Forget the five first-half turnovers, the penalties, the special teams miscues and even the score - Jay Sirianni is encouraged.
Not happy, but encouraged.
"I thought our kids played hard," he said after his youthful squad suffered a 32-16 non-league setback to Olean on Friday evening at Charles A. Lawson Field. "You're never happy after a loss, but I'm proud of the way our kids played. We talk about fighting the good fight, about finishing the race and about keeping the faith and I really, truly believe that we did that tonight.
Southwestern’s Kevin Bellardo scores on an 11-yard touchdown run in the second quarter of Friday’s non-league football game against Olean at Charles A. Lawson Field. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Rob Tucker
"The score does not indicate how close that game was."
Sirianni is right. It was close.
So close, in fact, that Southwestern (2-1), despite its turnover problems (a season-long issue, by the way) only trailed 13-7 heading into the second half. For its part, Olean gave the ball away five times before intermission.
And even after a six-play, 58-yard drive by the Huskies (1-2) upped the advantage to 19-7 midway through the third, Southwestern continued to battle, answering with a 65-yard drive of its own - capped by a 3-yard run by Hunter Peterson - to once again pull to within six, 19-13.
But then came Wil Bathurst's play on fourth-and-15.
Pinned down at their own 18 with less than two minutes remaining in the third quarter, Bathurst was back to punt when the snap drifted left. At first, he looked to run, then paused, as if he were going to try to boot it away. Another change of the mind, however, and suddenly he took off down the right sideline, gaining 15 yards and a first down - barely.
"(Wil) just did that (on his own)," Olean coach Mike Kane said. "The snap was off to the outside and he just decided to take it. It was big. He got the first down by a foot or so and if he hadn't it would have been a huge swing going the other way."
With new life, Olean quarterback Chance Anzivine found Bathurst four plays later on a 54-yard touchdown pass, putting the finishing touches on a nine-play drive that ate more than five minutes off the clock and increased the Huskies' advantage to 12 with fewer than nine minutes remaining in the contest.
The long hookup was the second of the game between Anzivine, who also rushed for a pair of touchdowns, and Bathurst. The pair had made it 13-0 late in the first quarter when Anzivine (7-of-13, 179 yards) fired a 62-yard strike to the 6-foot-4 wideout, who finished with two catches, two touchdowns and 116 yards.
This time, Southwestern wouldn't be able to close the gap. And after a turnover on downs (precipitated by an illegal touch penalty), Trojans' quarterback Noah Weinstein, on his team's ensuing possession, threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown by Luke Hennessey to essentially end the game.
"You're not going to win many games doing that," Sirianni said, referring to the turnovers. "We still had a shot, but we ended up with another turnover. That's something that we've just got to get better at. But again, when you start just two seniors ... we are gaining experience as we go."
After turning the ball over four times in the first quarter alone - on its first three offensive series and once on a kick return - the Trojans, trailing 13-0, finally got going in the second quarter.
With Olean driving and at the Southwestern 8, Anzivine attempted to thread the needle on a dig route, but the ball was tipped into the air and fell into the arms of Corey Breyerton, who hustled up the field before being tackled at the 37.
Kevin Bellardo took over from there, recording, among others, runs of 13 and 12 yards to help the Trojans move into the Olean red zone for the first time. Bellardo, who finished with a team-high 93 yards on 13 carries, then cut the deficit with an 11-yard run to paydirt at the 8:38 mark of the second quarter.
Along with Bellardo, Peterson gained 57 yards on eight rushes.
"Our running backs were running hard," Sirianni said. "We just need to hold onto the ball better. ... We're a work in progress. We're going to get there. It might be next week, it might be Week Six or it might be Week Eight, but we're going to get there.
"I'm proud of us. I thought we played right with them and we had a chance."
NOTES: Kyle Moran led the Southwestern defense with eight tackles, a fumble recovery, a forced fumble, a blocked extra-point kick and he also batted down a pass. ... Breyerton had seven tackles and forced a fumble and also blocked an extra-point try. ... Tanner Hoose hit a 45-yard field goal with eight seconds left.
Olean13 0 6 13 - 32
Southwestern0 7 6 3 - 16
Ole-Anzivine 1 run (Cummings kick)
Ole-Bathurst 62 pass from Anzivine (kick failed)
SW-Bellardo 11 run (Hoose kick)
Ole-Anzivine 12 run (pass failed)
SW-Peterson 3 run (kick failed)
Ole-Bathurst 54 pass from Anzivine (kick failed)
Ole-Hennessey 15 interception (Cummings kick)
SW-Hoose 45 kick