October 9, 2013 —
LAKE HUNTINGTON, NY — The calm before the storm: such was the confidence exuded by the rabid Sullivan West Bulldogs, who had sent an early message to rival Liberty with a 13-0 first quarter lead in their most important football game of the year. Looking to keep their playoff hopes alive in a season on the brink, the rabid Dawgs had pushed Liberty up and down the field looking imposing in the process. Behind last week’s 51-14 league loss to Millbrook, this game was a do-or-die matter, as a Westie defeat would bar them from the playoffs, something Sullivan West did to Liberty two years prior with a 21-20 OT win on this same field of battle.
Liberty looked shaky at the outset, dropping a key pass, failing to recover a Dawgs fumble and unable to stop the Bulldogs’ advancing vanguard. A 27-yard Andrew Stabbert TD and a Michael Sedlack PAT with 5:34 remaining in the first quarter staked SW to a 7-0 lead. Then, a Liberty fumble recovered by SW senior Cody Franskevicz initiated a 51-yard, nine-play drive that ended with a two-yard TD dive by quarterback Richard Shevak. The PAT failed, but the Dawgs were barking up a virtual storm. Then a real storm actually descended with an ominous bolt of lightning that sent players scurrying to their locker rooms and fans to their cars or the gym for the requisite 30-minute hiatus. Mother Nature washed out last year’s non-league game between the rivals won by the Westies. But this game mattered far more. More lightning, more waiting. In the Dawgs’ locker room there was an air of confidence, while Liberty’s was more reflective. More than one hour later the teams resumed play. Liberty scored on a 60-yard gallop by senior quarterback Quinn Jackson with 1:50 remaining in the half. The two-point conversion failed, and they now trailed 13-6. The Bulldogs answered with a sustained drive that ended with a short TD pass to Franskevicz with 8.8 seconds remaining in the half for the 19-6 lead. Confusion on the PAT play nixed the chance to add to the lead. A revitalized Liberty received to start the second half.