A year's absence from the biggest stage of Section III football proved too much for the Cazenovia football team to bear.
The Lakers, in pursuit of its third sectional title in four years, went to Rome Free Academy Stadium Friday night and beat Cooperstown, 31-6, to take the South/East division title.
This places Cazenovia in the overall Class C final against General Brown, to be played next Saturday at 11 a.m. at the Carrier Dome. Both the Lakers and Lions have perfect records of 9-0.
As it has done so many times before, Cazenovia relied on familiar winning elements against Cooperstown, from a balanced and wide-ranging attack to a defense that specializes in shutting any opponent down - plus some special-teams magic, too.
The defensive part really mattered, for the Redskins, 8-0 going into the game, had just put up 46 points in the previous round against Canastota and featured a pair of dangerous runners in Tanner Niedzialkowski and Alec Silvera.
Against the Lakers, though, Cooperstown never got on track. Liam Ryan, Cody Foster and Zack Golden served as the defensive anchors once more, as the Redskins' only points came in the second period, on Silvera's 10-yard touchdown run.
By that point, Cazenovia had already put together a pair of scoring drives to seize a 14-0 lead.
Chad Dorrance, coming off his 267-yard effort in the previous round against Holland Patent, scored on a 10-yard run in the first quarter, and he found the end zone again on a four-yard run in the second period.
Silvera's touchdown cut the margin to 14-6, where it remained until the second-half kickoff, when the Lakers struck the game's most crucial blow.
Hoffmann received the kick at his own 14-yard line. Picking up a series of devastating blocks, Hoffman tore up the field and didn't stop until he was in the end zone 86 yards later.