Not so long ago, the mere thought of the Cazenovia boys soccer team as a contender for both league and sectional honors was preposterous.
But now the Lakers are undefeated and alone in first place in the OHSL Liberty division, having gone through one of its toughest stretches of the schedule intact.
A key step in this process came last Thursday at the Fenner Street complex when Cazenovia, led by Tim Wheeler and a fine collective effort on defense, put together a 2-1 victory over its namesakes from Skaneateles.
Having lost back-to-back games following a 4-0 start, the western Lakers were desperate to avoid a third consecutive defeat, and quite capable of knocking the eastern Lakers out of the unbeaten ranks.
Wheeler first struck in the 15th minute, as his free kick from the right side floated to the middle -- and Elliot Dydo headed it past Skaneateles goalie Jake Bird.
Less than five minutes later, the western Lakers drew even, 1-1, when it attacked and drew Colin Hill out of position before Eric Stucker slipped the ball to Michael Tonzi, who shot it into the unoccupied net.
It looked like the two sides would go to halftime still even. But just 1:23 before the break, Cazenovia drew a corner kick. Wheeler hit it from the left side and, as Bird and all the Skaneateles defenders rushed to the ball, Max Frangione slipped a touch shot past all of them for the go-ahead goal.
All through the second half, the eastern Lakers clung to that lead. Hill had nine saves, but nearly gave it away in the 55th minute when his punch clearing attempt went straight to Austin Parker, but Parker's point-blank shot went over the net.
Thanks to Bird's 13 saves, Cazenovia could not add to the lead. But Dydo, Will McCall, Tom Owens, Alex Meade, Eric Janovsky and the rest of the defensive line prevented any close Skaneateles chance in the last 20 minutes.