Nov 15, 2009 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
A new week, a new opponent, a new challenge to face and milestone to clear — all of it is becoming commonplace for the Baldwinsville football team.
Down by two touchdowns early in last Saturday’s Class AA regional final against Union-Endicott at Vestal High School, the Bees turned it around by halftime and kept on adding up points until it had registered a 49-34 victory over the Tigers.
This sends B’ville (11-0) into its first-ever AA state semifinal, to be played at Rochester’s Marina Auto Stadium Saturday night at 6 p.m. against North Tonawanda, who is also 11-0. The winner plays New Rochelle or Saratoga Springs in the state title game Nov. 29 in the Carrier Dome.
As has been the case all season, the Bees rode the running of Malik Burks to victory. Though his 36 carries did not quite match the 43 he had against CBA in the sectional AA final, Burks picked up 317 yards, plus four touchdowns.
Most importantly, Burks and his powerful running helped B’ville overcome a potentially disastrous start.
The first time Section IV champion Union-Endicott had the ball, it moved 64 yards in eight plays against the Bees’ defense, mostly through the runs of Rutgers-bound senior Jordan Thomas, who finished the drive with a three-yard touchdown run.
When B’ville couldn’t move the ball, U-E forced a punt — then gave it right back to Thomas, who broke loose for a 54-yard TD run.
Just like that, the Bees trailed, 14-0, but this was nothing new. B’ville had fallen behind in each of its last two playoff games (against CBA and Corcoran), but had turned things around. This would prove no different.
Unleashing its patented draw play on its next drive, the Bees saw Burks go 55 yards near the Tigers’ goal line, and before U-E could recover, fullback Parker Kiff drove through the line 19 yards for his team’s first touchdown.
Late in this wild first quarter, the Tigers saw a drive end with a missed field goal. Pushed back to its own 16, the Bees, still employing Casey Colligan at quarterback in place of an injured Niko Manning, came up with something spectacular.
Colligan faked a handoff to Burks, then gave it to wide receiver Jed Clouston on a reverse. The Tigers’ defense moved up — but Clouston threw over them, deep, and found a wide-open Mike Guinta, who went the rest of the way for an 84-yard touchdown.
Having tied it 14-14, the Bees got another break when Ben Messmer recovered a muffed squib kick and, early in the second quarter, surged in front for the first time when Burks found a hole and went 28 yards for his first TD of the night.
U-E cut it to 21-20 with its own big play, Mario Carroll’s 76-yard TD pass to Lucas Ward, and though the extra point was missed, it looked like that slim one-point margin would hold until halftime.
But in another special-teams gaffe, The Tigers fumbled a punt inside its own 20, leading to a short drive and Burks scoring from three yards out. Mark Stanard’s fourth straight extra point made it 28-20 going into the break.
Early in the third quarter, U-E drove and pulled within two, 28-26, on Carroll’s one-yard sneak, only to miss the tying two-point conversion.
As before, the Bees would respond, scoring on its next three possessions to thwart any Tiger comeback. With linemen Ryland Jennings, Matt Moreland, Curtis Stanard, Jake Margrey and Nick Robinson pounding away, Burks’ runs set up Colligan’s four-yard TD sneak, and it went to the fourth quarter with B’ville in front 35-26.
Even after Burks’ third TD, on a 20-yard run, U-E wouldn’t go away, as Thomas scored on a six-yard run and two-point conversion to make it 42-34. If the Tigers could make a defensive stop, it could get a shot at a tie.
Burks made sure that didn’t take place. With 1:50 left, he took one more handoff at his own 42-yard line and took off through a hole in the middle of the line, not stopping until he was in the end zone 58 yards later — and the Bees’ trip to Rochester was secure.
Thomas finished with 190 yards and three touchdowns, but only 48 of those yards came in the second half, as the Bees’ defense did a better job of containment. For its part, B’ville had 508 yards of total offense, nearly 400 of them on the ground.
Now B’ville gets North Tonawanda, who stayed unbeaten by holding off Section V champion Webster Schroeder 26-24 in its regional final. The Lumberjacks, like the Bees, are big and powerful, so the battles in the trenches will go a long way into determining which side will go to the Carrier Dome with a 12-0 mark — and a chance at the ultimate prize.