SPRINGFIELD – If there’s one thing the folks in attendance at Friday’s game between Albany and Springfield learned, it’s that there’s no quit in either team.
It made for a long night with Albany riding a 23-point first quarter before the teams matched each other almost score-for-score in the second half and the Hornets emerged with a 56-34 win at Bulldog Stadium.
“Great job by our kids finishing this thing,” Albany coach Mike Janis said after the Hornets moved to 2-1. “That was key this week – finish – and we did a good job with it.
“It’s just a hard-fought win, and it’s going to be in this game,” Janis continued. “Nothing’s going to come easy in this football game. Even if one team was 9-0 and the other one was 0-9, everybody is going fight in this game and is prideful to play this thing for their school and their community, and that’s what happened. We just were able to hang in there and come away with a ‘W’, and I’m proud of our guys for it.”
“We knew it was going to be a tough game physically,” Springfield coach Ryan Serpas said after his team dropped to 1-2. “Honestly, I’m just glad this week’s behind us. We don’t have to deal with all the rigamarole that comes with this game any more, and we can continue to go on our season and hopefully continue to get better. I am proud of the effort that my kids gave tonight. They didn’t give up. They fought to the end …”
Albany led 29-7 at halftime, but the Bulldogs mixed it up on the first drive of the second half, marching 56 yards in five plays for a touchdown.
Koby Linares had two carries for 11 yards and Tyler Ratcliff came on at quarterback in relief of RJ Serpas, completing a 16-yard pass to Trevon Washington and a 10-yard pass to Isaiah Netter, setting up Linares’ 19-yard TD run. Olivia Davis’ PAT cut the lead to 29-14.
“RJ kind of tweaked his leg there late in the second quarter,” Ryan Serpas said. “He took a hit on it, and he was a little gimpy. We just didn’t want to take a chance with the (injury) history and all. We just decided to go ahead and make a change there, and Tyler did a great job stepping in and took command of the offense, made some good throws down the field and was able to escape the pocket several times as well and make some throws. I’m really proud of the kid.”
Albany recovered an on-side kick and a penalty against the Bulldogs set the Hornets up at the Springfield 45, where Albany’s JJ Doherty connected with Avery Bergeron, who looked to be corralled for a loss but broke free down the right sideline for a touchdown, pushing the lead to 35-14.
Albany’s Orlando Pineda missed a 29-yard field goal attempt wide right after the Hornets recovered a Ratcliff fumble following a sack, setting up another Springfield score.
Linares busted a 45-yard run to the Albany 45 and a 14-yard rumble from Arshun Andrews set up Trevon Washington’s 10-yard TD run over the right side two plays later, cutting the lead to 35-21.
“I said this on Monday – the combination of their ability to run power football and the threat of No. 10 (Washington) and his speed, it’s going to give a lot of people challenges,” Janis. “I think they probably figured some things out offensively with that little two-back set. That was kind of a nightmare to defend.”
Albany answered quickly as J.J. Doherty hit Trey Yelverton on a 55-yard TD pass on the second play of the next drive, making the score 41-21.
“They did a great job of taking advantage of the area around us and making big plays all night long,” Ryan Serpas said.
Springfield took over at its own 47 after another short kick and scored in five plays as a 29-yard pass from Ratcliff to Netter moved the ball to the Hornet 13, setting up Washington’s 2-yard run two plays later, making the score 41-28 with 55.6 seconds to play in the third quarter.
After Springfield forced the only Albany punt of the night, Washington lost a fumble on the Bulldogs' 26, halting some momentum for Springfield.
“It’s a judgement call … but from every perspective and point of view from the rule that I’ve been playing by, his forward progress was stopped, and he was driven backwards, and then he fumbled,” Ryan Serpas said of the play. “Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, that kid is called down at that point and it’s our ball with a first down. It just wasn’t this Friday night.”
Albany capitalized on the turnover Rhett Wolfe scored on a 5-yard run three plays later, and Antonio Lapinto’s two-point run made the score 49-28.
Springfield’s Hunter Hue returned the ensuing kickoff to the Albany 34, but the Bulldogs turned the ball over on downs. The Hornets then lost a fumble on an exchange at their own 22, setting up Springfield’s final touchdown of the night.
Washington did the honors on fourth down, scoring on a 24-yard run, making the score 49-34.
“Trevon did a great job of finding those creases and making big plays,” Ryan Serpas said. “He is fast. He’s shifty. The effort that he gave us was great on both sides of the ball.”
Wolfe recovered an onside kick by the Bulldogs at the Albany 43, and two plays later, J.J. Doherty scored on a 51-yard keeper and Pineda’s PAT accounted for the final margin with 3:39 to play.
