East Aurora denies Larkin its 1st victory
Lessons often take many different shapes, even in a loss. East Aurora defeated host Larkin 22-21 for its first Upstate Eight Conference win Friday while keeping the Royals winless on the season.
"This week there was a change in mentality with some of our players," Larkin coach Matt Gehrig said. "Some guys are starting to mature and understand the preparation and intensity that it takes to play a football game. I really feel like we're starting to improve. Our players played really hard tonight and I really want to build off of this. Obviously, you never want to come up short, but we're going to focus on all of the positives going into next week."
The Royals took an early lead when the Tomcats' first drive stalled and the punt snap sailed over the punter's head and was recovered by the Royals' Treyvon Smith at the Tomcats' 5-yard line. Smith scored from three yards out two plays later to give the Royals a 7-0 lead.
The Tomcats (1-2, 1-2) scored on their next possession on a 63-yard, 12-play drive capped by a 16-yard touchdown strike by quarterback Orlando Garcia to Kimani Williams, and scored a 2-point conversion even though the point after snap was bad.
East Aurora struck again late in the second quarter after a 46-yard punt return by Williams brought the ball to the Royals' 33-yard line, and on the first play from scrimmage, Garcia found Williams again for the score to put the Tomcats up 14-7 with 1:26 remaining in the half.
However, Larkin tied the game with a second remaining in the half. Facing a second down and 20 yards to go after a holding penalty, sophomore quarterback Dontrell Maxie took off around the left end and wasn't tackled until he reached the Tomcats' 7-yard line with under 30 seconds left in the half. Maxie's toss to Kione Williams-Sowers one play later tied the game at 14-14 at halftime.
The Royals (0-3, 0-3) took the lead on their first possession of the third quarter. Facing 3rd-and-11, Maxie rolled slightly to his left and heaved a dart downfield to Steven Skeate who hauled in the 48-yard touchdown pass to put the Royals up 21-14.
"We had called a comeback route," Skeate said. "But when I saw the coverage, I came back and told him (Maxie) I'm going to do a comeback and then go and he put it on the money and we scored. We're going to have more effort and energy in practice so we can play harder next week. We're going to bring a lot of energy for homecoming next week. We're going to have a big crowd and feed off of that energy and hopefully we can come away with a win."
The Tomcats clinched the victory with 9:56 left in the game when Caleb Turner scored from three yards out on a 10-play, 48-yard drive.
After the tough loss, Gehrig sent a very positive and encouraging message to his team.
"Confidence and work ethic are really the two most important things we're trying to build on," Gehrig said. "We want them to understand that their work ethic and mental focus is what's going to give them confidence when they're on the field in those pivotal moments with the game on the line. I'm really proud of the effort of our guys tonight. They really left it all out on the field. I'm really proud to see that improvement and that growth. We're looking to take the next step with week in practice with a little more polished effort next week. It's about building the culture and about the kids believing that what we ask them to do is indeed important and leads to the success of our team."