A point here or there, and maybe the Chittenango football team would not have needed to sweat about reaching the Section III Class B playoffs.
Yet the Bears had to go beat South Jefferson last Friday night in Adams if it wanted to be sure of post-season play -- which it did, using its defense, a successful conversion and lots of heart to beat the Spartans 7-6.
Back-to-back defeats (14-13 to Oneida, 14-10 to Holland Patent) had left the Bears 1-2 in Class B West play, wondering if it could ever recapture the early-season fun it enjoyed before quarterback Jon Stevens broke two bones in his leg in the Oneida loss.
At least throughout that time, Chittenango's defense had shown an ability to shut down an opponent for long stretches of time. And that would prove handy once more at South Jefferson.
Throughout the first half, the Bears and Spartans exchanged one fruitless possession after another, taking a long time to warm up in the chilly conditions.
They went to halftime still in a 0-0 deadlock, so Chittenango head coach Jack Hayes had no reason to abandon its conservative game plan for quarterback Jake Bicknell.
Often the plays just composed of tailback Kyle Mills runing behind big linemen like Kyle Schiedo, Josh Wright, Ryan Schiedo, Rich Moore and Jordan Barber.
Mills carried the ball 25 times, for 116 yards. That included Chittenango's only touchdown, a 15-yard run in the third quarter. Zach Drake hit the extra point, and that would prove to be quite important.
Chittenango's defense never allowed a point, so all the Bears had to do in the fourth quarter was hang on to the ball and, if possible, spring a big play or two to clinch it.
Instead, a Bicknell pass deep in his own territory got read- and South Jefferson's Kevin Deon returned the interception 30 yards for a touchdown.
Not wanting to kick It, the Spartans decided to go for two and the lead, only to see the Bears stop the potential go-ahead play. South Jefferson would not get close again.
In the opening round of the Class B playoffs Friday night, the Bears (4-3, 2-2 league) will visit Marcellus (6-1) for a 7 p.m. kickoff. The Mustangs have a potent offense, anchored by junior quarterback Will Fiacchi, who has thrown for 1,852 yards this season. The winner gets Oneida or Solvay in next weekend's semifinal round.