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Toronto closes curtain with one more goal unclaimed

HANDING OFF — Jojo Savage receives the handoff during the Red Knights’ playoff contest against East Knox on Oct. 16. (Photo by Andrew Grimm)

TORONTO — Overall, 2020 was a successful season for the Toronto football team, even though it cannot accomplish one final goal.

The Red Knights drop the curtain at 5-4, including a Division VII home playoff victory a few weeks back. Players such as Garrett Dozier and B.J. Pearson had seasons to remember. And, the team was able to play nine games, which says a lot with the coronavirus pandemic still hanging around.

What head coach Josh Franke and the rest of the team wished to win was the Joe Scarabino/Corky Heaton trophy that currently belongs to Wellsville. Toronto had a great opportunity to recapture it Friday at Wellsville, but the game was canceled due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the Red Knights.

“One of the goals we emphasized all year was to get that trophy back, so not getting that opportunity also stings a little bit, as well,” Franke said.

Toronto officially announced its plans to conclude the football season on Monday. Upon hearing the news, Franke had a moment to reflect on what this season brought to his program and the 12 seniors who gave it their all day in and day out.

“They did a tremendous job stepping in and playing football this season,” Franke said. “A lot of them came in as first-time starters. Obviously, we’ve had a lot of success this year. You hate to see them lose out on a game.”

The senior group is led by Dozier. The running back finished with 204 carries for 927 yards (4.5 yards per carry) and an area-leading 17 touchdowns.

Pearson, a senior lineman, went out on top. He recorded four sacks during Friday’s victory over Union Local, and that set the single-game school record, breaking Bob Petris’ mark in 1970. Pearson also nearly broke another record still held by Petris, and that is career sacks. Pearson has 15, which is just one shy.

“It’s a shame for those kids to not reach some goals or milestones, especially when they were having phenomenal seasons,” Franke said. “It’s just a shame to see them go out like that. It hurts, and your heart hurts for those guys because you want to see them go out on their terms.”

At least senior linebacker Jack Rawson was able to suit up one more time on Friday. He missed playoff action due to mono and almost had to sit out again.

“He practiced all week, and we were able to get clearance for him to play. For him, you’re just really happy he got the opportunity to play one more,” Franke said.

One more senior who leaves on a high note is quarterback Caleb Leasure. He finished the season 58 of 126 for 932 yards and eight scores. He did throw nine picks, but most occurred during the first half of the season when Toronto was struggling as a whole.

“Caleb obviously had some goals of his own he wanted to reach. He fell a little short but had another solid passing season,” Franke said. “He came on and had some difficulty early on, but to see him bounce back and finish strong in the final four or five games, I’m sure that’s how he wanted to ended his career. It’s good to see a kid who has given so much all year go out on a positive note.”

The other seniors are Devin Corrao, Ryan Matyas, Bryson Anderson, Jojo Savage (408 rushing yards, 179 receiving and three scores), Brant Reeves, Evan Roche, Chris Parker and Nathan Haines.

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