Oct 21, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Sure, it had been difficult, watching a 13-point lead disappear. But just a few more yards, and the Cazenovia football team would have yet another undefeated regular season and possession of the Class C South division title.
So it stood as time wound down last Saturday afternoon. The 6-0 Lakers trailed 6-0 Westmoreland by three, but had just driven the length of the field to sit on the Bulldogs’ five-yard line.
Cazenovia was one good play from snatching victory — or, if that didn’t happen, were easily within range of a Chris Rogers field goal to tie it and force overtime.
Neither thing would happen.
Nick Matwiejc, a force all afternoon on defense, picked off Carter Franz’s pass in the end zone- and just like that, the Lakers were beaten, 23-20, and forced to go on the road for the duration of the upcoming Section III Class C playoffs.
All through September and October, Cazenovia and Westmoreland had dominated their respective Class C South foes. The Lakers had outscored them 240-31, while the Bulldogs had managed with a combined 168-49 margin.
By doing so, both teams had long secured playoff berths by the time they met. However, the four-division Class C alignment meant that only the winner of this league championship showdown would get to be at home for the opening round.
Perhaps taking some time to work out the nerves, the Lakers and Bulldogs were unable to score in the first quarter — but as the second period started, Cazenovia threatened to take over.
Chad Dorrance put the Lakers on the board, scoring from 15 yards out, one of the few times any Cazenovia runner could find daylight against a tenacious Westmoreland defense that only allowed the Lakers to gain 152 yards on the ground, the lowest total of the season.
Right after Dorrance scored, the Lakers’ defense made a big play when Seth Goldacker picked off a Dan Smith pass and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown. Rogers missed the extra point, but with Cazenovia up 13-0, yet another rout seemed poised to happen.
But just before halftime, Westmoreland put together a solid drive, culminating in Kevin Eisnor’s one-yard scoring plunge. Despite the missed PAT, 13-6 margin at the break gave the Bulldogs the momentum it needed.
Sure enough, in the third quarter, it continued to go Westmoreland’s way. It pounded away at Cazenovia’s defense with the power of running back Justin Becker, who finished with 125 yards on 24 carries.
Becker’s 29-yard TD run and T.J. Losowski’s extra point tied it, 13-13, and when Becker scored on a six-yard run late in the third quarter, the Lakers were down 20-13, its first deficit of the entire season.
Unable to move at all, Cazenovia kept giving the ball to the Bulldogs with chances. Early in the fourth quarter, Westmoreland moved to the Lakers’ 25 and got stalled. But Losowski drilled a school-record 42-yard field goal through the uprights to make it 23-13.
As it turned out, the Bulldogs needed that insurance. Cazenovia roared back down the field and, with 3:25 left, cut the margin to three when Franz hit Tom Colligan on a 30-yard TD pass.
Needing to make a stop after an unsuccessful onside kick, the Lakers’ defense forced a punt, but the Bulldogs pinned Cazenovia at its own five-yard line, without a lot of time to work with.
Franz, under the biggest pressure of his career, started finding receivers and moving his team from one goal line to the other, a 91-yard march. For the day, Franz was 13-for-22 for 172 yards.
Once at the Bulldogs’ four-yard line, the Lakers had a time for one throw to the end zone and the shot at a win. Franz took the snap and ran to his right, then threw to the middle of the end zone. Reading all this, Matwijec, who already had 10 tackles on the day, stepped in front of the receiver and earned the clinching interception.
As a result, Cazenovia will be going to the far northern reaches of the state Friday night to meet Thousand Islands in the opening round of the Class C playoffs at 7 p.m.
Despite a 5-2 record, the Vikings emerged from a three-way tie for first place with Lowville and General Brown as the top seed in Class C North, this despite losing to General Brown (who didn’t make the playoffs) 27-20 in its regular-season finale. The winner here gets Adirondack or Bishop Ludden in next weekend’s semifinal round.