Six consecutive weeks of victorious results allowed the Liverpool football team to be at home last Friday night when the Section III Class AA playoffs got underway.
And the Warriors enjoyed every bit of that advantage, jumping all over Utica Proctor early and riding its strong defense to a 27-0 victory over the Raiders in the opening round.
Much of Liverpool's path toward this unexpected home date was exciting, from its rally against Auburn, to its tense battle with Cicero-North Syracuse, to its epic double-overtime win over Corcoran.
Subsequently, the Cougars were tossed out of the playoffs because it used an ineligible player in two games and had to forfeit them. No such cruel fate awaited the Warriors -- just a lot of love from the home folks.
Decked out in orange jerseys on a cold and damp evening, Liverpool immediately made Proctor pay for its mistakes, as the Raiders turned the ball over three times and did not possess the ball all that much.
That first mistake, a fumble inside the Raiders' red zone, immediately led to points as Lonnie Johnson scored from six yards out, his 23rd touchdown of the season.
After Liverpool's defense held deep in Proctor territory, T.J. Davis, whose kick return for a TD turned the Corcoran game around, again struck, returning the short punt 38 yards for six points, making it 13-0.
As Proctor's star receiver, Deandre Preaster, could only watch from the sidelines, Liverpool held the ball more than 10 minutes on a long drive that consumed 20 plays.
When Dom Caruso went the final three yards for the TD just before halftime, it was 20-0, and the well-rested defense would spend the second half shutting down anything the Raiders (lacking Preaster) tried.
However, a big problem emerged when Johnson injured his ankle. At the time, he had 25 carries for 135 yards, but out of concern for his long-term availabilty, coaches sat out Johnson in the second half.