OSWEGO — It finally happened.
After 2,508 days — Oct. 29, 2014, to be exact — the Oswego varsity football team has hit the win column.
But in the first 24 minutes of the game, it seemed improbable. After a Buccaneer turnover on downs, Phoenix quickly scored with a 19-yard pass from Reghan Conley to Masson Bell just a few minutes in.
Oswego turned the ball over on downs again and Phoenix quickly found the endzone toward the end of the first quarter. Conley ran in for a 26-yard touchdown, putting Phoenix ahead 14-0 following the two-point conversion.
Phoenix’s strong run game couldn’t be stopped, as Conley ran in again with 5:26 left in the second quarter on a two-yard run. The final Phoenix touchdown came on a switch play that originally had Bell running to the right, but confused the entire defense and Matthew Breton walked in on the left side. A pass to Breton sealed the two-point conversion.
Down by 30 against Phoenix at halftime, the Bucs “were already fired up,” coach Jason Primrose said.
“I said, ‘They scored 30, it’s time for us to score 30,’” he said.
And score 30 they did. Better yet, they scored 32 straight points to take a 32-30 win over Phoenix for Oswego’s first win in six years.
“I can tell when I make them run, they’re all angry at me, but that’s why we won that game,” Primrose said. “We were in better shape. We just came out and we played. It was awesome.”
The Bucs cracked the scoreboard with 26 seconds left in the third quarter to start the momentum shift. Logan Mathews ran in for a 16-yard touchdown, while Christian Andaluz ran in the two-point conversion.
After Phoenix regained possession and moved the chains following a huge 43-yard run from Bell, it was Oswego’s Dylan Dunsmoor that had different plans. He picked off a pass from Conley and ran it all the way back — approximately 70 yards — for the pick-six, putting Oswego within reach at 30-16.
Primrose said that was when the momentum changed into Oswego’s favor. On top of that, a full stadium of Bucs fans — something that was missing during Oswego’s season in the spring last year — went crazy.
“It’s perfect. It was awesome to look up in the stands with everybody cheering,” Primrose said. “It was awesome.”
But, as Primrose put it, Oswego didn’t “roll over and die.” The defense came alive, forcing a turnover on downs on and four-and-out after an incomplete pass from the Firebirds. Mathews kept his running game alive with three long runs: a 10-yarder, a 14-yarder and a 5-yarder that was the eventual scoring play.
He also ran in the two-point conversion. Oswego trailed 30-24 with just 7:39 left in the fourth quarter.
Oswego’s defense stepped up again on the next drive. After a 24-yard gain from Bell, the Bucs stopped him short of moving the chains three times to force a turnover on downs.
Starting on their own 36-yard line, the Bucs handed the ball over to Mathews again, picking up 14 yards and then three yards. Quarterback Moreno Fenty scrambled for a 20-yard gain, putting them at Phoenix’s 27-yard line.
Then, who else but Mathews? He ran it in for a 27-yard rushing touchdown to tie the game — then he ran up the middle for the two-point conversion. There was still 3:27 left in the game.
“At one point I told him, ‘If you’re tired, then score in one play,” Primrose said. “He just kept going and going and going. It comes down to heart. And he had a lot of it tonight.”
After a strong kickoff from the Bucs, the Firebirds started at their own 26-yard line. Phoenix was eventually called for an illegal substitution, sending them backward to the 21-yard line. Bell was tackled for a loss of 12 yards on the ensuing play followed by an incomplete pass and a false start.
On fourth-and-27, Bell ran for six yards, giving the Bucs the ball on their 10-yard line with 58 seconds left.
The Bucs took a knee twice — and the drought was over.
“That’s the best showing of Oswego football in a very long time,” Primrose said.