The Maple Grove Red Dragons are returning to New Era Field for the Class D Finals after defeating Clymer/Sherman/Panama (CSP) 26-20 down in Bemus Point Friday evening. Junior QB Easton Tanner completed 6 of 12 passes for 98 yards and two TD’s to lead Maple Grove a step closer to another division title.
The Red Dragons had 332 yards of total offense with Nick Fabrizio picking up 151 on the ground including a late 4th quarter rushing touchdown and picking up a key first down on 4th and 1 in the dying seconds of the game to seal the win.
Zach Fischer, son of Maple Grove head coach Curt, caught both of Tanner’s touchdown passes and a two-point conversion, all in the first half. Fischer’s first TD grab was a 31-yard strike that gave the Red Dragons the early lead. In the 2nd quarter he caught a 15-yard pass on 3rd and 15, coupled with the 2pt convo, Maple Grove took a 14-0 lead into the half.
The Red Dragons received the ball to start the 3rd quarter. Looking to build on their two touchdown lead, Maple Grove gambled on 4th and 2 inside the CSP 25 but the Wolfpack stuffed them at the line and took over on downs.
Just three plays later Carter Russo recovered a fumble following a Maple Grove sack and returned it to the house extending the home teams lead 20-0. The extra point attempt sailed wide left.
On CSP’s next possession sophomore QB Gerrit Hinsdale and his receivers began to click. Hinsdale completed five of his next 8 passes leading the Wolfpack all the way down to the Maple Grove 4 yard line. Tanner Ramsey took it in for CSP’s first TD of the game. The 2-point conversion failed but the Wolfpack found a weakness. The key play of the drive was a 10-yard strike from Hinsdale to Cameron Barmore on 4th and 10, thanks to the help of a CSP spot, the Wolfpack were able to continue the drive.
CSP then forced a fumble on Maple Grove’s next drive, the Wolfpack recovered just shy of midfield. A few plays later Wolfpack head coach Ty Harper went into his bag of tricks. CSP ran the “hook and ladder” play to perfection. Hinsdale threw a short pass to Barmore who was wide open five yards downfield, just as Ramsey who proceeded to sprint untouched to the end zone. After an unsuccessful extra point try, the Wolfpack cut the deficit to 8 points, trailing 20-12 with under a minute left in the 3rd quarter.
Maple Grove, sensing the momentum shifting went back to Fabrizio on the ensuing drive. The Red Dragons put together a nice seven-and-a-half minute drive that ended with a 1-yard TD run by Fabrizio, giving Maple Grove a 14 point lead again.
Hinsdale and the Wolfpack answered back. Again, with 4th and 8 staring them in the face, Hinsdale delivered. Michael Beatman made a spectacular catch, hauling in a 39-yard TD grab. Hinsdale was hit just after the throw and came up slowly. Moments later he gathered himself and found his favorite target Barmore for the 2-point conversion.
Fabrizio once again was called into action and along with Tanner proceeded to pick up enough first downs to help the Red Dragons run out the clock, ending CSP’s season.
“We knew CSP was a really good team coming in,” Fabrizio said. “It was a great team win, I give those guys a lot of credit, they never quit.” A senior and Connolly Cup Top Performer is the latest in a long line of great running backs out of the Red Dragons stable. Fabrizio led all rushers in attempts and yards Friday, attempted a pass in the first quarter but was intercepted. “Every year we strive to be our best and today we just powered through.”
Tanner put the game away with a 5-yard run off a QB sneak on 4th and 1, which proved to be the final play. Aside from the two touchdown passes, Tanner recorded four solo tackles and broke up two passes on defense.
In addition to his defensive touchdown, Russo had three sacks, three solo tackles and assisted on another seven.
“CSP is a great team but we thought we could beat them in the passing game,” Fischer said. “We knew we were losing the momentum there in the 2nd half, made some excuses in the huddle but then we just said enough, made some plays and here we are.”
Maple Grove made big plays when they needed them, especially in the first half. That’s not to say this game was easy. In fact, CSP fought back from a 20 point deficit only to lose by six points.
“I couldn’t be any prouder of our guys,” coach Harper said. “We could have quit but this is who we are, we stuck with it and found ways to get back into the game, they just fought and clawed all day. It’s not the result we wanted but I can’t say enough about the effort.”
For senior lineman Thomas Delahoy, and seven others it would be their final high-school game. “I love my teammates and I’ll keep these memories for the rest of my life,” Delahoy said. “I’m hoping to keep playing in college,” Ramsey said. Ramsey finished with 98 yards receiving. He is undecided on where his next stop will be but has talked with Alfred and Buffalo State.
“It hurts, I thought we fought hard till the end, just fell short,” Hinsdale said. Something to build on? “Definitely,” he answered.
Coach Fischer was unavailable after the game and is tentatively scheduled to have surgery Tuesday for a double hernia. The surgery was originally scheduled for Friday but he had it rescheduled. Assistant coach Jordan Saxton said the team was ready for CSP and knew they would present problems. “They are an up and coming team and they aren’t going away.”
The Class D Finals will be played next Friday at New Era Field with Maple Grove taking on Franklinville/Ellicottville. Game time is 5pm.
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