BY RICKY ST. CLAIR Press-Republican
---- — PLATTSBURGH — The Syracuse Shock used 210 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns from Justyn Hardwick in their 36-15 Empire Football League (EFL) championship defeat of the Plattsburgh North Stars Saturday.
Hardwick, a 6-foot-2-inch, 210-pound running back, rushed for 175 yards and three touchdowns, while adding 35 receiving yards.
The Shock (10-2) accumulated 401 yards of total offense in their three-touchdown win.
“We have to take our hat off to Hardwick,” North Stars (9-3) coach Scott Aguglia said. “We game planned for him, and we knew they were going to run that sweep. They outmanned us at the point of attack. We couldn’t stop the run.”
The two teams exchanged four scores in the early going, which included touchdown receptions by Plattsburgh’s Dexter Geohagan and Bret Boyer. Syracuse, though, concluded first-half scoring when Hardwick converted on a 50-yard run with 8:12 remaining in the second quarter.
The Shock accumulated 22 unanswered points to close the ballgame.
“I don’t think it was anything in particular,” Aguglia said. “I just think that they continued to run the ball and wore us down. That will tend to happen to a team that’s been trying to stop the run all night — is that they’ll get worn down. That’s what I think happened.”
Down 13 entering the fourth quarter, the North Stars set up shop with a first-and-10 at their own 7-yard line. On the team’s first play of the drive, quarterback Harry Rascoe tossed a pick-six to Geremy Barnwell.
Aguglia said the turnover put a dent in the team’s morale.
“Anytime you have a turnover in the second half of a football game, it’s going to take something out of you,” Aguglia said. “It’s a game of flow and momentum. When something big happens one way or the other, obviously the teams are affected.
“That wasn’t the end-all be-all of the football game, but it certainly was a big moment.”
Operating 27 plays from scrimmage, Plattsburgh recorded 14 yards of total offense in the second half. Rascoe was 3-for-19 with seven yards and two interceptions in the final 30 minutes of play.
Aguglia, however, was pleased with his team’s character and its ability to keep fighting.
“I am so proud of these guys,” Aguglia said. “They gave it everything they had. They fought to the bitter end, and I wouldn’t want to go into a championship game with a different bunch of guys.”
TJ Sheard, Syracuse’s signal-caller, finished the contest 14-of-23 through the air with 171 passing yards. Evan Twombly caught six passes for 96 yards.
Rascoe led the North Stars’ offense, going 9-for-31 with 133 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
With the win, the Shock will play the New England Football League (NEFL) representative in a game billed as the “clash of champions” in Glens Falls Nov. 2.
Plattsburgh finished its season at 9-3. The North Stars lost last year’s EFL title game at home to Monroe County, 38-22.
“The season was a huge success,” Aguglia said. “I hope our guys understand they were just one game short, and they deserve to be proud of what they did in the 2013 football season.”
Syracuse 36, Plattsburgh 15
Syracuse 14 8 6 8 — 36
Plattsburgh 8 7 0 0 — 15
S- Hardwick 1 run (Hardwick run), 4:44.
P- Geohagan 8 pass from Rascoe (Barber run), 7:51.
S- Sheard 3 run (run failed), 12:09.
P- Boyer 62 pass from Rascoe (Barber kick), 4:21.
S- Hardwick 50 run (Hart pass from Sheard), 6:48.
S- Hardwick 1 run (run failed), 9:44.
S- Barnwell 7 interception return (Hardwick run), 0:14.
S- Hardwick 27-175, 3TD; Twombly 6-24; Lott 2-21; Sheard 5-12, TD; Loomis 1-(-2). Totals: 41-230, 4TD.
P- Parks 6-22; Nephew 3-5; Rascoe 3-4; Barber 1-3. Totals: 13-34.
S- Sheard 14-23-1-171.
P- Rascoe 9-31-2-133, 2TD. Bujold 0-2-0-0. Totals: 9-33-2-133, 2TD.
S- Twombley 6-96. Hardwick 3-35. Dykes 3-30. Burke 1-8.
P- Boyer 1-62, TD. Geohagan 4-51, TD. Nephew 1-14. Fish 2-13. Parks 1-4.
S- Barnwell. Smith. P- McCray.
S- Smith. Kinsey.