CANISTEO — You can’t say it wasn’t entertaining.
When it was over in a battle of Section 5 Livingston County unbeatens, Canisteo-Greenwood had avenged its 40-14 loss a year ago, downing Cuba-Rushford, 34-30, on a mild Friday night.
Canisteo-Greenwood (4-0), prevailed in a game featuring nine turnovers (three by C-G), thanks to two touchdown runs by Zachary Flaitz (34 and 8 yards) and a TD run and touchdown pass by quarterback Robert Avery. Flaitz finished with 90 yards on 15 carries while Avery (26 carries, 99 yards) ran two yards for a score, had a 10-yard pass to Christopher Graham for another TD and added a two-point conversion.
Zander Sharp rounded out the Canisteo-Greenwood scoring by stripping the ball and going 8 yards with the fumble for a score.
Cuba-Rushford (3-1) had touchdown runs of 35 and 25 yards by senior Trevor Smith (9 carries, 71 yards) plus a two-point conversion that gave the Rebels a 16-14 first-half lead. He also caught a 57-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Dawson Sanderson, who also hit Ben Seigel for a 7-yard score.
C-R actually hung around because of a huge break before intermission.
Flaitz hit Christopher Graham for an apparent 36-yard score, and one official signaled touchdown. Another said Graham was out of bounds.
C-G, thinking it had scored, ran a play for what it thought was a two-point conversion and failed. But it wasn’t a dead ball, but rather a play from the 2-yard line.
The officials then ruled the half was over and the game remained a 20-16 C-G lead.
Afterward, a relieved C-G coach Paul Keeley allowed of the lost TD that kept Cuba-Rushford alive until the final possession, “There were some moments in the game that we couldn’t control and neither could they. We had some momentum and I don’t want to blame officiating, but those were some adverse moments on both sides.
“That was a bizarre aspect of the game, but we knew going in it was going to be a dogfight. Two teams going in 3-0 with good programs this year. We got everything I expected from this game.”
And he actually got an apology from the officiating crew for the blown call.
“The referee said to me at halftime … he said, ‘We made a bad mistake.’ And, credit to them, they owned it … not many people would do that and otherwise that was a good officiating and, to be honest, in Section 5 we need officials. I told them, ‘You’re not the first ones to make a mistake … I make mistakes out here calling plays at times. Our kids make mistakes out here. I’m glad they were able to own up to that.”
And it didn’t come back to bite CG in an unprecedented start in recent seasons..
“This is my fourth year here,” Keeley said, “ I’m not from this area and I don’t know how long it’s been since they were 4-0.”
Cuba-Rushford coach Chris Fee assessed, “Avery and (Flaitz) surprised us with their speed early and we had a hard time wrapping up ... I think a lot of people had that problem with them … but once we got in a groove we did all right.”
And since C-R fumbled six times, losing five, the one returned for a score two other leading to touchdowns, Fee conceded, “Of course, we put our defense in a lot of bad spots and they did a great job with ball control … it’s hard to go 70 or 80 or 90 yards in high school football … we put our backs against the wall a lot.”