Nov 06, 2007 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
When the West Genesee football team first met Cicero-North Syracuse three weeks ago at Bragman Stadium, the game they produced was a pulse-pounding thriller that did not get decided until a field goal in the final seconds.
So naturally when they together again on that exact same CNS turf in the Section III Class AA title game, the exact same thing took place — except that this time, the Wildcats were a lot happier with the outcome.
Luke Cometti’s 20-yard kick through the uprights with one second to play lifted WG to a 23-21 victory over the Northstars and earned the team its first sectional championship since 1988.
“It’s awesome,” said Cometti. “We’re setting a standard for future Wildcat teams to come.”
His head coach, Steve Bush, agreed. “It’s huge for everybody at West Genesee,” he said. “They are getting the recognition and respect they deserve. We couldn’t be prouder.”
At one point during the post-game celebration, a teammate wrapped the gold-colored championship banner around senior quarterback Tim Moran — which was fitting, since it was Moran who took the game in his hands when his team looked to be in peril.
WG had seen its 20-14 lead evaporate late in the fourth quarter. Wanting to get some first downs and run out the clock, the Wildcats instead committed couple of costly penalties and moved back near its end zone, from where it had to punt with 2:23 left.
Taking the ball at the Wildcats’ 39-yard line, the Northstars used the short field to its advantage. Big runs by Steven Ianzito and Laquan James set up James for an eight-yard sprint to the end zone with 54 seconds to play.
Andrew Falvey’s successful extra point put CNS in front, 21-20. Amid the bedlam the home fans were generating, the Wildcats didn’t flinch, knowing that it still had all of its time-outs left — plus a field general in Moran that would not shrink from the moment.
“We practice that (last-minute) situation every day,” said Moran. “I just told myself to stay composed and not get it all at once.”
After a touchback, Moran took over at the 20. He found Joe Fazio for a 12-yard completion. Then came the big moment — a rollout to the left, then a throw over the middle to George Eunice, who took off past the secondary down the left side. By the time he was pushed out of bounds, Eunice had gained 44 yards and put WG in scoring position.
Deftly utilizing the time-outs he had, Moran moved his team inside the 10, then took time-out with five seconds left. He had completed 21 of 31 passes for 286 yards, a career high in both completions and yards, and was never better than on this most important of drives.
Now it was Cometti’s turn. He had won two previous games (against Liverpool and CBA) with field goals in the last seconds or in overtime. But he had missed two extra points of the same length earlier in this game, and the pressure now was 100 times greater. A time-out CNS took to freeze Cometti didn’t help matters.
“I was kind of nervous, having missed two extra points,” said Cometti. “But (I thought that) it was just another extra point.
With the game, the season, and the sectional title on the line, Cometti did not hit a great kick, but it drove through, just inside the left upright — just like Falvey’s winning boot (three weeks ago) and bedlam ensued on WG’s sidelines and stands.
Having waited nearly two decades to finish on top again, WG”s football fans had to figure the final would be a stressful endeavor. Even one-sided playoff wins over Henninger and Liverpool had not lessened the anxiety everyone felt — including CNS, who was still after its first-ever sectional title.
Both sides committed to running the ball in the early stages, as Ben Waldron (for WG) and James (for CNS) carefully picked up yardage and turnovers were avoided.
Early in the second quarter, but on fourth down from the Wildcats’ five-yard line, Steven Ianzito watched his big tight end, Jeff Falvey, trip up in the end zone. The Northstars wanted pass interference, but none was called.
On the ensuing drive, WG marched 95 yards to the first points of the afternoon. Moran was sharp and accurate, going 38 yards to Nick Aiken on the longest play 0f the drive before hitting Fazio for a touchdown from nine yards out.
After CNS answered with a drive to go ahead 7-6 (the difference being Cometti’s first missed PAT), the Wildcats countered after forcing the game’s first turnover, Jeremy Connors intercepting Ianzito at midfield. Moran’s accurate passing led to his second TD, a four-yard strike to Dave Hildman, and a two-point pass to Kevin Petrick just 18 seconds before halftime.
Up 14-7 at the break, WG took the second-half kickoff and wasted little time going ahead even further. Reading a blitz on third down, Moran took off, made a cut and was never caught, a 60-yard sprint to the end zone.
Even though Cometti missed a second PAT, it was now 20-7, a Wildcat lead eerily similar to that of the first meeting where CNS pulled it out.
And sure enough, the Northstars would rally, immediately answering with a 53-yard march that included a 19-yard pass to Jeff Falvey. James scored from three yards out, and it was 20-14.
From there, the two sides tripped over each other, both committing crucial fumbles — the Wildcats doing so at the Northstars’ three-yard line early in the fourth quarter — before the crashing climax.
Unlike 1988, when no state tournament existed, the Wildcats now have a shot at that ultimate prize, starting Saturday with the Class AA regional final against Section IV champion Union-Endicott at Alumni Stadium in Binghamton. Game time is 3 p.m. The winner will meet Canandaigua or Orchard Park in the state semifinals Nov. 17 at PAETEC Park in Rochester.