Portville/Cuba-Rushford crashing Class C Playoff Picture
The Portville Panthers moved up to Class C this season after going 6-3 in D a year ago. The move to C was happening even before the program's decision to merge with Section V’s Cuba-Rushford and Hinsdale. So far the alliance is working as the team sits at 3-1 ahead of Friday’s league game with Chautauqua Lake/Westfield/Brocton (2-2).
Josh Brooks now in his sixth season as head coach believes his team is tough enough to make a strong playoff run.
“The merge has been good,” Brooks said. “The kids have gotten along so well, much better then we anticipated.”
The Panthers started off the season with a 71-6 thrashing of Catt/L. Valley but were humbled a week later when they fell to Southwestern in a 3-0 defensive juggernaut. Adding insult to injury, literally, with the loss of starting senior quarterback Luke Petryszak.
“Luke is a great kid and athlete. Losing him was a big deal because he also brings a lot of toughness to our team,” Brooks said.
Petryszak is still hanging around but due to the extent of his injury, his return to the field as a player is highly doubtful.
“We threw in our junior Eli Sleggs who did not have a lot of reps heading into that game and our team struggled. We turned the ball over four times,” Brooks said. “To Ely’s credit though he worked hard in practice and had a nice showing against Silver Creek the following week and threw two touchdowns against Fredonia last week.”
It was at the Orange Bowl where I had a chance to see for myself what we had been hearing about the Panthers. We had been hearing about this running back tandem of Kaedon Holcomb and Ethan Coleman. Holcomb alone rushed for 139 yards on a very tough defensive front in Fredonia. He scored three touchdowns in route to a 41-20 win. Defensively Holcomb recovered a fumble and had an interception. It was an all around solid effort for the senior.
Coleman and Aiden Defazio each caught touchdown receptions.
“I’ve never seen an “O” line or “D” line that big and athletic as I did Fredonia,” Brooks said. “I told the local paper here that they (Fredonia) could be the best 1-3 team in the Country.”
The Panthers didn’t just beat the Hillbillies Friday, they left them battered. It was a statement win for the Portville/Cuba-Rushford program.
“We have a pretty intelligent group of players. They study the film and understand what they’re seeing. We’re wearing teams down, that’s our style.”
After the loss to Southwestern coach Brooks noticed something that still impresses him, his players weren’t finger pointing or making excuses.
“Just like in Fredonia, we were down 21-7 before we rallied,” Brooks said. “We scored two touchdowns before the half to take the lead and then another early in the third. We kept them off the scoreboard in the second half. The kids are mature and they saw they were in a hole and accepted the challenge.”
The season will not get easier for the Panthers as they have some very good teams before they close out the season. They still have trips to Falconer and Randolph before they close out the season at home against Salamanca.
One thing is for certain though, Class C opponents went on notice, Portville/Cuba-Rushford is for real.