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Underdawgs no more

Sullivan West scores 32 unanswered to win 8-Man crown

Anthony Morgano
Posted 11/14/23

HIGHLAND FALLS — “It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get up.”

NFL legend Vince Lombardi’s quote was a perfect summation of Friday …

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Underdawgs no more

Sullivan West scores 32 unanswered to win 8-Man crown


HIGHLAND FALLS — “It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get up.”

NFL legend Vince Lombardi’s quote was a perfect summation of Friday night’s rematch between the Pawling Tigers and Sullivan West Bulldogs.

After Pawling sped to an early 20-0 lead, the Bulldogs deployed a stellar defense and an opportunistic offense to score 32 unanswered points and win the Section 9 8-Man Championship.

Sullivan West started the game about as poorly as possible. After winning the coin toss and electing to defer, Pawling returned the opening kick to the Sullivan West 48 and needed just one offensive play to score on a 48-yard rush, needing just 19 seconds to make it 6-0 early.

Sullivan West’s first drive ended in a three-and-out, leading to a punt. Evan Ebert planted an exceptional punt inside the ten, pinning the Tigers back in their own red zone. It didn’t matter, however, as Pawling was able to convert a 91-yard catch-and-run touchdown on the next play to make it 12-0. 

Things were looking bleak as the Tigers managed to gain 140 yards and two touchdowns on their first two plays from scrimmage.

Sullivan West turned the ball over on downs in their next drive, but the Bulldogs finally got a much-needed stop.

On their next drive, the Bulldogs fumbled on their own 23 yard line, leading to a Pawling scoop and return down to the SW 2. The Tigers easily punched it in and converted the 2-point attempt to make it 20-0 with 3:43 left in the first quarter.

Down, but certainly not out, the Bulldogs put together a strong drive in the final minutes of the first, culminating in a 41-yard rushing touchdown by Rally Cruz with 29 seconds left in the quarter to make it 20-6.

After much of the second quarter was a field position battle, with the Bulldogs’ defense garnering multiple stops, Adam Ernst finally broke through with a touchdown pass to Jason Rodriguez to make it 20-12 with 3:26 to play in the half.

Another Pawling three-and-out led to a Sullivan West drive starting with just 30 seconds left in the half. Thanks to a pass interference penalty, Ebert was able to barrel into the end zone on a QB keep to make it 20-18. Alec Hubert barrelled in on the 2-point conversion to tie it at 20 with 14 seconds in the half.

After the break, Sullivan West was set to receive the kick to start the third quarter. Both teams failed to mount a significant drive for most of the third quarter, until the Bulldogs broke into the red zone at the quarter change.

In their first play from scrimmage in the fourth quarter, Evan Ebert ran to the outside for a touchdown on his first carry of the night. The score gave Sullivan West their first lead of the game at 26-20 with 11:52 to play.

Alec Hubert rushed for a touchdown on their next drive, but it was called back by a holding penalty, leading to a Sullivan West punt.

By this point in the game, the momentum was fully on Sullivan West’s side, and Pawling struggled to get any positive yardage.

After scoring 20 first quarter points, the Tigers had a hard time even getting first downs in the final three quarters.

Sullivan West, on the other hand, continued to win the field position battle, pushing Pawling back and gaining ground on their second half drives.

On their final offensive drive of the game, Sullivan West was aided by a horsecollar penalty on Pawling, setting them up outside of the Tigers’ 20 yard line with 3:43. A few plays later, Sullivan West faced a 4th and 2, but were able to convert down to the Pawling 12.

After losing a few yards and facing a 4th and 15, Ernst connected with Rodriguez for a second touchdown reception, putting the stamp on the victory as the Bulldogs took a two score lead with 1:10 to play. 

Despite Pawling’s last-ditch effort to score, the Sullivan West defense stayed strong, and time expired with the Bulldogs taking home a 32-20 victory.

Despite the 32 points, Sullivan West’s offense needed just 280 yards, thanks to some great field position to start drives.

“We had to wake up a bit, and changing our defensive front helped with that,” Assistant Coach Justin Diehl said. “They didn’t have an answer for our defensive adjustment, and tonight’s win was a total team effort.”

The Bulldogs defense had a stellar night after their slow start, keeping the undefeated Tigers well under their average of 42 points per game, despite losing their first matchup 36-6.

“I can’t say enough about these guys and how hard they’ve worked. They deserve this as much as anyone else,” Diehl said. “We have such great community support, and to get our first Championship win since 2006 – it feels good. It feels good to hold the trophy.”

“We’re a second half team,” long-time Head Coach Ron Bauer said after the win. “The guys were nervous at the start but once they settled in they did a great job.”


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