Cazenovia football running back Chris Nourse had heard, all season along, the praise and accolades showered on Westhill counterpart Dale Ross as he surpassed 2,000 yards season and set a single-game state record of 569 yards in the Section III Class B semifinals against Marcellus.
"Most of the time I like to be out of the spotlight," said Nourse. "But I like the big games."
And when the Lakers and Warriors got together in their much-hyped Class B final last Saturday at Cicero-North Syracuse's Bragman Stadium, Nourse would have his turn to shine.
Nourse's 34 carries for 281 yards and five touchdowns was more than what Ross (227 yards, two TD's) could put together, and was a big reason why Cazenovia knocked off Westhill 44-34, the second year in a row the Lakers had claimed a sectional title at the Warriors' expense.
"Chris is one important link in our chain," said head coach Tom Neidl. "He had an outstanding effort, as part of a total team effort. We played with our heart and soul for 48 minutes."
Of course, the effort went well beyond one Saturday evening.
Neidl said that the week leading up to this showdown featured the best preparation had seen his long tenure as Cazenovia coach. Aside from afternoon practices, team members came in at night to watch tapes of Westhill, to see what they needed to do against Ross and his mates.
All the while, the build-up continued, just as it had in 2006 before the Lakers smacked the Warriors 32-7 at the Carrier Dome. And while most people honed in on the battle between Ross and the vaunted Cazenovia defense, the guys on offense were quietly confident.
The game's first four minutes proved to be telling. Ross began the theatrics just 2:39 into the game, taking a toss and making several defenders miss on a 54-yard sprint down the left sideline for a touchdown.