Nov 06, 2006 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Even now, it isn’t too soon to consider the 2006 edition of the Cazenovia football team as one of the best — if not the best — in the program’s history.
In 10 weeks of action, the Lakers have gone 10-0, cutting up opponents by an astonishing margin of 452-36, one foe after another melting against the team’s lethal combination of punishing defense and opportunistic offense.
This blitzkrieg was supposed to be halted last Saturday night in the Carrier Dome, when the equally undefeated Westhill Warriors stood in the way of the Lakers’ first Section III Class B championship since 2001.
But not even the talented Warriors could put a dent into Cazenovia’s rumbling machine, and the ensuing 32-7 decision left little doubt as to who is the area’s best Class B squad.
As always, the Lakers’ success stemmed from its defense. It faced a huge challenge with Westhill, a team that had piled up 352 points in its nine wins, an average of nearly 40 points per game.
Specifically, the challenge was to keep junior running back Dale Ross from the big plays that allowed him to pile up 306 yards in the Warriors’ semifinal win over Holland Patent.
To say that the defense did a nice job in that front would be a major understatement. As a whole, Westhill had just 88 yards of total offense.
David Etter, Paddy Adolfi, Jason Jones, Marcus Schokker and Connor Ryan dominated the line of scrimmage, and frequently got to quarterback Dan Fetter, sacking him nine times.
This allowed the vaunted linebacker trio of Brandon Moyer, Artie Bigsby and James Irwin could run wild and make every necessary tackle. Ross frequently saw them, as he carried the ball 18 times for just 86 yards.
Amid all this, the Lakers’ offense had its share of great moments, and even when it couldn’t find the end zone, Cazenovia would still come through.
A 58-yard march on its opening drive led to Coleman Koesterer’s nine-yard scoring pass to Chris Nourse, putting the Lakers up 7-0.
All through the second quarter, the Lakers pushed itself inside the Warriors’ red zone, poised to put the game out of the Warriors’ reach.
However, those drives stalled, and Charlie Gregg had to trot in. Having missed every field goal he tried outdoors this season, Gregg basked in the Dome, belting successful kicks of 26, 23 and 34 yards through the uprights to make it 16-0 at the break.
Even though it was the smallest halftime lead the Lakers had all season, it wasn’t a big concern, for the defense would come through again.
Throughout the game, defensive backs like Tom Eschen and Chris Nourse would blanket Westhill receivers Jim Ross and Jake Burgess. This, combined with the sacks, added to Fetter’s frustration.
From midfield in the third quarter, Fetter threw again — and Bartlett stepped in front of it, taking the interception back 65 yards for a back-breaking touchdown.
Gregg would miss the extra point, but he atoned for it by making his fourth field goal of the night, a 28-yarder, to make it 25-0.
Justin Hubbard offered the Lakers’ exclamation point on this night by going 42 yards for a TD in the fourth quarter. That accounted for most of his 109 yards on the ground, on 13 carries.
Cazenovia is playing with the dominant flair and confidence of a state championship contender — but is still three victories away from that summit.
And the next step is a steep one. On Saturday night at 7 p.m., the Lakers travel to Cicero-North Syracuse’s Bragman Stadium to meet Section IV powerhouse Chenango Forks in the Class B regional final.
Forks has reached each of the last three state championship games, winning titles in both 2003 and ’04 before losing the title game a year ago. Traditionally, the Blue Devils are a powerful, physically overwhelming team, something similar to what Cazenovia likes to do.
Whoever survives this big clash will go to Rochester next weekend for the state semifinals against Lackawanna or Geneva.