Sunday, June 18, 2006
Dragons sacked in opener
BY CHRIS GILL
CORNING | Dave Belknap had three concerns entering Saturday's steamy season opener for the Crystal City Dragons at Memorial Stadium: Pass protection, the defensive backfield and kicking.
All three combined to doom the Dragons in a 33-12 loss to the Albany Metro Mallers in a nonleague semi-pro football game.
“They beat us exactly where I was worried at,” said Belknap, the Dragons' head coach. “I've got a couple big guys going both ways because we're hurting for big guys - they couldn't do it.”
Albany exposed Crystal City's defensive backs for plays of 42, 21 and 33 yards in the first half behind quarterback Scott Lawson and his favorite weapons, receivers Culture Branch and Marcio Clinton. Albany drew first blood when Lawson hit Branch on a 42-yard slant three minutes into the game and went up 14-0 with less than two minutes left in the first quarter when the Mallers' bruising back Sylvester Cooperwood caught an easy pass from eight yard out.
With 1:01 minutes left in the first, the Dragons punched back.
With Albany stacking 10 in the box, leaving just the free safety to defend, Danny Giannone hit a streaking Hausani Sessions with a 61-yard bomb on the first play of the possession. It was the last time Albany gave Giannone a good look at his receivers.
After that, Giannone was sacked four times, chased out of the pocket three times and hit seven times leading to two interceptions while the running game was slow coming together and the Dragons.
“We had the ball movement, we were looking good in the second quarter,” Belknap said. “We went in down by a touchdown, I thought we were going to come out and take it to them because they'd get tired. They got the better of us in the second half.”
Just before the end of the half, the Dragons put together their best drive of the game, marching 53 yards in 12 plays capped off by Ryan Stroman's nifty juke to take Giannone's pass seven yards to paydirt. That gave Crystal City an eight-point deficit heading into the locker room, the closest the Dragons could get to Albany.
The Mallers went up 27-12 with five minutes left in the third quarter when George Miller fell on a blocked punt in the end zone, and with nine minutes left Albany erased any hopes of a comeback when Clinton punched in a touchdown set up by his 25-yard scamper to the one-yard line.
The Dragons were festooned in black and red jerseys under a scorching first-half sun and humid second-half conditions. Sprints onto the field became sweat-drenched jogs.
“It was the first time in the three years we've been in Corning I've seen these guys get tired in the second half, never seen them get tired, they've always been a fourth-quarter team,” Belknap said. “Both sides of the ball, they were dead in the second half.”
Giannone finished going 6-for-13 with two touchdowns, two picks and 130 yards through the air, while Stroman had three grabs for 53 yards and Sessions made two catches for 67 yards. On the ground, Jeff Rodriguez toted the ball six times for 34 yards and Todd Geter carried it four times for 18 yards. On defense, Nate Vanostrand made two sacks and Mike Mawhir had one, while Eddie Winfield made 10 tackles from the strong safety position.
Albany was led by Cooperwood's 117 yards on 21 carries, with 31 yards receiving to boot, while Lawson went 12-for-22 with two touchdowns and 195 yards.
Now the task for the Dragons is to shake off Saturday's meltdown and ready themselves for the other Dragons from Broome County on June 24 at Memorial Stadium.
“I'm not discouraged. I don't know what the temperature was (80 degrees), but it was hot and the guys played hard,” Belknap said. “That's a good team, they went 15-1 and they're defending league champs. I think we can bounce back. I'm not discouraged, but I am disappointed.”
Mallers 33, Dragons 12
Albany 14 6 7 13 - 33
Crystal City 6 6 0 0 - 12
Albany - Branch 42-yard pass from Lawson, Sausville kick, 12:30.
Allbany - Cooperwood 7-yard pass from Lawson, Sausville kick, 1:16.
Crystal City - Sessions 61-yard pass from Giannone, kick failed, 1:01.
Albany - Cooperwoood 4-yard run, kick failed, 5:15.
Crystal City - Stroman 8-yard pass from Giannone, conversion failed, :42.1.
Albany - Miller recoverd blocked punt, Sausville kick, 12:05.
Albany - Clinton 1-yard run, conversion failed, 5:29.
First Downs 15 7
Rushes-Yards 31-156 26-85
Passing 246 89
Comp-Att-Int 16-33-0 6-13-2
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 3-1
Penalties-Yards 4-50 6-31
Punts-Avg. 26.5 3-31
RUSHING - Albany: Cooperwood 21-117, Lawson 1-7, Schaeffer 1-6, Clinton 5-48. C.City: Giannone 3-14, Rodriguez 6-34, Gee 5-0, Barber 1-6, Geter 4-18, Stroman 2-9, Webb 1-4.
PASSING - Albany: Lawson 12-22-195-0, Schaeffer 4-10-69-0. C.City: Giannone 6-13-130-2.
RECEIVING - Albany: Branch 5-112, Clinton 4-35, Mulino 3-78, Cooperwood 3-31, Callahan 1-12. C.City: Sessions 2-67, Stroman 3-53, Gee 1-10.
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