Thunder Dragons Play Follow The Leader

As the Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake squad sat in the locker room at halftime, going through in their minds once more what had just occurred – the Thunder Dragons had been held scoreless and managed to gain fewer than 80 total yards against visiting Portville – one player finally spoke up.

His name was Chandler Baker.

And Baker, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound junior guard, had a simple message: “follow me.”

That was enough for Coach Curt Fischer.

With renewed focus on a hard-nosed, straight-up-the-gut running attack, Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake racked up more than double its first-half rushing totals in the second half (74 compared to 194) on the way to a 13-0 Class D victory on Friday night.

“We made some adjustments on the blocking schemes and that was the biggest difference (in the second half),” Fischer said. “Chandler just took over. His attitude coming out was, ‘Run behind me.’

“And we just started flip-flopping him (along the line) and running behind him.”

The main beneficiary of Baker’s work up front was Ryan Miller, who after being held to three carries with minus-four yards and a fumble in the opening half, bounced back in a big way, finishing with a grand total of 130 yards on 22 rushes with a touchdown.

Miller broke the scoreless tie, delivering what would turn out to be the game-winning touchdown, 30 seconds into the final period – though in actuality that decisive scoring drive began much sooner than that.

After forcing Portville into a three-and-out on their first possession of the second half, Miller, with a little less than 5:30 to go in the third quarter, was handed the ball and promptly rushed right up the middle behind Baker for six yards.

Then he went for five more.

And then 12. Then 18.

When the drive, which began on Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake’s own 13, was all said and done, the deceptively powerful runner had carried the ball on 11 of 12 plays – Gram Nelson had chipped in with a 17-yard burst to give Miller a quick breather – and had gained 67 of 84 yards before finishing things off with a 3-yard plunge to give the hosts a 6-0 cushion.

“I can’t say enough about Ryan Miller,” Fischer said. “He was outstanding.”

That score would be all the Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake defense required, though Thunder Dragons’ quarterback Kyle Mayer did score from the 1 with a little more than a minute remaining to remove all doubt of a victory for the hosts on the Dutch Hollow Road.

Combined with the clock-eating running attack – Portville held possession of the ball for a mere 6:49 during the second half, including just 2:19 in the third quarter – and a ball-hawking defense, Portville, which as a team rushed for 65 yards, never managed to reach the redzone.

“Our defense played really good ball tonight,” Fischer said. “They gave us some great field position against a team with a really, really great coach.”

Also keeping the Panthers from reaching paydirt was the fact that they turned the ball over four times, and each one came while driving into MG/CL territory.

Among the turnovers was an interception by MG/CL’s Tyler Furlow when he stepped in front of quarterback Brett Marcellin’s screen pass late in the second quarter; and a fumble, recovered by Jonah Tanner, inside the 5 with 14 seconds remaining. That turnover negated a 31-yard pass play from Marcellin to receiver Curtis Caya.

“There were some penalties, turnovers and fumbles,” Portville coach Gary Swetland said, “but that (happens) every (game). … I think the biggest thing is that we got the ball run down our throats when we needed to get stops. That’ll be what we focus on, getting the power run stopped.

“They ran the ball better than us and we didn’t run the ball enough. Game over. 13-0.”

NOTES: AJ Hulton gained 62 yards on 11 carries. … Tanner led the victors with 12 tackles; Mayer was second with nine; and a number of others, including Furlow, Baker and Mitchell Sandberg, had seven apiece. … Waugh led Portville with 44 yards rushing and 47 yards receiving. … Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake is back in action next Friday when it hosts Nichols at 7 p.m. at Chautauqua Lake Central School.

Portville0 0 0 0 – 0

Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake0 0 0 13 – 0

MG/CL – Miller 2 run (kick failed)

MG/CL – Mayer 1 run (Beaton kick)