Sep 26, 2006 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Inside the visiting team’s locker room at Bragman Stadium late Friday night, the chant went up: RTD! RTD! RTD!
Spelled out, it says Return to Dominance, the rallying cry of the Liverpool football Warriors ever since Dave Mancuso took over as head coach.
Up until this night, the chant might have seemed idle. But that wasn’t the case after the Warriors defeated its biggest rival, Cicero-North Syracuse, 24-22 in the latest spine-tingling chapter of this great neighborhood feud.
Lingering in the mind of both players and coaches alike was the 41-8 humiliation the Northstars gave the Warriors at Liverpool a year ago. So it wasn’t a surprise when, as time ran out, members of the Tribe student section stormed the field to celebrate with the players.
Last year, they blew us out, said senior quarterback Mike Buckenmeyer. We wanted revenge, and we’re excited to pull this off.
To pull it off, Liverpool had to be both opportunistic and tough, turning three CNS turnovers into touchdowns, then hanging on for dear life in the final minute as the Northstars mounted one last march.
Through most of the first half, the Warriors were in charge. It took a 3-0 lead on Ryan Argy’s 23-yard field goal, then turned an Anthony Dolson fumble at midfield (Rich Neale scooped it up) into a scoring drive that culminated with Lonnie Johnson going six yards for the touchdown to make it 10-0.
CNS got back to within four, 10-6 and appeared ready to take the lead when, with 55 seconds left in the half, Laquan James fumbled at midfield and Paul Stanzione recovered.
Smartly using the clock, Buckenmeyer drove his team to the three-yard line. With Argy hurt, the Warriors gambled on a pass and, on the last play of the half, Buckenmeyer found Cody Latimer in the end zone, then kicked the extra point himself.
With a 17-6 lead, Liverpool looked good – but on the opening kickoff of the third quarter, T.J. Davis fumbled, and CNS jumped on it. Not even two minutes later, it was 17-14, as James scored on an eight-yard TD run and Greg Larioni hit Nick Blumer on a beautiful two-point throw.
As the fourth quarter began, the Northstars were on Liverpool’s five-yard line. Again, it looked like CNS would take the lead. Again, a fumble changed all that, as Larioni botched a handoff to James and Kyle Green pounced on it.
We could have quit very easily, and we didn’t, said Mancuso.
Instead, Liverpool marched 95 yards, most of it chewed up by Johnson. He had three long runs on the drive, including a 19-yard dash to the end zone that made it 24-14 with 6:02 left.
For the night, Johnson had 27 carries for 200 yards, his second consecutive 200-yard outing. The blocking by Green, Rich Magnanti, George Widas, Jon Thomas, Joe Stotsky and Pat Single on the front line helped create the holes that Johnson plowed through.
Despite all this, CNS wouldn’t go away. It marched 70 yards in under two minutes, culminating with Larioni hitting Blumer on a 25-yard TD strike and taking the botched PAT snap into the end zone for two more points.
When James sacked Buckenmeyer on third down, and CNS got the ball back with 2:30 left, needing just a field goal to win it, things looked bleak for the Warriors.
But after driving to the Warriors’ 33-yard line, CNS committed a holding penalty, forcing it into a fourth-down-and-14 with less than a minute to play.
Larioni rolled to his right, found some room to throw, and had Stephen Ianzito open for a first down – until Latimer streaked in and broke up the pass, clinching one of the biggest Liverpool victories in recent memory.
Mancuso said a primary goal when he took over this job was to beat CNS, and on this night, his players met that goal.
We found a way to win, said Mancuso. Our guys played to the best of their ability and made the big plays, too.
All of those traits will be needed this Friday, when the Warriors have another big test at West Genesee at 6 p.m.
Of course, West Genesee is where Mancuso coached from 1998 to 2002, and the Wildcats have plenty of incentive to beat its one-time mentor.
Also, WG (1-2) needs the win to stay in the middle of the post-season picture after a damaging 41-27 loss to CBA. There, it rallied from a 20-point deficit, only to have the lights at Wildcat Stadium go out for more than 80 minutes to kill the team’s momentum, as the Brothers scored twice in the fourth quarter to pull it out.