Sep 11, 2007 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
As a whole, the West Genesee football team ran over to the stands at Wildcat Stadium that, seconds earlier, were shaking with noise not heard at these games in a long time.
Players and students mixed together, sharing hugs and high-fives, knowing they had witnessed what could turn out to be a transforming moment in the football program’s history.
Down by double digits to defending state Class AA champion Auburn last Friday night, the Wildcats refused to quit, sustained two long and effective scoring drives, and played big-time defense at the end to beat the Maroons 13-12.
Even witnessing the celebration from afar, head coach Steve Bush said he understood the good feelings.
“Our kids have gone without recognition for a long time and they really deserve this,” he said.
More than 2,000 fans crammed the stands in Camillus, braving the hot and windy conditions to witness a game where every point proved to be precious.
Each side would drive deep into opponents’ territory in the first half, only to turn it over. Auburn’s Matt Hoey fumbled on WG’s five-yard line into the end zone and Nick Aiken recovered for a touchback, while Wildcat quarterback Tim Moran coughed it up, too, in the second quarter as his team tried to get on the board.
Late in the second quarter, the Maroons, with the wind at its backs, marched 69 yards to the first points of the night. From the 12-yard line, Chris Gomez rolled right, threw high — and Hoey leapt up and caught it for the touchdown.
Down 6-0, WG tried to answer before halftime, driving again into Auburn territory before Moran was sacked and fumbled, allowing Auburn to recover and go into the break in front.
Those turnovers were discouraging enough. But the Maroons made it worse when, late in the third quarter, Ismail Brooks took a punt at the 50-yard line. Brooks ran right, then went back left and picked up big blocks to go down the left sideline all the way to the end zone to double the Wildcats’ deficit to 12-0.
Despite all this, said Moran, he believed his team could still win.
“We knew we were the better team and we had the mentality to win this game,” he said.
So instead of fading into the background, as it had done so many times in so many important games in recent years, the Wildcats started to roar.
Moran started to find his groove with a key third-down pass to Luke Cometti on the drive following Brooks’ TD return. That 11-yard play served as the catalyst for an 11-play, 73-yard march through the Maroons’ defense where Cometti and Jake Fietkiewictz proved to be the main targets.
Ben Waldron ran the last two yards into the end zone, and Cometti’s extra point made it 12-7 just before the third quarter ended. More importantly, it brought the Wildcat crowd to life, and for the rest of the game, it roared like a championship was at stake, firing up every player in blue and gold.
Auburn, rattled, went three-and-out, and WG got the ball back early in the final period. It then marched 67 yards, with Moran finding Fietkiewicz and Joe Kesler for big pass plays and Ryan McConnell going 19 yards on a big run. McConnell also got the TD on a four-yard run with 8:44 to play, and the Wildcats were in front.
Now it had to hang on. After an exchange of possessions, Auburn regained the ball with 5:49 left and marched to WG’s 34-yard line, knowing it had the wind at its back and a kicker in Hoey that could put the Maroons back in front.
But at just the right moment, the Wildcats rushed Gomez and forced a throw over the middle right at Cometti, who picked it off. A couple of first downs later, it was time to celebrate.
Moran could not have played better down the stretch. In just his second varsity start, he went 19-for-25 for 182 yards, a superb display of accuracy backed by a diverse corps of receivers and good protection from the line of Stefan Cavedine, Craig Simmons, Ben Wysokowski, Steve Pooler and Tony Pedrotti.
Now, for the 2-0 Wildcats, the trick will be to take this huge victory and turn it into even greater success in the Class AA-1 league.
It can start Friday night at 7 p.m., when WG visits Liverpool. The Warriors are also 2-0 after hard-fought wins over Corcoran and Baldwinsville, and extra motivation is provided by the fact that one-time WG head coach Dave Mancuso now leads the team on the other sideline.