Oct 07, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
With a prolific, explosive offense capable of putting up astronomical point totals, the Christian Brothers Academy football team became a dynasty in the early part of the millennium.
Now, the Brothers appear to be back to the top of the Class AA pile — but it’s doing the job in an old-fashioned way.
Combining tough runs and precision passing with a fast and ferocious defense, the Brothers are the lone remaining unbeaten AA team after last Friday’s 25-0 shutout of Cicero-North Syracuse on Senior Night at Alibrandi Stadium.
While two other 4-0 teams, West Genesee and Rome Free Academy, suffered stunning defeats on the road (the Wildcats to Fayetteville-Manlius, the Black Knights to Baldwinsville), CBA made sure there wasn’t going to be any surprises here.
From start to finish, the Brothers punished the Northstars on the defensive side, never letting CNS get past the 30-yard line even once. And on offense, CBA waited for good chances to score, then capitalized to put the Northstars away.
Both sides had all kinds of issues to deal with in the week leading up to the game, but CNS, whose 4-0 start had come against teams with a combined mark of 0-16, had far more problems.
To start with, a player on the team contracted Hepatitis A, forcing him off the field and likely meaning that all the other players will need vaccinations in the near-future.
Then came the injuries. Chad Dubiel, CNS’s top wide receiver, broke his collarbone in the Northstars’ Sept. 27 win over Auburn. Then, during the week of practice, top running back Vincent St. James suffered an ankle injury.
As Dubiel and St. James sat out, CBA had its own big issue. Quarterback Tyler Hamblin, who started all four of the Brothers’ season-opening wins, went out after separating his shoulder in the Brothers’ win against Liverpool on the same night Dubiel went down.
This meant that junior Jared DePalma, who had taken some snaps early this season, would start full-time now, a reprise of the set-up he had when he took over for the injured Dan Sisto a year ago.
Taking the opening kickoff, Sisto marched the Brothers 70 yards on a drive that consumed more than five minutes of clock. Mixing in the runs of Fajri Jackson and Tom Trasolini, the Brothers got to the goal line where, from one yard out, Trasolini scored to make it 6-0.
Those were the only points of the first half. And the way CBA’s defense was playing, it was just about all that unit needed.
Quentin Mitchell’s 26-yard run to CBA’s 30-yard line late in the first quarter was the longest play allowed by the Brothers all night, and deepest penetration, too. But on fourth down, as the second quarter got underway, Andy Phillips sacked Ryan Lacey, ending that challenge.
Two other times, CBA saw good scoring chances wasted when CNS defensive back Austin Hyde came up a pair of interceptions. But CBA’s Spencer Dunn got his own interception, and at halftime, it was still 6-0, both sides struggling and slipping in Alibrandi’s grass, made soft by all the rain during the week.
Just before the second half started, some Brothers players were forced to change shoes after CNS said those cleats might have been too long. This upset CBA players and coaches to no end, and they took that anger out the rest of the night.
On the very first play of the half, Garrett Barnard made a diving interception of a Lacey pass. From there, DePalma used up five more minutes going to CNS”s eight-yard line, then waited until fourth down before finding Doug Bailey alone in the left side of the end side to double the margin to 12-0.
Less than two minutes later, it got to 18-0, thanks again to CBA’s defense. Tre Williams fell on a Lacey fumble at the 11-yard line, and moments later Jackson hit on a one-yard TD run.
As a symbol of CNS’s frustrations for the entire night, when it finally got back into Brothers territory late in the third quarter, the Brothers got back-to-back sacks from Dave Greacen and Mike Capella to take care of that issue.
For the night, CBA had just 258 yards of offense, hurt in no small part by 11 penalties that covered 125 yards. DePalma threw 29 times, completing 17 of those passes for 145 yards, a modest yet effective total.
Yet it came back to that defense. With guys like Barnard, Phillips, Williams and Bryant Moore at the helm, the Brothers have pulled off two shutouts this season — the CNS game, plus its 21-0 destruction of Henninger Sept. 6, still the only Black Knights’ defeat this fall.
Now both teams head to huge battles. CNS is at Bragman Stadium to meet archrival Liverpool, the “Star Wars” trophy on the line as they kick off at 7 p.m.
An hour earlier, CBA puts its 5-0 mark and Class AA-1 lead on the line against defending state Class AA champion West Genesee in Camillus. After starting 4-0, the Wildcats got shocked at Fayetteville-Manlius 47-37.
But with quarterback Jim Marks, Jeremy Jones, Joe Fazio and Jake Fietkiwiecz at the helm of an explosive offense that has generated 218 points in five games, WG believes it can solve CBA’s considerable defensive riddle — with a league championship possibly at stake.