Mistakes, elements doom Lakers in battle with Forks

As it flattened 10 consecutive foes and grabbed the Section III Class B championship, the Cazenovia football team developed an aura that every Laker fan felt, a sense that no one was going to keep it from a run to the state title.

All of those good feelings evaporated Saturday night on the rain-soaked turf of Cicero-North Syracuse's Bragman Stadium, at the hands of an opponent well-schooled in claiming games like this.

Chenango Forks, one of the state's best-known football powers, fought past the Lakers in a 3-0 Class B regional final where skill was important -- but the elements, and the ability to hang on to the ball, proved to be more important.

Noting the downpour that persisted and grew more intense throughout the second half, head coach Tom Neidl said the deluge kept his team from doing all it wanted on offense, especially throwing the ball.

"The conditions didn't help us," he said.

Rain or not, Cazenovia knew this would be, by a wide margin, its biggest test of the fall. Forks, a Section IV school, had won 48 of its previous 50 games and had state championships in 2003 and '04 on its resume.

The Blue Devils' style of play -- grind it out on offense with the running game, then play air-tight defense -- had worked so well for so long, and Forks wasn't going to change here, even in the face of the Lakers' own vaunted resistance.

Right from the start, the two defenses dominated. Forks moved the ball a bit more than the Lakers did, though, and was able to gain better field position just by picking up a few first downs. It also ate up lots of time, keeping Cazenovia's offense on the sidelines.

Only once in the first half did either team have a real chance. Forks worked its way to the Lakers' 20-yard line and when the drive stalled, Dylan Warner attempted a 37-yard field goal that fell just short.

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