Nov 29, 2007 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
West Genesee fans are used to seeing their team in a celebratory pile in the middle of the field at the end of a state championship game, so the happy scene that played itself out Sunday night on the turf of the Carrier Dome should have looked familiar.
Except that this was football, not lacrosse.
At long last, the Wildcats are known for something other than wielding the sticks in the springtime. They now hold the proud title of 2007 state Class AA football champions.
Led again by the wizardry of senior quarterback Tim Moran, West Genesee left little doubt in last Sunday’s Class AA championship game, beating Monroe-Woodbury 42-21 to complete an improbable journey from middle-of-the-pack obscurity to the highest possible peak.
“It still hasn’t sunk in yet,” said senior defensive end Dan Kolinski. “It’s such an amazing feeling. Our players now have the respect they deserve.”
And it was quite fitting that the final chapter was written in the Carrier Dome, where Wildcats head coach Steve Bush served time as an assistant at Syracuse University before taking over WG’s program in 2005.
Bush said winning here brought back good memories, but added that the real story was how his team answered every challenge given to them.
“It’s real satisfying,” he said. “We have a great group of kids that had fun and stayed loose, but knew when it was time to step up. Week after week, they produced, and (today) they went out in style.”
Moran was quite stylish all by himself. He led four scoring drives in the first half, completing 14 of 19 passes for 182 yards, and finished 19-for-27 for 272 yards. He was the easy choice for game MVP honors.
“After beating Orchard Park (a week ago in the state semifinals), we came into this game with a lot of confidence and poise,” said Moran. “All the hard work paid off. We started strong and finished strong. It’s an amazing feeling.”
Everything that brought the Wildcats to this point — a diverse and explosive offense, an opportunistic defense that forced key turnovers, and the team’s ability to make the decisive play just when it was needed — was on display here.
All of it was required, too. Monroe-Woodbury was used to this stage, having played in the previous two state finals, beating Webster Thomas in 2005 but losing an overtime classic to Auburn last year. Overall, the Crusaders had won 48 of its last 50 games.
And M-W started out like it was ready to reclaim the crown, marching 60 yards in less than three minutes on the game’s opening possession. Sophomore quarterback Dan Scalo did most of the work, running for 44 of those yards, including the last 15 for a touchdown that put the Crusaders in front 7-0.
From there, though, the Wildcats took over, rolling up 28 unanswered points as Moran and his mates clinically took M-W’s defense apart.
WG’s first march covered 67 yards and featured four connections between Moran and George Eunice, the last one a nine-yard TD reception that forged a 7-7 tie.
Late in the first period, the Wildcats again tore through the Crusaders, going 70 yards, the key blow a fourth-down pass from Moran to Joe Fazio on the sideline. Joe Kesler’s 14-yard completion set up Ben Waldron’s two-yard TD run that gave WG the lead for good.
The defense began to step up in the second quarter, forcing three turnovers, including a pair of Jake Fietkiewicz interceptions.
Right after Ossama Mere recovered a Scalo fumble at the Crusaders’ 33-yard line, Moran found Luke Cometti for a 29-yard completion to set up Waldron’s second TD, a four-yard run.
Fietkiewicz’s second interception produced yet another score. From M-W’s 45, Moran went deep to a wide-open Eunice, who dropped the ball. Undeterred, Moran tried the exact same thing on the next play — and Fazio caught it, going to the end zone to make it 28-7.
Even though Waldron added a third TD in the third quarter, the Crusaders kept on fighting, closing the gap to 35-21 and remaining in sight as the game moved into the late stages.
All that was left was for Moran to add an exclamation point.
With 5:11 left, WG faced a fourth down-and-eight at M-W’s 31-yard line. Deciding to go for it, Moran executed a perfect pump fake and threw to Cometti, who had slipped far behind the defense. Cometti caught the pass and cruised into the end zone, ending all possible suspense.
“We finished it off right,” said Cometti, who also cemented his reputation as a clutch kicker by making all six of his team’s extra points.
West Genesee’s large fan contingent, which had been roaring from the start, fully erupted after Cometti’s clinching touchdown, and didn’t let up in volume until long after the Wildcats accepted its state championship plaque.
They had plenty to cheer about. Aside from Moran, Steve Pooler earned Outstanding Offensive Lineman honors, just one part of a dominant front line where he, along with Craig Simmons, Stefan Cavedine, Ben Wysokowski and Tony Pedrotti, offered great protection and blocking all season long.
Nick Cammuso got the Sportsmanship award, while Kolinski received the Outstanding Defensive Lineman award for applying constant pressure to Scalo. Mere, Cammuso, Fietkiewicz, Cometti, Dave Hildman and Jeremy Connors all stood out on the defensive side, too.
Together with Bush and his strong coaching staff, they brought West Genesee football into a new realm. The Wildcats joined Bishop Ludden (who beat Dobbs Ferry 21-16 earlier in the day) as the second pair of Section III teams to win state championships in the same year since the current format began in 1993. CBA and Weedsport both won state titles in 2004.