When the West Genesee football team left the field last Friday night at Fayetteville-Manlius, the last thing it saw was a swarm of F-M students on the field, giddy in celebration over the biggest surprise of the Section III season so far.
In the minds of most, what was supposed to happen was that the 4-0 Wildcats, with its high-octane offense, would swoop in, keep the 0-4 Hornets winless, and move on to this Friday's Class AA-1 league first-place showdown with Christian Brothers Academy.
What did happen, though, threw the whole AA championship race wide-open.
Playing with focus, urgency, emotion and complete confidence, the Hornets built a 23-point lead on the shocked Wildcats, then held on for dear life at the end to earn a 47-37 victory that might, by the time all is said and done, propel F-M to the playoffs.
That's right, folks, the playoffs.
For anyone at 0-4, about to face the defending state Class AA champions and no. 1-ranked team in the state, the mere thought of a victory, much less a late surge to reach the post-season, would provoke laughter and scorn.
But F-M head coach Paul Muench and his players saw it in a far different light. Muench said his team had shown lots of heart and spirit while dropping four games in a row to teams with a combined mark of 15-1, and that sooner or later that hard work would lead to results.
Winners of 10 in a row dating back to 2007, WG received the first surprising blow when F-M quarterback T.J. Earley moved his team to the Wildcats' 34-yard line, then threw deep to find Mike O'Neil for the game's first touchdown.
Responding well, WG zoomed into a 10-6 lead, capping one drive with Joe Fazio's 30-yard field goal, then moving ahead when quarterback Jim Marks hit Jake Fietkiewicz on a 33-yard TD pass. It was Fietkiewicz's 10th touchdown of the season.