BY PAUL LIOTTI
BROCKPORT – The Irondequoit Eagle defensive game plan was simple: lock down East’s speed on the outside, bottle everything up in the middle and make life miserable for East quarterback Anthony Gilbert.
Which is exactly what the Eagles did Friday night as they dismantled East 39-8 in the Class A semifinal nightcap at SUNY Brockport. The win propelled Irondequoit to a return trip to the Class A finals, where it will meet Victor, who dispatched Canandaigua earlier in the evening, 27-7, next Friday night.
“I tell people we are fast too and I think our defense is very underrated,” Irondequoit coach Dan Ficher said. “We fly to the ball. We have a senior-laden group and understand what our checks and calls are. Our defense is very well coached. Coach (Chris Battaglia) does a very good job with them.”
Underrated or not, the second-seeded Eagles (9-0/No. 4 NYSSWA) dominated third-seeded East (7-2/No. 27 NYSSWA) from the very first snap of the game. East managed just one first down in the first two quarters – coming with :20 left in the second quarter – and found no room anywhere on the field. Irondequoit limited East to 19 total yards offense in the first quarter, six yards in the second quarter and seven yards in the third quarter. That made it 33 total yards of offense in 34 plays from scrimmage. In the opening stanza East had nine drives, six were three-and-out, and two ended in turnovers.
“We spent a long week in practice reading their offense, watching their plays and that really paid off tonight,” senior middle linebacker and captain Jimmy Clements said “We read their guards, our corners played great and locked down. I’m proud of what we accomplished tonight.”
All year long, the story line coming out of Cooper Road is how good the offense is. And for good reason: Highly-touted quarterback Freddy June Jr., shifty running back Jaden Turner and sure-handed receivers Quinn Simenson and Patrick Thomas IV are talented and have grabbed most of the headlines.
But it’s been said defense wins championships, and the Eagles defense is leaving its mark all over Section V as well. This season the Irondequoit “D” logged performances such as the one that held Greece Athena to negative-28 yards rushing. Or the one that rose up and stopped Wilson last week with a sack inside the five yard line on the game’s last play to preserve a 35-27 victory.
“We have a great offense and we hear about that a lot, but we have a great defense too, and that challenges us to be better and show people what we have and what we can do,” Clements said.
June and company made quick work of the Eagle defense, racing off to a 32-0 halftime lead. After Clements recovered a fumble at the East 29 midway through the first, June found Simeson in the corner of the end zone with a perfectly thrown jump ball, and the lanky 6’2” receiver came down with a 23-yard touchdown pass. June’s conversion run gave IQ a quick 8-0 lead.
A miscue on the ensuing kickoff forced East to start at its own one yard line and after the Irondequoit defense stonewalled East, a short punt set Irondequoit up at the East 43 yard line. Four plays later June raced around the end for a 23-yard run. His conversion made It 16-0 with 3:10 left in the first.
Midway through the second, the Irondequoit offensive line opened up a gaping hole and June raced untouched up the middle for 37 yards and paydirt. His third conversion run made it 24-0. June added his third touchdown of the night moments later from eight yards out and his conversion pass to Thomas gave Irondequoit a 32-0 lead at intermission.
Ryan DeRosa capped the Irondequoit scoring with a seven-yard run late in the third quarter and at that time, the Eagles had more points scored than East had total yards – 39-33.
East finally got on the board with a long drive near the end of the game as they marched 78 yards in eight plays, the last 15 yards coming on powerful run by Deljon Johnson. Backup quarterback Jahlil Bell’s conversion pass to Mike Maxwell was successful to cut the lead to 39-8.
All told, East gained 114 yards in the game and speedy running back Freddy Brock was limited to just 21 yards. Johnson gained 42 yards. June finished the game with 116 yards on 14 carries and completed 10-of-15 passes for 79 yards. Thomas logged 50 yards on six receptions
Which all leads to one thing for Irondequoit: A return to the finals and a chance to win the school’s fifth Sectional title and its first since 2014. Irondequoit came very close last year, but fell short in a 40-19 loss to Wilson.
“We had all the motivation of last year driving us this season (losing in the Class A final), and it’s great to be back now,” Clements said. “Now it’s just laser focus for us: we cannot let what happened to us last year happen again.”
|IQ||Quinn Simenson 23 pass from Freddy June (Freddy June run)|
|IQ||Freddy June 23 run (Freddy June run)|
|IQ||Freddy June 37 run (Freddy June run)|
|IQ||Freddy June 8 run (Patrick Thomas pass from Freddy June)|
|IQ||Ryan DeRosa 20 run (Nicholas Chodak kick)|
|East||Freddie Brock 15 run (Mike Maxwell pass from Jahlil Bell)|
|East||Deljon Johnson 6-42, Freddie Brock 7-21, Jahlil Bell 1-21, Anthony Gilbert 5-3, Malik McCray 1-(-4), Seven McGee 1-(-5)|
|IQ||Freddy June Jr. 16-114, Ryan DeRosa 12-30, Jaden Turner 8-22, Joshua Colon 2-12, JaRon Frith 2-4, Patrick Thomas IV 1-4|
|East||Anthony Gilbert 5-18-16-0-1, Jahlil Bell 2-4-20-0-0|
|IQ||Freddy June Jr. 10-15-79-1-0|
|East||Freddie Brock 1-17, Mike Maxwell 3-10, Malik McCray 1-7, Yasir Daniels 2-2|
|IQ||Patrick Thomas IV 6-50, Quinn Simenson 2-31, Jaden Turner 2-(-2)|