Colin Daly scrambles out of the packet while being chased by a Grand Island defender as Hamburg lost its opener on Friday. (Photo courtesy of Ron Larson)
They say defense wins championships. But defenses can take a team only so far without enough help from the offense.
Hamburg kept itself in the game Friday evening against Grand Island with its defense, but did not get enough support on the other side of the ball in a 17-6 loss at Howe Field.
The Bulldogs’ defense held Grand Island to just 10 points through the first 44 minutes of play and even returned a blocked punt for a touchdown in the third quarter. Junior Tosh Johnson made that big special teams play and then senior receiver Bryce Hite scooped up the ball and returned it for the score.
The Hamburg offense, led by senior quarterback Colin Daly, could not cash in on a red-zone trip late in the fourth quarter, which ultimately led to the team’s demise.
“[It was a] tough game; [Grand Island is a] physical team," said Hamburg head coach Pat Cauley. "Both teams got beat up out there. We had an opportunity late in the ball game and we didn't cash in; they did."
Daly, who struggled in the first half, completing just 2 of 10 passes for 11 yards, came out much more confident in the second half and led his team on a furious fourth quarter drive while down 10-6.
Starting at their own 36-yard-line, the Bulldogs signal caller connected on a 17-yard strike to senior tight-end Griffin Ryan on third down to keep the drive going. He then connected with sophomore wideout Brendan Ryan on a 16-yard pass, again on third down.
The Bulldogs got the ball inside the Vikings 5-yard-line, but Daly was sacked and a delay of game penalty pushed the Bulldogs back to the 13-yard-line where a Grand Island blitz forced the senior quarterback to throw a game-ending interception.
The defense helped Hamburg get into a position with a chance to win the game, but Grand Island won the time of possession battle and pounded the running game throughout all four quarters.
"Coach (Charles) Barth had a great gameplan for us," said Cauley about the defense. "The kids battled real hard. They were on the field an awful lot against a physical team."
Grand Island scored first as a 16-play, 60-yard drive was capped by a 31-yard field goal from Kurtis Johnson.
However, Grand Island starting quarterback Quinn Corrao left the game in the second quarter just a series after scoring a one-yard touchdown. Vikings head coach Dean Santorio said he believed the injury was a high-ankle sprain.
From that point on, the Vikings relied heavily on the running game, including effectively using the wildcat formation.
"I'm really proud of them, to face that adversity early on," said Grand Island head coach Dean Santorio. "Our quarterback got hurt in the second quarter and he's a big part of what we do. I'm very proud of our offensive line and our backs, especially in the second half, how they ran the football and got off the football."
The combination of seniors Paul Sukmanowski and Joe Chiaravaelle led the running attack for Grand Island. Chiaravaelle scored on a one-yard TD run late in the fourth quarter to make it a two-score game.
Even after the loss, Cauley believed there was a lot to take from this game as they Bulldogs competed hard against "playoff-type" competition. He specifically liked the way his quarterback battled.
"Colin's coming along," said Cauley. "He looks more and more like a quarterback everyday. He only took about five snaps last year as a quarterback. Colin is an outstanding young man and we think he'll continue to grow as we think the rest of our team will."
The Bulldogs will hit the road next Friday when they visit Hutch-Tech. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.