Oct 23, 2007 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Solvay football fans had seen this movie before — a determined opponent marching into Earl Hadley Stadium and handing the Bearcats a first-round exit from the Section III Class B playoffs.
Holland Patent had done so in 2004, Adirondack a year later. And now, on this warm Friday night in “The Pit”, Solvay again was facing Holland Patent in the opening round — and again was in danger of going out, trailing in the fourth quarter.
Thanks to Jesse Dineen, though, the script would change, as his determined running down the stretch allowed the Bearcats to slip past the Golden Knights 22-21.
Trailing 14-0 early, Solvay had gradually worked its way back into the game, but was still down 21-14 when it took over at its own 31-yard line midway through the fourth quarter.
With its season on the line, the Bearcats began marching, but quickly faced a fourth-down-and-16. Unfazed, Mike Acchione threw downfield — and Tom Hayes caught it, a 20-yard play.
Solvay had to convert two fourth downs on this 69-yard march, as Jonathan Orioli’s short pass to Ben Carl accounted for another saving first down.
Finally, the drive reached HP’s seven-yard line, from where Dineen found the end zone for the touchdown that made it 21-20 with 1:29 left.
Dineen now had 168 yards on 20 carries — but he wasn’t done yet.
Without a reliable kicker, Solvay had to go for two. Again, Dineen got the ball, running for the corner of the end zone. Two HP defenders got to Dineen, but he shrugged off the tackles and crossed the goal line.
The Golden Knights still had time to answer, but managed just one first down as Solvay’s defense closed out one of the more dramatic wins in the program’s storied history.
Part of the drama had to do with events off the field. Earlier in the week, lineman Michael Steves lost his 18-year-old brother, Timothy, whose death remains under investigation. All the Solvay players attended Michael’s wake.
What was more, Dineen’s uncle, legendary Solvay coach Al Merola, has been fighting bladder cancer, this as he celebrates induction into the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame.
Dineen is just 5-6 and 135 pounds, but his athleticism (he’s also a top wrestler) and grit serve as an inspiration for all his Solvay teammates.
That spirit would be needed against HP, who bolted out to a 13-0 lead in the first quarter as Jared Keyte threw a pair of TD passes — 29 yards to Kris Burger, then 58 yards to Dan Fruscella.
By halftime, though, Solvay had moved out in front 14-13. Dineen went first, going 24 yards for a TD near the end of the first quarter, and Orioli followed with his own 18-yard dash to the end zone. In between, Orioli threw a two-point pass to Carl.
So it remained until the latter stages of the third quarter. The Golden Knights move to midfield, then had Fruscella take off on a 47-yard TD run. Keyte’s two-point pass to Erik Porter made it 21-14 in HP’s favor.
Solvay’s defense stepped up at this point, making two key stops to keep HP from getting away and setting up that memorable final drive.
All that talent and heart Solvay showed against Holland Patent will be required in greater quantities if the Bearcats (7-1) want to have a chance in Saturday’s Class B semifinal against defending champion Cazenovia, to be played at 2 p.m. at Chittenango High School.
In going 8-0, the Lakers have outscored its foes 385-55, displaying the same kind of domination it showed when it won the sectional title in 2006. Senior Coleman Koesterer anchors a potent offense where he can throw or run with equal devastation, and Artie Bigsby leads an even better Cazenovia defense that hates giving up any kind of points.
So Solvay’s challenge is big — but the prize, a possible date with Westhill or Marcellus in next Saturday’s Class B final at Cicero-North Syracuse’s Bragman Stadium, is even bigger.