BY ERIC AHLQVIST
THE COOPERSTOWN CRIER
The Cooperstown football team lost its first regular season game since 2008 last Saturday, spotting New York Mills 14 points in a 20-14 defeat at Lambert Field.
The Redskins, 2-1, will try to regroup this Saturday, when they host Morrisville-Eaton at 2 p.m. in the annual Homecoming contest.
Mills scored more points (14) in the first quarter on Saturday than Cooperstown’s first two opponents did in the first two games (12) combined.
”We didn’t have a good week of practice and we came out flat,’’ said Cooperstown football coach Steve Pugliese. ``I think you’ll see a different team this week.’’
Both of the Marauders touchdowns occurred on fourth down passing plays, the first a 26-yard strike on Mills’ first drive, and the second a 12-yard slant pattern that made it 14-0.
The Redskins rebounded early in the second quarter, as quarterback Coley Graham scored his fifth rushing touchdown of the season on a tough two-yard carry on third and goal. Graham was met at the goal line by a Mills defender, but was able to keep his feet moving and cross the goal line. The missed extra point left CCS trailing by eight, 14-6.
The score remained that way at the half despite two good Cooperstown drives which came up empty.
Jeff Flynn caught a long pass over the middle to Mills’ 17-yard line, but Cooperstown turned the ball over when Graham attempted to flip the ball to Alec Silvera on an option play.
“ Offensively, we had way too many mistakes and uncharacteristic penalties that proved to be drive killers,’’ said CCS offensive coordinator Nate Conte.
Later in the quarter, a long Silvera run was called back by a penalty, negating another scoring opportunity.
The Redskins wasted little time tying the score in the second half, taking the opening kickoff and marching 65 yards for a touchdown.
Graham, who completed 10 passes for 166 yards, connected with Jeremiah Ford on a 40-yard pass play to Mills 25-yard line, and on fourth and five from the 20 hit Jeff Flynn down the middle for 13 yards. Ford caught an eight-yard pass on a slant pattern for the touchdown, and connected with Silvera on a two-point conversion pass to tie the score at 20.
“We showed that we can run the ball and throw the ball now,’’ Conte said. ``We were a block away on almost every drive from scoring a touchdown.’’
After tying the score, the Redskins seemed to have all the momentum, but NYM’s Fred Russ, a 6-foot-five inch receiver, proved to be the difference on the Marauders next drive.
On consecutive plays, Russ made circus catches, the first a one-handed grab near the sideline that was good for 33 yards to Cooperstown’s 17, and the next a sliding catch in the end zone for a touchdown. On what proved to be the game-winning score, two Cooperstown defenders had Russ surrounded, but tipped the ball in the air and Russ was able to haul it in as he hit the ground.
”Two of their touchdown passes were tipped by our defenders, so we got a little unlucky there,’’ Pugliese said.
A shanked Mills punt late in the fourth quarter gave Cooperstown the ball at Mills’ 33-yard line with 2:40 remaining. On the first play from scrimmage, Graham ran 15 yards to the 18-yard line. But on second down, Graham’s pass down the middle, intended for Flynn, was intercepted and Mills was able to run out the clock.