SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY — Rare it is when a calendar month features two full moons, the second of which is referred to as a “blue moon.” Thus the expression “Once in a blue moon” describes something that seldom happens. Under the glow of an August 31 blue moon, Sullivan West’s 2012 football campaign began auspiciously with a pair of rarities by beating Chester, a team that thrashed the Bulldogs a year ago, and doing so in the most unlikely manner by dint of last-second drama.
Last year, Chester’s offense had a heyday versus the Bulldogs in a 42-28 offensive onslaught that included six touchdowns from the now graduated standout Saxon Smith who rushed for 331 yards that night. Smith would go on to become Section 9’s all-time leading rushing record holder and Chester would carry its undefeated season all the way to the Carrier Dome in the state Class D title game where they came up on the wrong end of a 27-0 defeat to Section 5 Letchworth. For its part, coming off a dominant performance at the recent Port Jervis scrimmage, Sullivan West looked to avenge the now Smith-less Hambletonians.
But for the first three quarters of the game that avowed goal was undermined by poor blocking and tackling, inconsistent offense and a pair of turnovers undermined that goal. The first of such occurred on the Westies’ opening play as a fumbled snap handed Chester the ball and led to a 31-yard TD gallop by Lawrence Young, the heir apparent to Chester’s ground attack. That TD, which came only 27 seconds into the game, appeared to be an ominous omen under the lunar aura. But the Bulldogs nixed the two-point conversion attempt and the 6-0 score remained unchanged as the teams headed into halftime, a product of good defense by both squads, as well as a multitude of Chester miscues and poorly timed penalties. Chester added to its lead with a three-yard TD run by Justin Delgado with 7:04 remaining in the third quarter. Delgado scored on the two-point conversion and the Hambos now led 14-zip as Sullivan West’s offensive series continued to sputter and stall. This would eventually be reversed by dint of a trio of Chester no-no’s, the first of which was having only 10 men on the field during a Jared Meola punt return, which he took 54 yards for the Bulldogs’ first tally of the season. That happened with 5:40 remaining in the game. An option pass from Brad Hemmer to Meola added two more points to make it a 14-8 game.
Chester’s second faux pas came as it was driving deep into Sullivan West territory seemingly enroute to a two-score lead before failing to convert on a third and fourth attempt. Credit is due to the enlivened Bulldogs defense, which stopped Young in his tracks. Chester punted and the Dawgs had the ball back with 2:54 remaining in the game, albeit 75 yards away from the endzone. Senior captain Sawyer Erlwein made good on a couple of key pass plays, including a 32-yard third-down completion to Hemmer, to advance the ball into Chester territory. Erlwein kept the drive going on third- and fourth-down scenarios with help from Eli Peters and his own running guile until things looked dire as the Westies faced a fourth and five yards to go with a mere 31 seconds left. Erlwein’s pass fell incomplete but Chester was flagged for a flagrant pass interference penalty, giving the Westies a first and goal at the eight. Erlwein hit Brian Stauch with a pass across the middle for the game-tying score with 8.4 seconds remaining. Michael Sedlack’s PAT just cleared the crossbar for the 15-14 lead. The Bulldogs nixed Chester’s kickoff return and lone final play to garner the non-league win.
Drama will continue on September 8 as Sullivan West travels to Liberty, a team they beat 22-21 in overtime to earn a playoff berth last fall, while barring the Indians from postseason contention. The memories live on and the rivalry is stronger than ever.
In other local football action Monticello defeated Saugerties 36-14 in a league tilt as Jaybel Hatcher rushed for 165 yards and a TD. Terry Duncan returned a kickoff 80 yards and Mistah Ali scored as well. Liberty downed Delhi 42-6 as Kenny Jaycox rushed for 174 yards and three TDs. He also returned a kickoff 70 yards for another score. Tri-Valley lost a non-league opener 49-12 to Section 9 Class C defending champion James I. O’Neill, while Eldred trounced Livingston Manor in a league encounter by the score of 56-0. At the Monticello Soccer Tourney, Liberty boys prevailed over Fallsburg 5-0, while the Lady Indians beat the Lady Comets 1-0. Monticello girls downed Eldred 4-0, while the Monties boys team bested Eldred 5-1. The tournament will be completed on September 8 with consolation and championship games on the docket. Visit www.sportsinsightsny.com  for complete up-to-the-minute sports coverage and albums of photos.