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RIVERSIDE WINS HARVARD CUP
SPECIAL TEAMS, BIG PLAYS CARRY FRONTIERS TO TITLE

It was a play Riverside had been saving all year. And what better time to introduce it than in Thursday's Harvard Cup championship game?

That play resulted in a 75-yard return of the second-half kickoff and vaulted Riverside to a 19-14 victory over Hutch-Tech before an estimated 3,600 in All High Stadium.

The Frontiers' Mike Williams took the kickoff at his own 25 and raced untouched down the middle of the field for the score.

"We saved it all year long, and you pull it out when you need it," said Riverside coach Tony Truilizio. "No one had ever seen it; it's a very odd formation. It was a 5-5-1 in terms of lineup so it looked like a checkerboard. We took it up through the middle and we had the wall set up. Our blocking was key."

Williams' run was one of many big plays Riverside used to secure its first Harvard Cup since 1972. Riverside, avenging an earlier 14-6 loss to Hutch-Tech, would not be denied as it scored twice on special teams, had three interceptions and forced one fumble.

Senior Antwan Ceasar, called the "little giant," by Truilizio, was named the game's MVP. He enjoyed a brief ride on his teammates' shoulders after being presented the trophy by Buffalo Public Schools Director of Athletics Dave Thomas.

"They beat us the first game off a good couple of plays. We had to come back and get them," said Ceasar. "This (MVP award) means a lot. I've never had a championship in Harvard Cup or little league, and this is my senior year so I knew I had to come out and get one."

Hutch-Tech's offense sputtered, especially in the red zone, during the first three quarters, but it rallied for two scores in the fourth quarter.

On a muddy field in 30-degree temperatures with a biting wind, Riverside took control early by scoring twice in the first quarter.

The Engineers fumbled on their first possession as Riverside lineman Rashawn Rainey alertly fell on the ball. Six plays later, Josh Covington scored on a sneak from the 3-yard line. The score was set up by a 56-yard pass from DiMario Caesar to a wide-open Michael Martin, which gave Riverside a first-and-goal at the 5.

Besides the score, Covington also had two interceptions.

Hutch-Tech was forced to punt on its next series, and Ceasar raced 71 yards into the end zone for another score.

Despite being down, 12-0, at halftime, Hutch-Tech stuck to its game plan.

"We brought them in at halftime, and I said, 'Do you remember a few weeks ago when we were down by the same number of points (to South Park)?' " said Hutch-Tech coach Dave Backas. "We came back, and I said we were going to do it again. And then that kickoff (return by Williams) broke our heart."

The Engineers trailed, 19-0, when they scored the first of two fourth-quarter touchdowns with 9:16 left. Quarterback Rodney Pierce hit Greg Cherry with a 4-yard pass in the back of the end zone to cap a 15-play drive.

Hutch-Tech took advantage of great field position after a fake punt by Riverside failed to fool anyone. The Engineers took over at the Riverside 30 and needed just four plays for Pierce to score on a 5-yard keeper, making the score 19-14 with 3:21 remaining.

"We were down and we weren't going to give up, so we just said we're going to come together as a team and be warriors," said Pierce.

Hutch-Tech got the ball back at its own 13-yard line with 1:18 left. The Engineers drove to their own 41, where Robbie Comer ended the threat with an interception on the game's last play.

"I went back in my zone like I was supposed to, I looked up in the air and I just saw the ball," said Comer, who also led his team in tackles with nine. "It was a deflected ball from one of our great defensive linemen, and I knew if I would just catch the ball it would seal the game. It's the greatest feeling in the world."

Thomas Jordan added six tackles for Riverside, which finished 8-3. Hutch-Tech fell to 8-3.

The Engineers were hoping to win the game for their line coach, Michael Hughes, an Army reservist who had been dispatched to Kuwait during the season.

Hughes was listening to the game live on the Internet, and during the fourth quarter he was sending e-mail messages to radio station WJJL, who in turn read the messages over the air.

e-mail: mmonnin@buffnews.com

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