BROCKPORT – The way the state's top-ranked team in Class D marched down the field during the game's first possession it looked as if Clyde-Savannah would have a day to remember in frigid conditions.
Then Maple Grove's offense had its opportunity with the football and planted the seeds that would turn it into a day to forget for the Golden Eagles. The Red Dragons showed the folks at Eunice Kennedy Shriver Stadium at SUNY Brockport what it does well.
Run right, run left, run straight ahead. Run over anyone that gets in the way.
There was no stopping the Red Dragons on Friday night before an estimated 1,000. Maple Grove and its faithful fans enjoyed their time out in the cold and returned home feeling all warm and toasty following a 61-28 rout of the Golden Eagles in a Far West Regional of the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association Tournament.
Three Red Dragons rushed for more than 100 yards as the team finished with 453 yards rushing. Seniors Nick Fabrizio and Nash Nelson combined for seven of the touchdowns against a Clyde crew that averaged nearly 42 points per game entering this state quarterfinal showdown.
Nelson rushed for two touchdowns and caught another during a first half in which he ran for 133 of his game-high 182 yards. Fabrizio scored each of his four touchdowns in the second half to cap a 141-yard day. Quarterback Easton Tanner finished with 130 yards on the ground as Section VI champion Maple Grove advanced to the state semifinals for the second year in a row.
The Red Dragons face the Central Region champion at 4 p.m. next Friday at Union-Endicott High School.
"They have a great offense … but our offense did great job of controlling the ball," Maple Grove coach Curt Fischer said. "We were just ripping off yardage."
That the Dragons were as they scored on all but three possessions with an 18-second drive to end the first half and two knees to run out the clock at the end of the game accounting for two of them.
The triumph by Maple Grove extended the section's streak of winning at least one regional game each year since the inception of the state tournament back in 1993.
Much like last year's state runner-up Red Dragons team, this edition had its eyes set on reaching at least Week 12 of the season.
Clyde (10-1) ended the game's first possession with Austin Diver's 28-yard touchdown run.
Then Maple Grove's offense took the field and had fun dashing through the ice chips and light dusting of snow on the turf. Nelson capped a 58-yard drive with a 15-yard TD catch off a Tanner pass to tie the game at 6-6 with 3:38 left in the first quarter.
Maple Grove's Zak Trim pounced on a fumbled handoff to end Clyde's next drive at the Red Dragons' 37. Eight plays later, Nelson struck again, this time scoring on a 23-yard run. Maple Grove made it 22-6 after a 12-yard run by Tanner and two-point conversion run by Fabrizio.
Clyde Savannah pulled within eight on a Dru Carnevale's 61-yard pass play to Derrick Chance. Carnevale lofted it perfectly down the left sideline and Chance ran under it, burning past the Red Dragons defense.
Nelson struck again, and perhaps a sign that it was Maple Grove's day, his rush attempt looked like it would be stopped after maybe 6 yards. All of the sudden, he found daylight and completed the 40-yard touchdown run to give the Red Dragons the 30-14 lead at halftime.
"I was just following my blockers," Nelson said. "The line did a great job."
"He's the underrated guy," Fischer said. "Our offense is predicated on a lot of misdirection. When we run power, he's the guy."
Nelson, who also recovered an onside kick and finished with six tackles, softened them up and Fabrizio finished them off in the second half. Fabrizio scored on runs of 8, 3, 3 and 8 in the second half. His first 3-yard run made it 46-14 late in the third quarter. Clyde, which likes to throw and get big plays, made it 46-22 on Austin Diver's 19-yard TD and two-point conversion catch.
There was no denying Maple Grove, the state's ninth-ranked team, on this day.
"We were well-prepared offensively and defensively," Nelson said. "We put in a couple of new things and that worked really well."
"Our best defense was our offense tonight," Fischer said.