Sep 25, 2009 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
In the middle of the field at Pelcher-Arcaro Stadium Friday night, surrounded by Baldwinsville football team members past and present, Carl Sanfilippo basked in the glory of one of the biggest wins in his quarter-century on the Bees’ sidelines.
“Football is more than a brutal game,” Sanfilippo said. “It’s so much more. Tonight showed that.”
Indeed, it was a glorious spectacle for anyone affiliated with B’ville as it beat bitter rival Liverpool 27-14 in a highly-anticipated clash of the two remaining undefeated Section III Class AA teams.
From the big plays sprung by a well-balanced offense in the first half to a steady defensive effort to the big runs of Malik Burks down the stretch, everything fell into place for B’ville.
The Bees were out to avenge two painful defeats to Liverpool from 2008. The first one was later forfeited by the Warriors due to the use of an ineligible player, but the second came in the opening round of the AA playoffs, and did count. B’ville wanted payback for it all.
Inspired by the team’s huge win at CBA seven days earlier, thousands gathered at Pelcher-Arcaro, filling the bleachers long before kickoff and spilling over to the fence lines surrounding the entire complex.
More important, though, was the presence of dozens of former B’ville players on the sidelines, in town for a reunion to commemorate both the program’s 100th season and Sanfilippo’s 25 years as head coach.
And they could not have drawn up a better start.
Mark Stanard’s low opening kickoff got mishandled by the Warriors, and Louis Eron recovered it on Liverpool’s 30-yard line. Quarterback Niko Manning then delivered two rollout passes to Ben Messmer, the latter going 10 yards for a touchdown.
Down 7-0, Liverpool answered quickly, going to the Bees’ 34-yard line and, on fourth-down-and-inches, surprising the hosts with a pass pay as Cam Jones went deep – and found Ethan Van Morter in the end zone to tie it, 7-7.
Early in the second quarter, Manning again struck through the air, hitting Jed Clouston on a 48-yard pass. One play later, fullback Parker Kiff ran 15 yards for the go-ahead TD, and B’ville had a 14-7 lead.
Kiff wasn’t done, either. On the Bees’ next possession, his 55-yard run was the key play on a 72-yard march where Burks went the final eight yards for a score.
B’ville kept that 21-7 lead deep into the third quarter, but when a long drive ended with Mark Stanard’s 27-yard field goal falling short, it trigged a Liverpool comeback attempt.
Working without a huddle, the Warriors zoomed 80 yards in less than three minutes, with Greg Bell and Mike Donitzen doing most of the work and Donitzen catching a nine-yard TD pass from Jones, making it 21-14.
What happened next sank B’ville’s spirits to the depths – then lifted them back up again.
All night long, the Bees’ offensive line of Ryland Jennings, Nick Alenciewicz, Curtis Stanard, Jake Margrey, Matt Moreland and Nick Robinson had offered near-perfect protection to Manning, who finished nine-for-12 for 122 yards through the air.
But from his own 18, Manning saw the protection break down and cause a fumble. Only because Derek Eason stumbled at the one-yard did the Warriors not get a possible tying touchdown.
Still, the deadlock appeared inevitable, with first-down-and-goal – until Cam Jones fumbled the very next snap, and B’ville’s Raeshaun Jones recovered.
Saved, the Bees ran off seven minutes of clock moving the ball past midfield, a drive that stretched deep into the fourth quarter.
When Liverpool couldn’t respond after forcing a punt, the Bees got the ball back at its own 41 with 4:16 left. On third down, Manning threw long for Clouston – and though the pass fell incomplete, Liverpool was flagged for pass interference.
Moments later, Burks helped wrap it up. Off an option pitch to the right, Burks broke tackles, turned left and ran to the other side of the field on a 37-yard gallop to the Warriors’ five-yard line. Naturally, Burks scored the clinching touchdown on a one-yard run with 1:25 left.
All told, Burks had 192 yards, more than double the total of Bell, who had just 88 yards. That reflected the Bees’ offensive domination, as it picked up 447 total yards to Liverpool’s 226.
As much as B’ville fans and players celebrated this huge win, they know three games remain in the regular season – including next Friday’s Homecoming date with Cicero-North Syracuse.
And that game took on new meaning when CNS came from behind to stun CBA 23-16 on Friday night. Both the Bees and Northstars are 2-0 in league play, so the winner here takes sole possession of first place in the AA-1 division.
That was all in the future, though. This night, with alumni traveling from as far away as Oklahoma and the Carolinas, was a rare moment where past glory – and possible future glory – melded together to produce something quite magical.
“This is a great moment for everyone,” Manning said. Burks agreed, adding, “this means everything.”
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