To be sure, the Fayetteville-Manlius football team was in the midst of a rough showing in last Saturday's Section III Class AA semifinal against the Auburn Maroons at Cicero-North Syracuse's Bragman Stadium.
Yet as the final seconds of regulation ticked down, the Hornets smartly moved inside Auburn's red zone, one big play away from tying -- or perhaps winning -- this showdown to see who would oppose Rome Free Academy in the title game at the Carrier Dome.
And this was on the same CNS field where, eight days earlier, F-M had pulled off something close to a miracle in ending CBA's two-year reign as champions in the first round. Perhaps this place had magical powers.
All of those thoughts went away, though, when Colin Parry intercepted Buddy Leathley's pass near the goal line as time ran out.
By a 21-14 margin, the Maroons kept its Cinderella story alive, reaching its first-ever sectional final -- and, in the process, kept the Hornets from advancing to the Dome for the third year in a row.
Quite unlike that 43-35 epic with CBA, the Hornets played superb defense from beginning to end, only to be done in by a few special-teams lapses and a recurrence of its early-season turnover issue.
Auburn's presence here was, in many ways, more miraculous than F-M's. It wasn't even in the original field of eight, and entered only because Corcoran had to forfeit two victories for using an ineligible fifth-year senior.
Once in the show, the Maroons looked to be done in last Monday's opening round against Henninger, trailing by 20 with less than nine minutes left -- only to score 28 points in a fourth-quarter flurry based upon three fumble recoveries on kickoffs to shock the Black Knights 47-40.
A mere five days later, against F-M, Auburn still had that momentum. Matt Hoey returned the opening kickoff 57 yards, setting up a short drive culminated by Quendel Ellison's three-yard toucnhdown run.