Northstars rally to first league title since 1994

Andrew Falvey's kick, from 23 yards out, wasn't a pretty sight. It went low off the toe, hooked, and was fortunate not to get blocked as it careened through the maze of outstretched defenders' hands toward the uprights.

As it twisted through the air, everyone froze -- the 22 teenagers on the field, all the players and coaches spread along the sideline, and the fans jammed into the stands at Bragman Stadium to see the Class AA-1 football championship decided.

Somehow, as the clock went to 0:00, the ball sliced through the cold Friday-night air, stuck itself over the crossbar and fit itself inside the left upright -- and the rest was bedlam. Cicero-North Syracuse had its first league championship since 1994.

It wasn't just that the Northstars beat West Genesee 30-27 in arguably the most memorable Section III game of the season. It was the way CNS pulled it off, coming back for the second week in a row from a 14-point deficit to prevail.

"We're down, but we're never out," said senior quarterback Steven Ianzito. "We never lost our cool and we knew we could come back."

Once they did, the joy was everywhere. All the players mobbed Falvey at midfield, danced and hugged each other before and after the post-game handshake, and gave head coach Steve Ellis a cold bath of ice water as he told them about how proud he was of their accomplishment.

"There's a lot of grit and resolve with these guys," said Ellis.

More than anyone else, Ellis, a CNS graduate (like many of his assistants), seemed to understand what this meant. He came back to coach his alma mater in 2002 and had taken his fair share of heat for not producing immediate championship results.

The CNS team that finally ended this 13-year league title drought was a fitting wearer of the crown, for it refused to surrender at many different points during this tumultuous season -- especially in the last two weeks.

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