By JOHN LIKANJE
EAST ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Prior to the fourth quarter, East Rochester/Gananda had been running the ball all night long. Head coach Brian Touranjoe called play after play for Omarri Cooper and TJ Swagler to find holes through the line of scrimmage. Once those holes started closing quicker, Touranjoe went to his ace in the hole: Jerry Brongo.
“They’re (Cal-Mum/BB) stacking the box, stopping the run a little bit,” Touranjoe explained after the game. “Let’s try to take a couple of hits down the field. Play action a little bit. That kind of opened up at the end of the game for sure, so it was good.”
The junior wide receiver caught two touchdown passes, including the game-winning reception with 33 seconds left, to send the Bombers past Caledonia-Mumford/Byron Bergen (Cal-Mum/BB), 22-20, in the class C sectional quarterfinals.
Trailing 20-16 with 2:29 remaining and set up at midfield, sophomore quarterback Dion Mather heaved a 29-yard pass to Swagler. However, a false start penalty moved the line five back for a 4th-And-15 from the 24-yard line. The Bombers needed one more miracle and Mather delivered. The sophomore quarterback found Brongo immediately and threw a perfectly-timed pass to the wide receiver near the left pylon of the end zone for the lead.
“I think we just ran a swat route or something and Jerry just got behind, was wide open and Dion threw the ball,” Touranjoe said. “I didn’t even look to see if he caught it. I heard the crowd go, so I was all excited. That was a nice throw. Nice play by Jerry.”
“It was scary because we had some things coming away from us,” Brongo said. “It seemed like we didn’t have a chance, but we all stayed together and getting that touchdown was a great feeling.”
On the ensuing drive, Brongo snagged an interception with eight seconds remaining to seal the deal.
“Our coach called a heavy zone,” Brongo explained. “We knew we had to play back because they had to get a long throw.”
The junior wideout’s two touchdown catches combined for 54 yards. Brongo had a 30-yard reception to tie the game at 14 apiece with 1:28 remaining in the third quarter as well.
Mather threw nine of his 10 passes in the second half and completed five for 109 yards.
“We talked about, at halftime, taking some shots with the pass game a little bit,” Touranjoe explained as the game featured five lead changes and one tie. “Dion (Mather) has been coming on, but he’s a young kid, a sophomore. He’s been playing better and better.”
Swagler bullied his way to 29 carries and 142 rushing yards. The senior running back found paydirt from three yards out as part of an 11-play, 78-yard drive as the Bombers took an 8-7 lead. Swagler had two catches for 31 yards as well.
“TJ’s been playing great,” Touranjoe said about Swagler. “After tonight, I think he should be over 1,000 yards for the year. He’s running hard.”
Cooper compiled 20 carries for 80 rushing yards and Christian Clarq had seven for 55 more. Cooper and Swagler led the defensive effort with seven and six tackles, respectively, as the Bombers shut out Cal-Mum/BB in the fourth quarter.
“Our defense played really well tonight against a very good Cal-Mum offense,” Touranjoe said. “Obviously, (Bryce) Yockel is a great back. I thought they did a nice job bottling him up all night. The kids executed and came up big. I can’t be more proud of what they did tonight. I thought it was a great win.”
Senior Alexander Hartman had six tackles. Dylon Moskal and Benjamin Parrone added five apiece.
The Bombers produced 273 of their 382 yards on the ground, converted five of their 12 third-down opportunities and three of their four fourth-down chances. The Bombers ran 78 plays and held the ball for 31 of 48 minutes as well.
For Cal-Mum/BB, senior quarterback Joe Laursen slung a 31-yard touchdown pass over the line of scrimmage to Jake Cappotelli for a 20-14 lead near the end of the third quarter.
Laursen completed 7-of-17 passes for 71 yards. Yockel carried the offense with 20 scrambles for 128 rushing yards and two touchdowns. The senior tailback ended his phenomenal season with 1,461 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns in eight games played.
Cal-Mum/BB’s defense forced three fumbles in the first half as well.
East Rochester/Gananda advances to play top-seeded LeRoy next Saturday at 4 p.m. at Honeoye Falls-Lima High School. LeRoy shut out Avon, 19-0, at Hartwood Park, Friday night.
“They gave it to us pretty good here,” Touranjoe said when referring to the regular season matchup between these squads. “They’re physical. They got good running backs. Defensively, they’re tough. You have to stop LeRoy with the run and make them pass.”