“It was just there,” J.J. Doherty said of the run after finishing with 188 yards on 11 carries while missing some playing time with a shoulder injury. “It was just too good to pass up.”
Springfield looked to have scored on its next drive when Ratcliff hit Washington on a 21-yard TD pass, but the Bulldogs were flagged for an illegal forward pass. The drive ended when Ronnie Tubreville sacked Ratcliff on fourth down, allowing the Hornets to run out the clock.
“Hats off to our big guys,” Janis said. “Ronnie and David (Perez) did an excellent job all night. They played every down of offense and every down of defense. While our skinny guys are busy cramping up, our big guys are holding steady, and they did a great job of that.”
As back-and-forth as the scoring was in the second half, it was all Albany in the first quarter.
The Hornets’ big first quarter got started early when J.J. Doherty busted a 68-yard TD run on the second play of the game, and Pineda’s PAT put Albany up 7-0 with 11:04 to play in the first quarter.
“I believe in my teammates and my just my guard (Tubreville) pulling,” J.J. Doherty said of his success on read option plays. “I trust him a lot, so I just get behind him and he basically runs it for me. I just get behind him and I finish.”
After forcing a Springfield punt, the Hornets went on another scoring drive, with J.J. Doherty carrying twice for 48 yards in helping get the Hornets to the Bulldog 5. The 10-play drive ended on Pineda’s 29-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead.
The Hornets recovered the ensuing kickoff, setting them up at the Bulldogs' 31. Dae Dae Doherty, who finished with 18 carries for 120 yards, busted a 29-yard run, setting up J.J. Doherty’s two-yard TD run on the next play. The PAT was blocked, pushing the lead to 16-0.
“We did not call an on-side kick tonight,” Janis said. “Some of them may have looked like it. We mis-kicked it. We worked on squibbing the ball. I didn’t want to kick the ball to No. 10. When we worked on the squib kick in practice, it kind of became a line drive, which if we did that, he has the ball and we’re nowhere close to him. We just changed it up to drive the ball into the ground and see how far we can get it down the field, and that’s what we did with it. Orlando did an excellent job getting some bounces on those things.”
Pineda intercepted an RJ Serpas pass on the first play of the next drive, giving Albany the ball at the Springfield 40. Albany kept the drive going as Dae Dae Doherty kept for 7 yards from the Bulldog 12.
That set up Lapinto’s 12-yard touchdown run, helping push the lead to 23-0 with 37.6 seconds left in the first quarter.
“It was very uncharacteristic of the way that we’ve been playing,” Ryan Serpas of falling behind early. “We have dropped down early in games, but it was something where we kind of got into the flow of the game and kind of were able to break off, but all night long, they kept us on our heels on defense. We had opportunities. We dropped like five or six picks, and I told you early in the week, we were going to have to take advantage of those situations, and we obviously couldn’t create those extra possessions.”
Springfield got its first scoring drive going behind the running of Linares, who busted two runs totaling 59 yards, setting the Bulldogs up at the Albany 19. Three plays later, Washington carried up the middle for a 12-yard TD on a direct snap, and Olivia Davis’ PAT cut the lead to 23-7.
“My favorite lead blocker is Hunter Hue, and he comes around, blows stuff up and I’m there,” Linares said after finishing with 198 yards on 17 carries. “The hole opens, I make a couple quick cuts, hit the outside, and it’s a foot race until I get caught.”
Albany padded the lead on its next drive on Dae Dae Doherty’s three-yard TD run, capping an eight-play, 46-yard drive, making the score 29-7 at halftime.
ALBANY 56, SPRINGFIELD 34
Score By Quarters
Albany 23 6 12 15 -- 56
Springfield 0 7 14 13 -- 34
AHS – JJ Doherty 68 run (Orlando Pineda kick)
AHS – Pineda 29 FG
AHS – JJ Doherty 2 run (kick failed)
AHS – Antonio Lapinto 12 run (Pineda kick)
SHS – Trevon Washington 12 run (Olivia Davis kick)
AHS – Dae Dae Doherty 3 run (run failed)
SHS – Linares 19 run (Davis kick)
AHS – Avery Bergeron 45 pass from JJ Doherty (run failed)
SHS – Washington 10 run (Davis kick)
AHS – Trey Yelverton 55 pass from JJ Doherty (run failed)
SHS – Washington 2 run (Davis kick)
AHS – Rhett Wolfe 5 run (Lapinto run)
SHS – Washington 10 run (kick blocked)
AHS – JJ Doherty 51 run (Pineda kick)
First Downs 19 21
Rushes-Yards 43-377 278
Passing Yards 99 61
C-A-I 4-12-0 4-10-1
Punts-Avg. 1-32 2-32
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 4-2
Penalties-Yards 9-76 15-145