Oct 30, 2007 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Perhaps it was fitting that a steady, growing rain fell over Bragman Stadium last Friday night when the West Genesee football team met Liverpool in the Section III Class AA semifinal.
For as the Wildcats’ impressive 31-14 victory over the Warriors showed, this program is steadily washing away nearly two decades of neglect and futility and turning into a gridiron power again.
Now all that stands between WG and its first sectional title since 1988 is Cicero-North Syracuse, playing at home on that same Bragman Stadium turf Saturday at 2 p.m.
“Just to see that all our hard work is paying off is great,” said senior quarterback Tim Moran. “The program has turned the corner.”
Head coach Steve Bush said the success is as much due to the bond the players have off the field than anything they show once play begins.
“There’s a great chemistry here and a close group of kids pulling for each other,” he said. “They can walk through school with their heads held high.”
For Bush, his staff and his players, the main challenge it confronted against Liverpool (coached by one-time WG coach Dave Mancuso) was trying to again beat a team it conquered before. The Wildcats won, 24-21, back on Sept. 14 in a game decided by Luke Cometti’s last-minute field goal.
Adding to the dilemma was the way Liverpool started the game. Off a fine kickoff return by T.J. Davis to midfield, the Warriors took nearly five minutes methodically marching to the end zone. Dom Caruso’s three-yard touchdown put WG in a quick 7-0 hole.
“We were sluggish at the beginning,” said Bush.
From that point forward, though, the Wildcats simply dominated. On its first drive, WG moved to Liverpool’s 29-yard line, where Ben Waldron made an electrifying run down the right sideline and battled his way to the end zone, tying the game at 7-7.
Right after that, the Warriors began to have trouble handling the ball, and Dave Hildman pounced on it at Liverpool’s 36. A few plays later, Moran, from the 15, threw a short pass to Joe Fazio at the 10, and Fazio spun around one tackle, found daylight and dragged another defender into the end zone, giving the Wildcats the lead for good.
Bad snaps, combined with sacks from Dan Kolinski and Nick Cammuso, led to another WG score in the second quarter. A late flag negated Jake Fietkiewicz’s punt return for a touchdown, but the short field led to a quick six points as Waldron, from two yards out, made it 21-7.
So it would stay until halftime, thanks to a huge stand late in the second quarter where the Warriors reached the Wildcats’ three-yard line, but Tyler Kamide’s fourth-down pass to the end zone was broken up.
As the rain got worse, both teams had trouble with snaps in the third quarter, but WG settled down first, as a key 30-yard run by Jeremy Jones placed the Wildcats in scoring position. As he has done so many times this season, Cometti came up with a big kick, booting a 20-yard field goal through the uprights.
Now down 24-7, Liverpool had to throw, far from what it wanted to do. But early in the fourth quarter, it went on a frantic 65-yard drive and culminated it with Kamide throwing a 15-yard TD pass to Zach Crotty on fourth down with 10:09 to play.
WG helped by fumbling on first play of the ensuing possession, and Liverpool promptly moved inside the Wildcats’ 20. Again, though, the defense made a huge play, as George Eunice pulled off an end-zone interception with 7:38 left that kept the margin at 24-14, though.
Most teams with a 10-point lead would run the ball and eat up the clock, and with Waldron on his way to 147 yards on 22 carries, the Warriors figured WG would do the same.
Liverpool figured wrong. On third down-and-nine from his own 21, Moran called a time-out. Seeing Liverpool crowd the line of scrimmage, Moran figured he could take a chance.
Going back to throw, and again seeing the short routes covered, Moran threw deep down the middle, through the driving rain. Fietkiewicz, at full speed, caught the ball and never stopped until he was in the end zone, 79 yards later. WG had just sealed a trip to the Class AA title game.
“They were packing everyone in, so we figured that we got to take a shot here,” said Bush.
Shortly after the win, the Wildcats found out that CNS had knocked out Fayetteville-Manlius in a tense 16-13 battle at Henninger. And the final was set, a match-up of two programs starving for a championship (CNS has never won a sectional crown).
When they first met this season, on Oct. 12, the Class AA-1 division title was on the line. WG saw a 27-13 lead disappear in the second half, as the Northstars rallied and won 30-27 on Andrew Falvey’s field goal as time ran out.
A mere 22 days will pass between that initial meeting and the rematch, on that same CNS turf, with a sectional championship on the line.