Oct 14, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Those that figured the first-place Class AA-1 league football showdown between West Genesee and Christian Brothers Academy would turn on defense were correct, as it turned out.
They just had the wrong defense in mind.
Forcing no less than seven turnovers, five of them in the third quarter alone, the Wildcats rode that defense to a 28-22 victory over the Brothers last Friday night, which offered redemption for the defending state Class AA champions.
When WG, 4-0 and sitting atop the state rankings, took a stunning 47-37 defeat against previously winless Fayetteville-Manlius on Oct. 3, it raised alarms everywhere — except with the Wildcats themselves.
Wildcats head coach Joe Corley said that, in the week leading up to the CBA game, he kept things positive and focused on the basics his players might have started to let slide — things like tackling, for example.
“A loss can be the best thing that can happen to a football team,” said Corley. “As a result, we worked hard this week, and our guys were a lot more focused and confident. They came out flying.”
Indeed, the Wildcats slammed the door on CBA’s offense in each of the Brothers’ first three possessions, offering a hint at the turnover barrage to come when Josh Phillips intercepted Jared DePalma’s first pass of the night.
Of course, CBA has a pretty fair defense of its own, having shut out the likes of Henninger and Cicero-North Syracuse this season. All through the first quarter, the Brothers managed to put pressure on quarterback Jim Marks while, at the same time, effectively covering WG’s dangerous posse of receivers.
It was still 0-0 when, midway through the second quarter, CBA head coach Joe Casamento switched his quarterbacks. Tyler Hamblin, recovered from his sore shoulder, replaced DePalma, and promptly marched his team 73 yards to the game’s first score, a 12-yard touchdown pass from Hamblin to Doug Bailey on fourth down.
Needing its own big play, WG got one when John Glesener took a Marks swing pass, eluded a tackle and went 45 yards deep into CBA territory. Joe Fazio would catch Marks’ 10-yard scoring pass less than a minute before halftime, and the two teams went to the break 7-7.
A great second-half kickoff pinned the Wildcats at its three-yard line, and on the very next play Andy Phillips tackled Ryan McConnell in the end zone, the safety giving CBA a 9-7 lead. Fajri Jackson then returned the free kick to midfield. The Brothers were on the brink of taking command.
Then, with one swift move, everything changed.
On second down, Hamblin took a short drop and intended to throw to the sideline. Knowing that this was coming, WG senior linebacker Dave Hildman jumped right in front of the ball and picked it off. Before CBA knew it, Hildman had gone 56 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
“It was a huge momentum swing,” said Hildman. “And (after that), we kept making play after play.”
Stunned by the TD, Hamblin saw his next pass get picked off, by Mike Moran. Tre Williams atoned when he picked off Marks a minute later, but then Jake Fietkiewicz stepped in with his own interception at the 31 and, on the next play, Marks found Glesener for his second touchdown pass of the night.
Having thrown three interceptions in a span of three minutes, Hamblin went out, but DePalma fared no better, as Mike Carter greeted him with an interception at the Wildcats’ five-yard line.
Following that, WG drove 95 yards in barely two minutes’ time, including a 40-yard pass to Fietkiewicz. Jeremy Jones finished it off, taking a toss and going 40 yards for at touchdown that made it 28-9.
To its immense credit, CBA, who committed two more turnovers (a fumble and interception) during this slump, would make a furious comeback. DePalma threw a six-yard TD pass to Yosh Karbowniczak with 4:38 left, and Tom Trasolini scored on a three-yard run in the last minute to slice the margin to six.
Both times, though, the ensuing onside kick didn’t work, and WG held on. Marks went 10-for-17 for 191 yards, limiting his mistakes, for the most part, in a way that his CBA counterparts could not do.
With both the Wildcats and Brothers at 5-1 (and 3-1 in league play), the quest this week will be to secure first-round home games in the Section III Class AA playoffs with wins, and both will be favored.
WG will be at home to face Cicero-North Syracuse at 6 p.m. on Senior Night, the first meeting between the two sides since last year’s epic Class AA final. Once 4-0, the Northstars have been crippled by injuries and have lost back-to-back games, scoring just seven total points in defeats to CBA and Liverpool.
As for the Brothers, it goes east to face 0-6 Utica Proctor at 7 p.m. In the course of those six defeats, the Raiders have been outscored 209-55, giving CBA a nice chance to let out all the frustration it felt when it left Camillus.