This week MHTS made a stop in Marcy to take in some Junior Pee Wee Pop Warner football action. What we found was a key divisional matchup between the Marcy-Deerfield Blue Thunder and the Cazenovia Lakers. Both teams entered the game with 3-2 league records and a playoff birth was at stake.
Both teams strapped on their chin straps and were ready to go in what was expected to be a close matchup between two evenly matched teams. With heavy rainfall leading up to the game the field was perfectly groomed for a mud bowl!
Marcy-Deerfield won the toss and decided to receive and quarterback Anthony Ruggiero led his Blue Thunder on the field for the first drive.
Both offenses started out with the big game jitters as the defenses dominated the first few offensive drives.
The Cazenovia defense rose to the occasion and stopped the Blue Thunder as they attempted to continue their opening drive by going for it on fourth down. The Lakers shut the home team down.
Cazenovia took over on downs and looked to move the ball on the ground by handing the ball off to running back Robbie Liddell. Just as the Lakers were picking up momentum with their running game the offense was slowed down after a holding call moved them back.
The Lakers facing a fourth down decided to roll the dice and go for it and picked up a first down on a run play to the outside. Again, with the offense rolling the Lakers found themselves being pushed back after picking up a 5 yard penalty.
Facing another fourth down situation with the ball on the 5 yard line of Marcy-Deerfield the Lakers looked to run again but this time the Marcy-Deerfield defenders stepped up and made a huge defensive stop.
Fresh off its big defensive series Marcy-Deerfield was ready to roll and put its offense to work. The Blue Thunder looked to catch the Lakers off guard and mixed up the running game when quarterback Anthony Ruggiero held onto the ball and called his own number and took off up field.
The Blue Thunder then looked to punish the Lakers defense by handing the ball to Joseph Ruggiero who rolled up field picking up a first down. The Blue Thunder continued to call Joe Ruggiero’s number and he continued to grind it out and pick up positive yardage and first downs.
The Blue Thunder had a slight mishap when they fumbled the ball but Eddie Simpson was able to recover and the drive continued.
Marcy-Deerfield continued to keep the Lakers guessing by running the ball to the outside with Eddie Simpson and Joseph Ruggiero who dashed for a long gain and another first down.
The Blue Thunder then ran a double reverse for a big gain and then kicked it out back to the outside with Simpson.
Marcy-Deerfield was finally able to punch it in after handing the ball to Joshua Strzepek who busted through the line for a touchdown and a 6-0 lead after the conversion was no good.
The Cazenovia Lakers, down a touchdown, quickly went back to work after receiving the kick and returning it to its own 43 yard line. A fumble started things off but the Lakers were able to recover and maintain their composure and then handed the ball off to Cole Basic who broke free for a big gain to the outside.
The Lakers continued to move the ball well on the ground and more specifically to the outside and continued to call the number of Cole Basic as well as Robbie Liddell who both found room on the edge.
With the Lakers facing a 3rd down and 5 they sought the services of Cole Basic once again who picked up the first down and received the ball on the very next play and broke to the outside and into the end zone and tied the game up 6-6 after a missed conversion.
With half time approaching the Marcy-Deerfield Blue Thunder sought another opportunity to punch one in before the break and were looking good after Joshua Strzepek took it down to the 28 yard line on a huge 20 yard gain.
With the running game firing at all cylinders, Marcy-Deerfield continued to look to the outside and handed the ball off to Vincent Fanelli. With the clock winding down in the half the young Blue Thunder clicked into a 2 minute offense.
However, they were unable to put together a scoring drive after Fanelli was thrown for a loss and two other running attempts resulted in no gains and the ball was turned over to Cazenovia on downs and both teams headed to half time knotted at six.
The second half began with Cazenovia receiving the ball. The drive only lasted two plays after Cazenovia fumbled and Marcy-Deerfield recovered.
The Marcy-Deerfield squad eager to start the second half on the right foot saw the drive stall after a series of false starts set them back.
The drive sputtered following a big stop by Cazenovia’s Kevin Ammann and Josh Maxwell who stopped a reverse attempt by Marcy-Deerfield.
Marcy-Deerfield looked to the outside on 3rd down with a handoff to Eddie Simpson which resulted in a loss of yards and the Blue Thunder was forced to punt.
The Lakers came barreling through the line and Josh Maxwell was able to block the punt and give the his team good field position for their next drive.
The Lakers were unable to take advantage of their field position as the Marcy-Deerfield defense was in their way. A nice run by Robbie Liddell was negated after a holding penalty set the Lakers back 5 yards and then a run to the outside by Cole Basic brought the Lakers to 3rd and 14 situation.
The Marcy-Deerfield defense stopped a Lakers running play and then Joshua Strzepek broke up a fourth down pass attempt intended for Chris Sparks and the Blue Thunder took over on downs.
With the end of the third quarter approaching Marcy-Deerfield was eager to find the end zone again and regain the lead in this defensive battle.
