lead early in the second half on a 30-yard scoring strike from Notabartolo to Carter Blair, before CCD mounted its comeback.
“We knew we weren’t folding, never crossed my mind. I knew this team would come back,” Hatch said. “We’re a team and not a bunch of individuals. We have a lot of athletes on this team and this is the first game we’ve played together, but as you can tell, we’re solid and we’re only going to get better.”
Gooch rushed for 44 yards on eight carries for the Mustangs. Denniston picked up 11 yards on two carries.
Denniston caught four passes for 51 yards and a score. Davies had three catches for 43 yards and Gooch two catches for 40 yards.
Notabartolo was C-A’s top threat on offense, completing 10 of 16 passes for 127 yards with a TD and an interception, while also rushing for a team-high 76 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries.
Cruz rushed for 67 yards and a touchdown on six carries. Buckner added 63 yards and a TD on six carries and Jake Warren had 34 yards on seven carries.
Simmons led the Indians’ receivers with three catches for 42 yards and a score. Jameson Brockett had two catches for seven yards, Blair one catch for 36 yards, Wolbert one catch for 25 yards, Jesse White one catch for eight yards, Cruz one catch for six yards and Noah Bartels one catch for three yards.
Coxsackie-Athens (0-1) visits Chatham on Friday at 7 p.m., while Catskill/Cairo-Durham (1-0) goes to Helderberg Valley on Saturday at 1 p.m.
Whitney Point 32, Taconic Hills 6
COBLESKILL — Taconic Hills and Section IV’s Whitney Point met on neutral turf at Cobleskill High on Saturday and the Titans came away with a 32-6 loss in a non-conference varsity football season-opener.
In the second quarter, Devon Charron scored the Titans’ lone touchdown of the afternoon with a seven-yard run into the end zone.
Andy Davis led the way for Whitney Point, scoring three touchdowns.
Taconic Hills (0-1) remains on the road this week, heading to Voorheesville on Saturday at 1 p.m.