Oct 21, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Everyone at Pelcher-Arcaro Stadium was on their feet, roaring in the raw October chill as the Baldwinsville football team lined up for one more play.
The Bees were in front of Corcoran by a point with less than one second to play, but the Cougars were on B’ville’s seven-yard line with a chance to win. Since the Cougars did not have a kicker capable of a winning field-goal try, it had to go into the end zone on this play, or get beat.
Rashied Burns took the snap from center and rolled left. B’ville’s defensive backs covered every Corcoran wide receiver, limiting Burns’ options.
Finally, at the last moment, Burns decided to run for it, something he had done most of the night with a fair amount of success, including a pair of touchdowns.
This time, though, a swarm of red jerseys descended on Burns as he got tackled near the 10-yard line, and soon the entire team was on the field, joyfully celebrating a 27-26 victory, the Bees’ fourth in a row.
“We stood up when we had to,” said head coach Carl Sanfilippo.
The news got even better when, an hour later, Henninger rallied past Rome Free Academy 30-28. This put the Bees (4-1 league, 5-2 overall) alone in second place in the final Class AA-2 division standings behind Henninger and secured a home game for this weekend’s opening round of the AA playoffs.
All of this is a stunning turnaround for a team that missed the playoffs in both 2006 and 2007, and would have started 0-3 this season were it not for Liverpool’s forfeit of its Sept. 5 win over the Bees.
Perhaps fittingly, the game against Corcoran would feature extreme behavior — flawless effort at first, a total collapse in the middle, and a tense second half that would not settle itself until the final play.
At first, the Bees threatened to run the Cougars out of town on Senior Night. With Corcoran’s defense fixated on stopping 1,000-yard rusher Malik Burks, it was quarterback Niko Manning that flew out of the pocket and scored the game’s first points on a 37-yard touchdown run late in the opening period.
This culminated a 93-yard march that followed a Tyler Monnat interception — but in the middle of the drive, fullback Joe Cavedine went down with an ankle injury and left the game, not to return.
The Bees’ defense continued to shine when, on a floating option pitch, Jeff Pond stepped in front and returned the interception 60 yards for a touchdown. Then Burks joined the fun, scoring on a 27-yard run early in the second quarter and also running in for two points. Just like that, it was 20-0, and threatening to be a rout.
Here, B’ville relaxed — and just like the previous week, when it saw a 21-7 lead melt away late against Auburn (though it held on to win 21-20), the Bees would pay for that lapse.
Running most of the time, Burns led the Cougars on an 86-yard drive, going the final 15 yards for a TD plus getting the two-point conversion to make it 20-8. Then, when a trick play led to a Laquan Rouse interception, Burns capitalized by going 31 yards for a TD, and the Bees’ lead was down to 20-14 at halftime.
On a toss handoff early in the third quarter, Cordell Grant ran 35 yards to the end zone, and suddenly the game was a 20-20 tie. In less than a quarter, the supposed blowout had turned into a fierce fight.
Less than two minutes later, Burks added a clip to the highlight reel, running to the sideline, then back to the middle and eluding tackles on a 57-yard gallop to the end zone to put the Bees back in front, 27-20. The blocks of linemen Brian Wilson, Nick Williamson, Floyd Sweet, Nick Robinson and Jake Margrey helped Burks and his teammates all night long.
Burns answered again late in the period, going 20 yards for the TD. But as was the case all game, Corcoran went for two and couldn’t make it, leaving the deficit at one, but plenty of time to do something about it.
Sure enough, the Cougars moved to the Bees’ 10-yard line early in the fourth quarter, only to have, on fourth down, B’ville’s line stuff Grant with eight minutes to play.
B’ville then ate up six minutes of clock picking up a trio of first downs. But it could not get the last first down to ice the game, and after a punt, Corcoran took over on its own 20-yard line with 1:48 to play.
With all of its time-outs left, the Cougars quickly marched into scoring position, with Burns using runs of 20 and 25 yards to cover a lot of ground. But once inside the 20, Corcoran burned its time-outs fast, and without a kicker, had to start to scramble.
And when the Bees stopped a pair of runs inside the 10, Burns was forced to spike the ball on third down just a second before time ran out. This led to the final play, and one more big stand from the B’ville defenders.
For all that good work, the Bees get a unique chance at payback when it meets Liverpool Friday in the opening round of the Class AA playoffs at 6 p.m., even though the Bees won the initial meeting back on Sept. 5.
Acutally, the win only came about because Liverpool used an ineligible player and had to forfeit the game. In actuality, the Warriors controlled most of that game and made things worse by engaging the Bees in a third-quarter sideline brawl that led to a handful of suspensions.
Likely, the rematch will be more peaceful — but it carries more meaning, too, as the winner moves on to face West Genesee or Corcoran in next weekend’s AA semifinals.