Oct 16, 2009 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
It will go into the record books as Liverpool 20, Cicero-North Syracuse 14, the football Warriors maintaining possession of the “Star Wars” trophy in a battle Friday night at Bragman Stadium that stretched into overtime.
Mere numbers, though, only tell a small part of a larger narrative involving momentum changes, pivotal mistakes, heartache and redemption, all of which tumbled out in the last minutes of regulation, plus the OT session.
“We played a sloppy game,” Liverpool head coach Dave Mancuso said. “But when things were tough, our kids responded, didn’t quit and kept their cool.”
The craziness began with just over two minutes to play. Liverpool, protecting a 14-6 lead, was about to clinch victory when sophomore running back Tyland Thompson picked up a first down at the Northstars’ 43-yard line.
But Thompson, trying to stretch for yards he didn’t need, got stripped of the ball – and CNS’s Jaiqwan Jones recovered.
Given a last chance he did not expect, CNS quarterback Ryan Lacey led his team downfield, with two key passes to Austin Hyde and Tom Padula’s 24-yard run. From the Liverpool two-yard line, Padula scored with 33 seconds left, and he also made the two-point conversion on an option pitch to tie the game 14-14.
Somehow, the Warriors had to regroup for overtime, where each time gets a possession at the opponent’s 20-yard line. It was a prospect that, despite the startling turnaround, did not faze Mancuso.
“We though we were the better football team,” he said. “Thus, if we go to overtime, we like our chances.”
Going first, CNS quickly moved to the Warriors’ nine-yard line, poised to score again.
Then good fortune struck the Warriors. Lacey (who went 15-for-18 for 139 yards through the air) went back for a long snap – and the ball flew over his head, 20 yards backwards, and Liverpool’s Derek Eason won the race to the ball, ending the possession.
Any points could win it now, and Liverpool gave it right back to Thompson, who had taken over at tailback after Greg Bell was lost for the season with a torn ACL in his right knee suffered in a win over CBA a week earlier.
Two runs by Thompson netted a first down, and after a penalty, Paris Stenson ran the final three yards for the game-ending touchdown.
Stenson was in for Mike Donitzen, who had done a lot to put the Warriors in position to win. On defense, Donitzen had twice thwarted CNS drives inside Liverpool’s 10-yard line – first with an interception in the end zone in the second quarter, then breaking up a fourth-down pass early in the fourth quarter.
For its part, the Northstars’ defense blanked Liverpool in the first half, getting its own end-zone interception (from Matt Logudice) to break up a first-quarter scoring drive.
CNS took the lead late in the first half in bizarre style. Off a bad snap on Andrew Falvey’s 26-yard field goal, Lacey, the holder, picked up the ball, ran right and fired to Tyler Downey, who caught it on the one-yard line. One play later, Lacey scored on a quarterback sneak, but Dee Harris blocked the extra point.
Still trailing 6-0 in the third quarter, Liverpool turned the game around after Ryan Bragan recovered a fumble near midfield. Thompson accounted for most of the yards on the ensuing drive, including a nine-yard TD sprint that, with Jimmy Wright’s extra point, put Liverpool ahead 7-6.
Less than two minutes later, it was 14-6, as Zavon Watkins returned a punt 30 yards to the CNS 20 and Thompson, on a toss, barreled through the CNS defense into the end zone on the next play from scrimmage. Thompson would finish with 150 rushing yards on 25 carries.
Early in the fourth quarter, Liverpool tried to get away (for the first time), only to have Xavier Richardson intercept Cam Jones’ deep pass. As it turned out, the excitement was only beginning.
Liverpool (6-1), who finished second in the Class AA-1 division, will be back in its temporary home, the Carrier Dome, Friday at 7 p.m. for the first round of the Class AA playoffs against defending champion Henninger. The Black Knights (4-3) had to win its last two games over Auburn and Utica Proctor just to get into the playoffs.
Meanwhile, CNS (4-3), third in AA-1, will visit Corcoran (5-2) for a 6 p.m. kickoff. A win here for the Northstars would win a trip to the semifinals against Baldwinsville or Fayetteville-Manlius, while the Warriors want to reach a semifinal with the CBA-Auburn survivor.