MIDDLETOWN — A second half comeback gave the Gouverneur football team a 14-11 victory over Section 1’s Valhalla in a state Class C semifinal Saturday afternoon at Middletown High School.
The Wildcats (11-0 overall) will face Section 4’s Susquehanna Valley for the state championship at 6 p.m. Friday at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. Susquehanna Valley defeated Section 6’s Southwestern, 35-28, in the other Class C semifinal.
“Our defense again played stellar,” Wildcats coach Sean Devlin said. “We had some key stops, especially with JoJo Cummings’ interception at the end to stop a drive. Our offense moved the ball methodically at times, especially in the second half, which helped with field position when we didn’t score. We have been saying all week that they will complete passes and get first downs, but yard don’t win games, points do.”
Valhalla (8-3) looked to be in control of the game after rallying late in the first half to kick a field goal and then scoring a touchdown on the opening possession of the second half to put Gouverneur in an 11-0 hole.
But the Wildcats didn’t panic down by two scores for the first time all season and stuck to their running offense.
After Valhalla’s touchdown, the Wildcats went on a 10-play, 65-yard drive to cut the lead to 11-8. The drive ended with a 12-yard touchdown run from Cayden Stowell, who also ran in the 2-point conversion.
It was the third big play for Stowell on the drive, who rushed for five yards on a 4th-and-3 from the Valhalla 42 earlier and then ran 10 yards the play before his touchdown.
“Our guys never quit, they refused to lay down, refused to lose and found it in them to finish the game,” Devlin said. “I have never been around a gutsier group of young men in my life. Lots of history today for Gouverneur football, but we still have work to do.”
After Stowell’s score, Valhalla went three-and-out on its next series and the Wildcats started another scoring drive, this one a 15-play, 64-yard effort to take the lead for good with 5 minutes, 41 seconds left in the game.
Once again the Wildcats faced a key fourth down play, this one a 4th-and-5 from the Valhalla 22. Wildcats quarterback Caleb Farr dropped back to pass, luring a few Valhalla defenders down field to cover his receivers, and then he broke free for a 15-yard run to the Vikings 7.
Three plays later Mitchell Tyler scored on a 2-yard run to make it 14-11.
Valhalla started its final possession on its own 12 and on a 4th-and-15 from its own seven, Michael Dawson completed a 35-yard pass to Rahsean Melvin to keep the Vikings’ hopes alive. Another pass, this one a 19-yarder to Danny Tammaro got Valhalla to the Gouverneur 39.
But Joseph Cummings saved Gouverneur’s season by intercepting a pass on the next play, giving Gouverneur the ball back with 1:46 left, enabling the Wildcats to run out the clock.
Farr led Gouverneur with 92 yards rushing on 21 carries. Stowell picked up 82 yards on 19 carries and Tyler rushed 16 times for 58 yards.
Dawson completed 10 of 17 passes for 176 yards for Valhalla.