DEXTER — Nate Heller, Brandon Farr and all of the General Brown seniors finished their varsity football career on a high note.
For the second consecutive week, the Lions dominated on both sides of the ball, defeating the defending state Class C runner-up Gouverneur, 41-7.
“It means a lot, usually only state champions are the ones that get to end off on a win,” Heller said. “So, to end off on a win, it’s huge for us.”
This obviously wasn’t the most traditional of seasons. The Lions managed to play a five-team schedule with few to no weak spots. But unlike in a typical season, they weren’t playing for any sort of title.
Even in this less-than-ideal circumstance, Farr didn’t feel much regret.
“No, I don’t have any regrets,” Farr said. “I think everything that we did, it’s all over with and we did everything right.”
The win gives the Lions a positive record of 3-2 to end the year, and the final two games were some of their best. After defeating Lowville 48-0 last week, the Lions followed it up with another dominating performance.
However, Gouverneur instantly tested General Brown when, on the second play of the game, Joseph Cummings took the handoff to the sideline and sprinted his way 58 yards up field for a score.
He finished the game with 90 rushing yards and the team’s only score.
The touchdown gave the Wildcats an early 7-0 lead, ultimately their only lead of the game. After getting punched in the mouth to immediately start Friday night’s contest, the Lions just shrugged it off.
“I think that it’s just all the players coming together and just rallying each other and trying to get the momentum on our side,” Heller said. “Just being a team and doing our job, even though it was a rough start. I think it just shows the character of what we had this year.”
It took the Lions a quarter to get their offense going, tying the game at the start of the second quarter when Morgan Milkowich capped off a long, productive drive with a five-yard touchdown.
From there the Lions didn’t look back. General Brown scored two touchdowns in each of the second, third and fourth quarters. The Lions had six different players score and not a single one found the end zone twice.
The regulars once again led the offense for General Brown. Heller completed a few nice passes, but mainly contributed to the offense with his legs, he had 144 rushing yards including a 58-yard touchdown. Eli Rawleigh, mainly out of the backfield, recorded 61 yards and a touchdown, while sophomore Kaleb Natali had 45 yards and a touchdown.
For Heller, Friday was his last night donning a General Brown uniform, but for the likes of Rawleigh and Natali, the Lions’ performance at the end of season is a good sign of what’s to come next year.
With only 10 seniors on the roster, coach Doug Black will be returning most of his players. And while this season wasn’t necessarily a training session for next year, it proved to be an invaluable learning experience for the underclassmen.
“We really treated this like we would the fall, the best kids played,” Black said. “We didn’t really necessary push our underclassmen into starting positions, if the seniors earned it, they earned it. So it was really a balance, but with how the season went, we were able to get the younger kids a lot of experience, so I think it’s going to be very valuable this fall.”
Rawleigh, a junior, has played a significant role in General Brown’s offense for a couple of seasons now. Next year, he’ll take on the role of starting quarterback full time.
“I think we’re in a great spot for next year,” Rawleigh said. “We really set the tone, especially with these last two big wins, we really set the tone to work hard in the offseason and get it done next year.”
There are plenty of offensive weapons for Rawleigh to rely on next year, two of the six players to score a touchdown in Friday’s game were sophomore, and Natali being one of them.
The emergence of the young running back has been a pleasant surprise for Black this season.
“He went from I think only one or two carries our first game, and as the season went on, he just proved that he belonged on the field,” Black said. “He was a surprise, but he’s solid, he’s strong, he runs behind his blocks well, he’s just a natural runner.”
High school players were dealt a difficult hand this season — spring football is, in many ways, different than fall ball. Given the adversity, and the challenging schedule, Black saw his General Brown team grow week after week.
“I was, it’s a different season playing in the spring and the fact that they were as focused this spring as they were in the fall,” Black said. “The little things we were going over in practice, the film study, and just all the different things that we were incorporating. They were paying attention to detail and just kept getting better each week.”