Oct 17, 2010 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Okay, now that everyone’s dry and warm again, it’s time to breathe, reflect on the high school football regular season just completed, and look ahead to a three-week period of excitement we like to call the Section III playoffs.
After a season of admitted madness of seeing 16 get in in both Class C and D (meaning they started a weekend early), we revert to the traditional style in 2010 – five classes, eight teams in each class, and three rounds to see who gets the banners.
Due to the fact that SU’s football team is playing at home Nov. 6 against Louisville, the sectional finals will fall before and after – D and A on Nov. 5, a Friday night, then C, AA and B on Nov. 7, a Sunday. That means a short week before the regionals for the latter three champions, but I doubt they will mind all that much.
So here are the 20 first-round games, starting in Class AA, where everything changed in one muddy evening of work….or did it?
True, CBA’s enormous 14-10 win at Baldwinsville may have boiled down to the fact that the muddy mess slowed down Tyler Rouse. But it also had to do with a Brothers defense that stayed at home, hit hard and held on when Rouse tried to break tackles. This is clearly Joe Casamento’s best coaching job, and that defense returns to the clean turf of Alibrandi Stadium to deal with West Genesee and its fast-improving pass attack, where Matt Naton and Pat Brown have connected a lot.
And don’t mourn for B’ville too much. They still get to be at home for its first-round game against Corcoran, who started 5-0 before losing a pair of tough games in October. The one encouragement for the Cougars is that Chao Porch topped 200 yards in his last outing and is starting to find his pre-injury speed. But will that matter? Guess what – it’s supposed to rain again Friday, and Pelcher-Arcaro Stadium, as you might seen on TV, took a slight beating.
We could very well see a Baldwinsville-F-M semifinal, which would be tremendous. The Hornets actually own the top seed, sits at 7-0 and faces Liverpool, just seven days following their odd head-to-head regular-season finale. F-M won what amounted to a dress rehearsal, 31-7, with all the usual things (timely passing, diverse ground game, hard-hitting defense) present in what amounted to a dress rehearsal. Expect the Warriors to be tougher in the rematch, but closing the gap might prove too much.
Those other AA games are nice – but seeing Rome Free Academy take on Utica Proctor in the playoffs is beyond special. The state’s longest rivalry, pitting RFA’s power against Proctor’s speed, includes a Sept. 10 classic where the Raiders held on 24-21. Whether it’s as close again depends on if the Black Knights can establish that physical ground game and keep Jordan Treen, Richard Pete and company from springing those big plays they love so much.
As we start to examine Class A, we wonder whether Indian River, in the course of getting bashed by Carthage 32-14, played 48 minutes of possum, knowing its first-place spot and home playoff game was secure. The answer will start to arrive Friday, when Mexico, at 2-5 carrying the worst record of any of the playoff teams, brings its ground game into the north country, needing long possessions to keep the Warriors ‘ explosive running attack from piling up points.
With ESM, the problem is never the regular season, as it again put together a smooth 5-2 mark behind the multiple talents of Tyler Johnson. It’s always been about the playoffs with these Spartans, but without New Hartford to torment them, ESM might feel better about its chances. Watertown, unaccustomed to the playoffs, arrives sky-high, though, and with a flaming-hot back in Tevion Cappe who dropped 391 yards on Camden.
Speaking of Camden, it must absolutely kill Carthage to see the struggling Blue Devils in the playoffs ahead of them. Can Camden justify their place by winning at Cortland? Owners of the top seed, the Purple Tigers swept all five Class A American division foes – but that only came after Camden beat them 35-25 back in their better days in September. In many ways, Cortland is defending the entire American division’s honor. If they can’t win, will anyone?
No, we haven’t forgotten about Whitesboro. The defending champion Warriors possess Class A’s best defense (it gave up 34 points to Watertown, 36 to everyone else), and will be heavily favored at home against J-D. True, the Red Rams shook off a winless September by winning its last three games and have, in Ahkeen Williams and Curtis Walker, a dangerous duo of skill powers. But this isn’t basketball or lacrosse.
So much in Class B was unsettled going into the final weekend – except Cazenovia’s B East title. Now 7-0 after dusting off South Jefferson with four Jeff Hopsicker TD passes, the Lakers will meet…the Lakers. Skaneateles made enormous strides in Tim Green’s first year in charge, but it was low on gas late in the regular season and, at 3-4, need everything to work well to have a chance at Buckley-Volo Field.
