Mingled together on the turf late on a cold Friday night at Bragman Stadium, football players, students, cheerleaders, parents, pep band members, and just about everyone else from Fayetteville-Manlius celebrated an impossible dream come true.
Ridding itself of two years of painful memories, the F-M Hornets put an end to Christian Brothers Academy's reign as Class AA champions, stunning the Brothers 43-35 in the opening round of the AA playoffs -- and delivering one of the biggest victories in the program's history.
"We were playing for our community tonight," said head coach Paul Muench.
His players echoed those thoughts, saying that much of what motivated the Hornets on this night was its losses to CBA in each of the last two Class AA title games at the Carrier Dome.
"I will never forget this as long as I live," said quarterback Buddy Leathley.
These two schools share a lot more than recent football history. Many CBA students hail from the F-M district, only adding to the emotions every time they face each other.
Going in, it was expected that this chapter would end like the others. F-M was just 3-4, the fourth-place team in the Class AA-2 league, and was just six days removed from a 25-point loss to Henninger.
CBA, by contrast, was 7-0, having just completed its seventh consecutive undefeated regular season, and it boasted a lineup of scary offensive talent that included quarterback Mike Paulus, who is headed to the University of North Carolina next fall.
Despite some close calls in previous weeks, the Brothers fully anticipated that it would get to the semifinals, as it had each of the previous 11 years. Even a change of venue, from Alibrandi Stadium (the field was swamped by heavy rains) to Cicero-North Syracuse, was not supposed to change the story all that much.