EAST HERKIMER, N.Y. — Alex Johnson held on to the second pass he intercepted Friday and secured a 7-6 Dolgeville victory over the Herkimer Magicians.
In a game that featured little in the way of offense, Johnson appeared to clinch the victory when he picked off Mitchell Scherer’s second-down pass from the Herkimer 10. Johnson caught the ball over the middle at the 30 but fumbled the ball back to the Magicians when he tried to run it back. Eric Johnston recovered the ball and gave Herkimer a first down at the 23.
Scherer went to the air again, putting a pass intended for Zach Steele up for grabs along the left sideline. Johnson jumped in front of a crowd and grabbed the pass out of the air, giving Dolgeville possession with 53.9 seconds on the clock.
Reid Johnson took a knee twice to run the final seconds off the clock.
“Every week is a big week to play a football game in Dolgeville,” Blue Devils coach Dan Zilkowski said. “We prepare for every game one at a time but obviously the kids are very excited about this one.”
For Herkimer, a two-time Class C sectional champ before moving into Class D East this fall, the loss followed a shutout victory over defending league champion West Canada Valley.
“Every week is difficult,” Herkimer coach Alan Steele said. “You have to figure out what each team will do against you. .. (Dolgeville) didn’t do anything different than what we saw on film.”
Complicating the situation for Herkimer was the loss of all-state senior quarterback Austin Mills to a shoulder injury early in the second quarter. Mills checked out of the game for one earlier series on defense before leaving the game for good with no score and eight minutes remaining in the first half.
Dolgeville had scored its only points in the second quarter, taking advantage of two of Herkimer’s four second-quarter turnovers to set up Jason Nastovski’s three-yard touchdown run.
Herkimer started the second quarter with the ball at the Dolgeville 19. A run and a dropped pass left the Magicians facing third-and-10 and they turned the ball over when Blue Devils Austin Lamphere and Kasey Foster pressured Mills into a throw that was intercepted by Nastovski.
Dolgeville drove from its own 24 deep into Herkimer territory but turned the ball over on downs when Magician Josh Lamanna stopped Devin Coonradt at the Herkimer 4 on a fourth-down pass.
The Blue Devils took the ball back two plays later when Austin Kollbeck recovered a Matt Borek fumble. Slowed by a false start penalty, Dolgeville needed three plays to drive four yards but Nastovski eventually scored and Greg Pelan kicked the extra point for a 7-0 lead.
The Magicians lost Mills on the play prior to the fumble. Mills went to the sideline to have his left shoulder looked at again and did not return to the field.
Page 2 of 3 - Dolgeville got the ball back in Herkimer territory once more before halftime but turned the ball over on a Lamanna interception.
Herkimer broke through in the fourth quarter with an eventful 76-yard scoring drive. An illegal chop block backed the Magicians up to their own 10-yard line on the first play and a personal foul by the Blue Devils on the next play set up first-and-four at the 30. The Magicians lost eight yards on a run on first down and seven yards when Zach Steele slipped in the backfield on a screen on second. Scherer next connected with Brennen Thompson on a 30-yard pass down the left side then went back to Thompson for 19 more on a jump ball along the same sideline. Thompson and Blue Devil Jimmy Doolittle got tangled on the second play and the Magicians declined a pass interference penalty that would have been shorter than the gain.
A short gain by the scrambling Scherer was negated by a holding call set up the second first-and-24 of the drive from the midfield stripe. Scherer connected with Johnston over the middle and the receiver turned up the field for a 30-yard gain before fumbling. The ball rolled ahead of the play toward the end zone and Dan Appley scooped it up and ran it in for a Herkimer touchdown.
Rather than play for the lead, the Magicians lined up to kick the extra point to tie the game. The ball was snapped over the holder’s head and Borek, the Herkimer kicker, picked it up. Borek opted to run left with the ball and was taken down one yard shy of the goal line by the combination of Carson Dobson, who hit him first from behind, and James Brys, who came in to finish off the play.
Dolgeville ran most of the final six minutes off the clock with a drive that ended with an incomplete pass on fourth down from the Herkimer 6. Johnston got out of bounds with 1:10 left after catching a short pass from Scherer before Alex Johnson made his two interceptions.
“This was a tough football game, very physical,” Zilkowski said. “We knew it was going to be a battle and that’s what it was, a battle right to the end.”
Nastovski finished the game with 186 yards on 29 carries. The Blue Devils accumulated just 229 total yards as a team, 62 more than their defense allowed.
Scherer completed eight of the 14 passes he attempted for 131 yards but was intercepted three times. Steele led the Magicians with 31 rushing yards and three catches for 44 yards.
Dolgeville plays at home next weekend against Cooperstown while Herkimer is on the road for a game against Morrisville-Eaton/Hamilton.
DOLGEVILLE 7, HERKIMER 6
Dolgeville 0 7 0 0 — 7
Herkimer 0 0 0 6 — 6
DOL — Jason Nastovski 3 run (Greg Pelan kick), 5:26.
Page 3 of 3 - Fourth Quarter
HERK — Dan Appley 12 fumble return (run failed), 6:16.
Records — Dolgeville 2-0, 2-0 D East; Herkimer 1-1, 1-1 D East.