A lot of the signs point toward a Cazenovia-Westhill championship classic. The Warriors, after that loss to Homer, dominated down the stretch as its defense settled into familiar form and R.J. Chester stabilized the ground attack. There’s also that Nathan Nigolian guy to worry about. Oneida, a back-door entry after a poor finish to the regular season against rival VVS, draws Westhill in a clash of the last two sectional champions.
In one game, VVS went from playoff doubts to a team everyone else is worried about. Combine the hard running of Collin Way-Dylan Guider with a healthy Tyler Mautner, and it’s quite scary. But Homer is not scared of the Red Devils – not after it won at Westhill, and not after a 6-1 season where it ran and passed the ball with equal success. And revenge is on the Trojans’ mind after it lost to VVS in this exact same round a year ago.
If this is the year where Marcellus finally wins a sectional championship, it’s because Kyle Hastings settles into that leadership role that Will Fiacchi so ably filled before. There’s signs that it’s happening, like four TD passes at Hannibal – and it’s helped that, week after week, the Mustangs defense has been devastating. Holland Patent did well to reach the playoffs, but will need an even better performance Friday on the Marcellus turf.
They paired Class C as North-South and East-West, one team from each division in the four-man brackets. Thus, defending champion General Brown, who survived the challenge from Watertown IHC and won C North again, draws Westmoreland in the first round. The visiting Lions squeaked out a 19-18 win over the Bullodgs the first time, but that was before Dan Smith got hurt. It might prove much harder for Westmoreland to match that September effort in Dexter.
Week-in and week-out, no one in Class C dominated like Ilion did, outscoring seven victims 297-69 as Jon Treen ably led the Golden Bombers along and the defense proved just as good. And that’s a long, long road trip Bishop Ludden is taking out there Friday. Everything for the Gaelic Knights hinge on whether Chris Davis and company can continue to produce big plays like they have in going 5-2 this fall.
Canastota made quite a statement in dismantling Westmoreland 21-0. An experienced core of Raider stars, including Jeff Merrell and Zack Zupan, get physical from the first whistle and never let up. So does Watertown IHC, who took General Brown into the fourth quarter and had to feel proud about its effort against the Lions. Expect lots of sore bodies at Canastota Friday, where the Raiders begin the quest for a first-ever sectional title.
Cato-Meridian started this season with a large group of seniors – and have rode them to a slightly unexpected 7-0 season and the C West championship. Nick LaLone is the spark, and the Blue Devils now welcome the combined Utica-Notre Dame/Rome Catholic squad that won an elimination game with Herkimer on Friday just to reach this point. Vince Sorce ran for 206 yards against the Magicians. He’ll need to be that good at Cato.
Dolgeville starts the Class D playoffs in full pursuit of a record 17th sectional championship. This version of the Blue Devils went 7-0 with ridiculous depth and lots and lots of defense, putting together four shutouts in the first five weeks. Yet it’s still a tricky first-round game that Dolgeville has drawn against Weedsport, who has its own powerful ground game and enough bodies to handle the Dolgeville surge.
Onondaga is back. The Tigers had already impressed people before winning its D West title showdown with Sandy Creek on Saturday. J.J. Rodriguez may not be Mike Hart or Latavius Murray, but he’s plenty good and tough to contain. Cooperstown, whose stars include Hamilton transfer Coley Graham, is charged with trying to slow down OCS, but it’s a long road trip, and OCS might not prove merciful.
It was Sandy Creek that announced its presence by beating Weedsport early in October. Waterville was not sure about its post-season fate until its defense kept Cooperstown off the board in Friday’s 14-0 win that featured Jalen Henderson’s 175 yards on the ground. So it’s a battle-tested group of Indians going north to Comet Country, where someone’s title dreams will end.
And the 20th game pits New York Mills against Beaver River. The Marauders’ six-game win streak and D Central championship is more remarkable when you consider that Mills was down to 17 players (the state requires that you need 16 for a game), and still beat Oriskany 41-12. They could have up to 20 guys on hand for the Beavers, who needed overtime to survive Port Byron and get into this big, exciting show.