The 2012 Football season hasn’t exactly gone according to planned for Bath-Haverling and Coach Wayne Carroll. The Rams have suffered through numerous injuries and suspensions the first six weeks of the season, including leading rusher and main offensive weapon Matt Nevius who has missed the last 3 games due to a hamstring injury. Starting Left tackle Noah Herrington has also missed several games due to a heart ailment. Two defensive starters have been suspended for the season.
Still despite the injuries and suspensions coming into Week 6 and their last regular season home game of the season the Rams had battled and clawed their way to a 3-2 record. Livonia came to town on Saturday for the Rams homecoming game. The Bulldogs came in with a record of 4-1 with their only loss coming at the hands of the Hornell Red Raiders, the Bulldogs actually led Hornell 10-0 before Hornell came back. Livonia was the favorite coming in, and had embarrassed the Rams 35-0 last season during their own homecoming celebration. No local sportswriters had picked the Rams to win this game in their weekly Football picks.
For the Rams there was a lot at stake here, a win would likely secure a home playoff game, it would also keep the Rams a perfect 4-0 in League play and keep them tied at 4-0 with Hornell for first place in the LCAA Division 1 standings. It would also give the Rams a huge morale boost beating a tough Livonia squad.
The game was a noon kickoff which neither coach was exactly thrilled about coming into the game. Bath won the coin toss and like normal chose to kickoff and give Livonia the ball. The Bulldogs drove 62 yards and scored on a Derek Bishopp one yard TD run to go up 7-0 early. Bath stormed right back and it appeared as if they would answer with the tying touchdown, going from their own 22 to a first-and-10 at the Livonia 13. However, following a three-yard run on first down, the Rams were stopped for no gain on second down and had passes fall incomplete on both third and fourth down. In the second quarter, the Rams had a first down at the Livonia 12 yard line, but ended up attempting a 29-yard field goal on 4th down that was short.
Livonia took a 7-0 lead into halftime. The 3rd quarter would see the Rams take the opening kick of the 2nd half and march down the field and with 7:12 remaining in the quarter Bath Senior Quarterback Daniel Leonard hit Sophomore Bruce Rinker with picture perfect 30 yard touchdown pass, capping a nine-play, 73-yard scoring drive. Rinker kicked the extra point to tie the game at 7.
Livonia would regain the lead and would maintain a 14-7 lead when Bath took over on their own 33 yard line with 8:22 remaining in the 4th quarter. The Rams offense would call 13 straight running plays as Leonard and fellow senior Mitchell Buckley carried the ball on 12 of those 13 plays. The Rams converted three third downs on the drive, with 2:20 to play facing a third-and-goal from the one, Leonard leaned on one of his offensive lineman and barely got the ball to break the plane of the goal line. So now the Rams trailed 14-13 and it appeared that they would go the safe route and kick the extra point to tie game, however the Bath coaching staff decided to put it all on the line and go for two and the one point lead. Leonard called his own number, starting right, before reversing to his left and into the end zone to propel Bath to a thrilling 15-14 win over Livonia on homecoming
“We just let our best guy take over the game,” Bath head Coach Wayne Carroll said of Leonard. “That’s probably the most exciting homecoming game I’ve ever been a part of. “ Carroll added.
Livonia’s last-chance possession was stopped when Bath-Haverling Freshmen Michael Rice intercepted a Derek Bishopp pass and returned it 20 yards. Bath then took the knee to run the clock out.
“I didn’t even think about it, we were going for two all the way,” Carroll said.
The decision to go for two was a gutsy one for the Rams, you don’t get it and you lose by 1 point on homecoming and fall to 3-3 with a date with Hornell next week. However you convert it and win the game and you’re 4-2 overall, clinch a first round home sectional game and improve to 4-0 in the League and head into Hornell with a lot on the line including the LCAA Division 1 championship, and that’s just what the Rams are doing. Coach Wayne Carroll will attempt to do something he has never done, win a game at Hornell’s Maple City Park.
Friday October 12th 7:30 p.m. 4-2 Bath vs. 6-0 Hornell for the LCAA D1 Title, the three-time defending state champion Red Raiders have won 45-straight games.
(Bill Collmer is a syndicated blogger and columnist for Gatehouse Media Newspapers of New York)