The home team took to the skies on first down when quarterback Anthony Ruggiero looked to Vincent Fanelli but the pass fell incomplete. Anthony Ruggiero called his own number on second down and was stopped.
Joe Ruggiero then ran for a small gain on third down. Looking to convert on a big fourth down late in the game the Blue Thunder turned to Eddie Simpson who took to the outside on a nice looking run.
A penalty on the play forced them back and fourth down was replayed. Quarterback Anthony Ruggiero hung on to the ball on fourth down and turned up field, however he was chased down by Lakers defender Jack McDonald.
The start of the fourth quarter started to bring a sense of urgency for both teams as a playoff birth was hanging in the balance.
Fresh off its big fourth down stop the Cazenovia Lakers had some momentum and were looking to take advantage and began to pound the ball hoping for a Marcy-Deerfield mistake.
After running the ball on first and second downs the Lakers handed off to Ty Freyer who jumped to the outside picking up a first down.
Cole Basic was then called on and took the ball up the middle for the Lakers followed by Robbie Liddell who was stopped by Caleb Scherer, Joseph Ruggiero and Duane Germond.
With the Lakers on the 2 yard line they looked to punch it in with a run. Both third and fourth down attempts featured big stops by Marcy-Deerfield defenders Eddie Simpson and Vincent Fanelli as the quarterback looked to sneak it in.
With just under six minutes remaining in the ball game Marcy-Deerfield took over at the 2 yard line with its opportunity to break the tie and go up late in the ball game.
Marcy-Deerfield continued to stick to their game plan and look for openings via the running game. Marcy-Deerfield mixed up the running attack by featuring a variety of different backs in Vincent Fanelli, Joseph Ruggiero and John Camello.
After a series of runs the Blue Thunder were facing a 4th down and 5 and handed the ball to Brandon Hartness who looked to explode up field but was brought down by Tony Heaney and Cazenovia took over on downs late in the ball game.
Cazenovia saw its opportunity and this time the Lakers would not be denied. After being stopped on a first down run the Lakers came back with Kevin Ammann who managed to pick up a big gain and on the very next play called his number again but this time he found the end zone for the game winning score.
Tony Heaney picked up the conversion the Lakers were up 13-6. After the Marcy-Deerfield Blue Thunder were unable to put together a final scoring drive with the clock winding down the game was ended and Cazenovia won a hard fought, defensive battle 13-6.
Despite the score both teams came out winners on this Sunday afternoon as both teams battled and gave all they had in a defensive battle that would make any coach proud.
Cazenovia coach Joe Basic described the game as a “Great, hard fought game against a very tough Marcy-Deerfield team.” The coach was proud of his kids saying, “One of the traits of this team is that they never quit no matter the situation, they were hungry to the end and played with a lot of heart…they never laid down.”
Marcy-Deerfield head coach Dave Weller was also proud of his team’s effort saying, “It was a close, and tough game…my kids played tough, with heart and laid it on the line…that’s all you can ask…I am very proud of them.”
For Coach Weller, giving these kids an opportunity to play football is really what it’s all about. The coach is in his sixth year of coaching Pop Warner football and has a step-son in the program. Coach Weller clearly enjoys what he is doing and being out there with the kids. His pre-game, half-time and post-game speeches all centered around one theme – “One Team – One Goal”.
The Marcy-Deerfield Pop Warner Program is one that Weller hopes to see grow as he mentioned that they are in a rebuilding phase and hopes that the buzz in the community around Pop Warner Football will spread and they can continue to grow.
Weller mentions that under the leadership of its coaches, board members, volunteers and supportive families this program will continue to shine. Weller adds that “It’s a good program where no kid gets left behind.” In Marcy-Deerfield it’s simple; it’s One Team – One Goal.
Following the game we were able to catch up with Marcy-Deerfield players Vincent Fanelli, Anthony and Joseph Ruggiero, Eddie Simpson and Joshua Strzepek.
Each of the kids mentioned that the loss today is a tough one to swallow because it was such a tough game on both ends and it’s always hard to lose but they felt like they gave it their best effort.
Vincent Fanelli who plays both running back and outside linebacker for the team mentions that he loves playing Pop Warner because he likes playing on both sides of the ball – his favorite team – the Philadelphia Eagles.
Anthony Ruggiero is a linebacker and the quarterback of the Marcy-Deerfield team and loves offense because as the quarterback he can help make things happen – his favorite team is the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Joseph Ruggiero – a running back and safety enjoys tackling the most and calls the Dallas Cowboys his favorite team.
Eddie Simpson is also one of the team’s featured backs as well as a corner. He enjoys playing football because he loves to tackle and the Green Bay Packers are his favorite.
Last is Joshua Strzepek who is one of the team’s kickers and corners. His favorite part of the game is hitting and he calls the NY Giants as his top team.
MHTS would like to thank Dave Weller for the invitation and the hospitality shown by league officials and Marcy-Deerfield fans. Good luck the rest of the way!