On the scoreboard, Ithaca 32, Cashton 7.
But was it a win for the undefeated Bulldogs? For a change, the Bulldogs prevailed without “style points”. They didn’t blow out the Cashton Eagles – at least not as quickly as they have other foes during 2015. Cashton even enjoyed a 7-6 lead – something that no other team except Southern Door has managed to do in 2015.
But on a cool night with precipitation affecting play as well as the comfort of spectators, it was still a victory – maybe it took a little more effort – but it was a win that means the Bulldogs will play in Level 2.
Ross Ghastin rushed for 142 yards and three touchdowns as the Ithaca Bulldogs topped the Cashton Eagles, 32-7, in WIAA D-7 Level 1 playoff action at Ithaca Friday night.
Joey Clary and Hunter Dischler also scored touchdowns as the Bulldogs remained undefeated in 2015.
With the win, Ithaca now advances to Level 2 and plays the Highland Cardinals at 7 p.m. on Friday night. Highland knocked off Wild Rose, 28-26, in Level 1 action.
In what was a rematch of the season opener two months ago, Ithaca got what it needed sans style points, and Cashton’s young team earned something of a “moral victory”.
The Eagles, with only four seniors on the roster, became the first D-7 team to score in the first half against the Bulldogs as well as the first D-7 team to enjoy a lead – albeit short-lived – against the veteran Ithaca squad.
“I had to remind them that we won,” said coach Chad Clary. “I thought we did what we needed to do. We had to make an adjustment on our trap blocking. And if we hang onto a couple of more passes, I felt we could have had a couple more scores. Defensively, I thought we played well except for one fourth down play. We totaled more than 400 yards on offense and they had slightly more than 100. We had a 22-6 edge in first downs. Those were difficult playing conditions but I thought executed pretty well. One time I thought we missed a block, but the blocker slipped. Give some credit to Cashton. Those kids played well. They’ve improved a lot since the season opener.”
Ithaca improved to 10-0 with the win while Cashton saw its season end at 4-6, but five of the six losses have been to teams still alive in the playoffs including the Bulldogs (twice), Potosi, and Bangor in D-7 and Brookwood in D-6.
The Eagles became the first team to prevent Ithaca senior Cody Klossowski from scoring a touchdown. Klossowski, who had scored a touchdown in nine previous games and has 14 for the season, did manage to run for 102 yards on 15 carries as Ithaca totaled 292 yards on the ground.
In addition, Joey Clary threw for 126 yards. He completed his first seven passes and went seven of 12. He had a string of 15 straight completions before Noah Flock intercepted late in the first half.
Those braving the elements saw the Bulldogs get off to a typical start. They took the ball on a drive and scored within two minutes. Set up by a long pass from Clary to Luke Oelke, Ghastin darted through the Cashton defense on a 10-yard touchdown run with 10:43 left in the first quarter.
The Bulldogs’ bid for a two-point conversion failed..
Cashton quickly responded with a drive of its own featuring the running of Flock, the junior quarterback, and running back Jaden Schmitz, one of only four seniors on the roster.
After crossing midfield, the Bulldogs appeared to have the Eagles stopped, but on fourth-and-nine, Flock connected with Gabe Anderson with a long pass to Ithaca’s three-yard line. Flock capped the drive with a one-yard sneak, and Dylan Campton’s kick gave Cashton a 7-6 lead.
The Bulldogs didn’t take long to regain the lead. Aided by another bomb from Clary to Oelke, the Bulldogs scored when Dischler zigged and zagged through the Eagles’ defense for a seven-yard touchdown run. Klossowski ran for the conversion as Ithaca took a 14-7 lead with 2:57 remaining in the first quarter.
Ithaca added two touchdowns in the second quarter. Clary sneaked two yards with 10:50 left in the second quarter, but the Bulldogs were stopped on an attempted conversion.
Finally, with 3:12 left in the first half, Ithaca scored again. Ghastin race three yards for the touchdown, but again the Bulldogs missed the conversion. They took a 26-7 lead at the half after withstanding a late Eagle scoring bid. Flock’s pick gave Cashton a late scoring chance, but Ithaca’s defense preserved the 26-7 haltime lead.
The contest became a slobber-knocker dominated by defenses in the second half. Cashton threatened in the third quarter, but Klossowski picked off a Flock pass at the Ithaca one yard line.
While Ithaca had an opportunity to extend its lead, Oelke was unable to secure a third bomb from Clary.
Finally, in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs ended a scoreless second half. Ghastin scored on a three-yard run with 1;02 remaining. The conversion attempt failed again.
Although the 32 points marked the Bulldogs’ second lowest offensive point total of the season, it was still enough to earn the right to play again.
Highland advanced with a 28-26 comeback win over Wild Rose. The Cardinals overcame an 18-0 halftime deficit. “One thing I know about them is that they play hard,” said Clary said of Highland. “That’s impressive to come back to win a playoff game from a 18-0 deficit.
The Cardinals have few seniors on the team that is now 5-5, but the Cardinals are on a three-game win streak.
They are led by junior quarterback John Ross Linscheid who leads the team in passing and rushing.
Ithaca will seek its 11th straight win Friday night. The Bulldogs and Cardinals do have some playoff history. The Cardinals eliminated Ithaca in both 2011 and 2012. In 2012, Highland prevailed over Ithaca, 42-7. That was an Ithaca team that included several freshmen who are now seniors.
The winner of the Ithaca-Highland game will face the winner of the Bangor-Hillsboro battle in a Level 3 game next week.