Oct 09, 2007 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Anyone who doubts that sports can turn into an emotional roller-coaster obviously did not attend last Friday night’s football game at Alibrandi Stadium between West Genesee and Christian Brothers Academy.
In a span of minutes, the Wildcats were despairing defeat, then flushed with joy over a dramatic win, then deflated by a last-second tying score, and finally triumphant.
The final verdict, a 24-21 overtime victory, does not begin to convey the wild mood swings that went with WG (5-1, 3-1 league) securing a Section III Class AA playoff berth and a chance to win the Class AA-1 division championship at Cicero-North Syracuse this Friday at 7 p.m.
In fact, for a while, it was simply the case of the Wildcats, perhaps too confident after its 26-0 shutout of Fayetteville-Manlius a week earlier, letting down against a CBA squad hampered all season by injuries and inexperience at so many key spots.
Clearly showing more effort than the visitors, the Brothers bolted to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter with a scoring drive ended by Garrett Barnard’s one-yard plunge into the end zone.
That seemed to wake up the Wildcats, for it rebounded in the second quarter to take a 14-7 lead. Ben Waldron ran nine yards for one touchdown, and Tim Moran threw a four-yard scoring pass to George Eunice.
Far removed from the explosive offense shown in previous years when Greg Paulus or Mike Paulus was at quarterback, CBA had to make up for it with toughness, which it showed on both sides of the ball for much of the second half.
A long drive led to Barnard’s second TD, a two-yard run, in the third quarter, that tied it at 14-14, and no matter what Moran and his teammates tried, WG found itself shut down for the rest of regulation.
Then it all turned crazy.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Brothers put together what looked to be a go-ahead scoring drive, moving from its own 27 to WG’s four-yard line, trying to use as much time as possible before a possible touchdown or field goal.
Going back to throw, though, sophomore quarterback Jared DePalma lost the ball. Chasing after it, Waldron, a defensive back, recovered the fumble on the 20-yard line and started running. He was never caught, an 80-yard sprint to the other end zone that had the Wildcat fans in full throat with an unexpected 21-14 lead.
Most of the time, a young team would melt down in the face of such an adverse situation. CBA did not.
Redeeming himself for the fumble, DePalma quickly drove the Brothers back to WG’s 16-yard line, giving himself one more chance.
With poise well beyond his years, DePalma rolled right and threw to the far corner of the end zone as time ran out. Somehow, Doug Bailey beat the Wildcat defenders and came up with it for the touchdown. That, combined with Mawuena Agbossoumonde’s extra point, tied the game again at 21-21.
Each side was wrung out by the combination of the drama and the unusual October heat, but now would have to play overtime, each team getting a possession on the opponents’ 20-yard line.
Going first, the Brothers again went to the end zone — only to have the Wildcats intercept the pass, a clutch defensive play reminiscent of the five interceptions it used to blank F-M.
Now, WG just needed to score. It moved the ball to the 11-yard line, and on fourth down Luke Cometti came in. From 28 yards out, his field-goal try wasn’t artistic — but it got through the uprights, and the Wildcats had won.
It was the second time this season Cometti had hit a game-winner down the stretch. Hhe had done the same against Liverpool on Sept. 14, in a game that ended with the exact same score of 24-21.
Proving again its ability to win a tight contest, the Wildcats assured itself, at worst, a chance to be at home for the first round of the AA playoffs.
However, a league championship would be even nicer — and that clear shot at the title was made possible when Cicero-North Syracuse rallied past Liverpool 24-14 to create the tie for first between the Wildcats and Northstars.
Establishing Waldron and the running game is crucial for WG in this game, so as not to rely too much on Moran and his throwing ability against a strong CNS pass defense. Plus, the Wildcats must avoid giving up the big plays, something the Northstars used to come back from a 14-0 deficit against Liverpool.
And if it’s close — well, WG has already shown the ability to pull things out. Three of its five wins have come by three points or less.