Oct 31, 2009 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Through eight games – and eight wins, most of the convincing kind – the Baldwinsville football team remained fairly immune from the kind of injuries or illnesses that can ruin championship dreams.
It said quite a lot about the Bees that, when such a crisis emerged late in Friday’s Section III Class AA semifinal against Corcoran at Cicero-North Syracuse’s Bragman Stadium, it was ready to handle it.
Casey Colligan got forced into quarterback duty when Niko Manning went out with an injury – but Colligan led a crucial late drive to the winning score, and the Bees held on to beat the Cougars 22-15.
This moved the Bees to 9-0 and its first sectional final since 2002. If it can beat Christian Brothers Academy Saturday at 2 p.m. in the AA title game at the Carrier Dome, B’ville will end a 20-year championship drought.
B’ville went into the Corcoran game as a decided favorite, and for good reason. It was unbeaten and just coming off a 35-14 win over Fayetteville-Manlius in the first round where Malik Burks ran for 311 yards, surpassing the 2,000-yard mark for the season.
Corcoran, meanwhile, needed two overtimes to survive CNS 27-21, not the kind of effort to suggest that the Cougars would give the Bees much trouble.
Still, with a 6-2 mark, Corcoran was a quality opponent, bent on doing the same thing other B’ville foes had tried and failed to do – namely, contain Burks.
Stacking the line of scrimmage with defenders, the Cougars did keep Burks from running wild, as he got 184 yards, but needed 36 carries for that total – a modest average of five yards per carry. Seven times, Burks was stopped behind the line of scrimmage for losses.
That would keep things close all night – as would three B’ville turnovers, each of which Corcoran converted into points.
The Bees went ahead 7-0 in the first quarter on Manning’s three-yard touchdown run, but Corcoran answered by converting a Bees turnover into Riley Stroman’s 30-yard field goal.
One of Burks’ longest runs of the game went 13 yards for a score early in the second quarter to make it 14-3. But when the Bees turned it over a second time, Corcoran quarterback Shakem Buckmon went for the end zone – and found Tyquan Mahon for a 29-yard TD strike.
Though ahead 14-9 at the break, the Bees were about to have a bad third quarter. Not only did a third turnover lead to Chao Porch’s nine-yard TD run that pushed Corcoran in front 15-14, but Manning left the game with a chest injury suffered on the defensive side.
Unable to continue, Manning watched as Colligan, who had only thrown two passes all season, took his turn as the Bees got the ball on its own 20 late in the period, needing to get back in front.
Mostly through tough runs by Burks, the Bees moved toward midfield, but quickly started at a third-down-and-13 at the 49-yard line.
What happened next delighted B’ville fans – and infuriated Corcoran partisans. On a reverse, Ben Messmer threw deep downfield and found Jed Clouston, a 27-yard catch for a first down – though replays later showed the ball hitting the turf before Clouston got it.
Given a huge break, the Bees worked it to the Cougars’ 20. With 10:31 left, Colligan threw into traffic – but found tight end Nick Alenciewicz, who fought his way to the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown. Colligan then hit Clouston on the two-point conversion.
B’ville’s defense did the rest, never letting Corcoran move the ball the rest of the night and clinching the win when, with 2:36 left, Mike Guinta intercepted Buckmon at midfield.
No one knows, at this moment, if Manning will be ready when the Bees meet CBA in the Carrier Dome, but whether he plays or not, it will be quite a challenge.
The Bees rallied from a 14-0 deficit to win a 30-28 classic over the Brothers at Alibrandi Stadium on Sept. 18. That ignited a month-long skid where CBA lost three of four, only to recover and get into the playoffs, then beat Auburn and Henninger (21-20 in the other semifinal) to earn a rematch with B’ville.
CBA, once the most powerful program in the area, has gone four years without a sectional title. Of course, that’s a mere pittance compared to the two-decade wait for the Bees, and in this 100th season of Baldwinsville football, it’s quite appropriate that a championship game is part of the tale.