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Wildcats hang on, get shot at state AA football crown

Once Christos Dimkos had taken Orchard Park quarterback Kyle Hoppy down to the turf and the clock ran out Saturday night at Rochester's Paetec Park, the West Genesee football team found itself in a realm few thought it could ever reach.

Thanks to its 30-27 win over the Section IV champion Quakers in the state Class AA semifinal, the Wildcats will go for its first-ever state football title Sunday at 3 p.m. in the Carrier Dome against Monroe-Woodbury, who is in the final for the third year in a row.

WG traded blows with Orchard Park early, took full control in the middle stages behind Tim Moran's magnificent passing effort, then saw most of a 17-point lead disappear down the stretch before it could hang on -- and breathe again.

Going in, two plot lines dominated the narrative. Moran was seeking to bounce back from an inconsistent effort in the regional final against Union-Endicott that included two interceptions and a lot of other throws off target.

Needless to say, Moran pulled this off. In fact, he was close to perfect, completing 25 of 31 passes for 284 yards and three touchdowns, arguably his best overall effort of the entire season.

On the other side, WG's defense, which held U-E without a point and returned two of its own interceptions for touchdowns, was looking to shut down Orchard Park running back Jeff Tundo, who had pounded out 368 yards in the Quakers' regional win over Canandaigua.

Tundo wasn't shut down -- but he was contained after some opening-drive success. He got "only" 113 yards on 23 carries as front-line defenders like Dimkos, Ossama Mere, John Gacek and Dan Kolinski, plus linebackers Luke Cometti, Dave Hildman and Nick Cammuso, put up a strong resistance.

Above all this was the familiarity WG and Orchard Park had with each other in another sport. They had often met in state semifinals in boys lacrosse, with the Wildcats prevailing all but one time (in 2000) -- and Gene Tundo coached both the lacrosse and football teams at Orchard Park, adding to the intrigue.

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