Now the tough part begins for the Cicero-North Syracuse football team -- but at least it goes into that daunting stretch with as much momentum and confidence as anyone could possibly attain in four games.
Moving to 4-0 on the season, the Northstars completed a perfect three-week homestand and kept Fayetteville-Manlius winless last Friday night, bashing the Hornets 36-7 at Bragman Stadium.
This sets up a first-place clash in the Class AA-1 division Friday night, when CNS pays a visit to Alibrandi Stadium to face Christian Brothers Academy, who is also 4-0 after fighting past Liverpool 27-20.
In the course of an undefeated September, CNS outscored its four victims (Central Square, Auburn, Utica Proctor, F-M) by a combined 142-33 margin, though it must be noted that none of those four teams have yet to win a game in 2008.
Then again, the Northstars can do little about the quality of its opposition. It can only strive to improve its own picture - which it has done, week by week, in a precise and overwhelming manner.
These teams met twice in 2007. F-M won in the regular season, but CNS got payback in a wet, turnover-filled Section III Class AA semifinal, so there was plenty of recent history to refer to.
CNS came in quite aware of F-M's o-3 plight, and knew the Hornets would be desperate to turn things around. Thus, from the opening kickoff onward, the Northstars were fully alert, and took quick control.
Twice in the opening period, quarterback Ryan Lacey led scoring drives. Lacey himself finished one march with a one-yard plunge, and the other time Quinton Mitchell converted with an eight-yard touchdown run, which made it 12-0.
Only once did F-M break through against the Northstars' defense, with a second-quarter drive that culminated when quarterback T.J. Earley ran one yard for the TD.