Arguing with teammates in a huddle is a bad look for a football team most of the time, and the Rush-Henrietta Royal Comets did some of that during the regular season.
“Nah, it’s not normal stuff at all,” Rush-Henrietta senior receiver/defensive back Reggie Robinson said. “We just started that because the season was going bad.
“We lost to Pittsford (at homecoming), we lost to Victor,(then at Hilton, too). Our heads were down, but sectionals are a new season.”
Working together to complete a game-winning 84-yard drive in the sectionals is a much prettier picture, and the Royal Comets have done that, too.
Reggie Robinson scored on a 13-yard touchdown run up the middle of Rush-Henrietta’s line with 42 seconds remaining Friday night, that gave the Royal Comets a 35-28 win over previously undefeated Pittsford in a Section V Class AA first round playoff matchup.
The excited Royal Comets waited for the Pittsford Panthers to clear the sidelines, before they came over to yell with joy with their fans at Pittsford Sutherland High.
“Every year it’s different people, different kids,” Rush-Henrietta coach Joe Montesano said. “I would agree with you, we’ve had some adversity in terms of sticking together, at times.
“Not bad kids, these are great kids, but just learning how to play together and to pick each other up when things haven’t gone our way.”
The No. 6 Royal Comets (5-3) take their learned lessons and enthusiasm to Sahlen Stadium in Rochester for a semifinal against No. 2 Victor (8-0), 4 p.m. Nov. 1. Top-seed Aquinas (7-0) hosts No. 8 Fairport (4-3) 7 p.m. tonight.
No. 4 Hilton (7-1) defeated No. 5 East High/School of the Arts/Freddie Thomas (5-3) Friday night, also in the first round of the eight-team Class AA tournament.
“We were a 4-3 team coming into this,”’ Montesano said. “You know, but the three losses are to teams that had one loss (among them).”
Pittsford (7-1), the No. 3 seed, defeated Rush-Henrietta, 36-33, in Week 3.
“I think part of the process and learning is when you have adversity, how do you respond?” Montesano said. “We haven’t responded in the best ways, but tonight I’m really proud of our guys.
“They played really hard, and that’s what we talked about, just what if we stick together and play really hard when things don’t go our way.”
The Royal Comets took leads of 7-0, 21-13 and 28-21, but lost all of those advantages. Their eight-point lead in the second quarter disappeared after a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive by the Panthers and Riley Cotts two-point conversion reception.
Rush-Henrietta moved ahead again 28-21, with 7:02 remaining in the third quarter. Senior quarterback Jared Gerbino and Joseph Ortiz, who hooked up for a 72-yard touchdown pass during the first half, connected for a 10-yard score.
The Royal Comets had a chance to add to their seven-point lead early in the fourth quarter, but a 28-yard field goal attempt by Gerbino was no good. Mack then helped Pittsford even the score in spectacular fashion, as he weaved downfield during an 80-yard touchdown run. Alec Vaules kicked the extra-point attempt to tie the score at 28-28.
The Royal Comets were stopped on downs near midfield during their next possession, but moved from their own 16-yard line to win the game. Rush-Henrietta converted three third downs during the march.
“We prepared all week for that,” Gerbino said. “We had third-and-long in practice, so when it happens in a game, we just do what we do.
“They were dropping off deep in coverage, so we would just take it short. That was working a lot on third downs, that was great.”
McDonald carried a screen pass 32 yards on a third-and 10 during the game-winning drive. Gerbino later scrambled 14 yards near the Rush-Henrietta sidelines on third-and-13 at the Pittsford 35. Robinson’s touchdown came on first-and-goal, after an illegal procedure penalty pushed back the Royal Comets.
“We picked our heads up and did our jobs,” Robinson said.