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.