Oct 24, 2010 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Now that the two days of first-round Section III football playoff activity has subsided, we’re left with 20 survivors and 10 semifinal games that feature everything from big-time showdowns to fierce rivalries and, to spice things up, some real surprises.
Who, if anyone, anticipated Oneida, smashed by VVS, to show up at Westhill six days later and hold the defending Class B champions without an offensive point? Beaver River, with no profile to speak of, taking out New York Mills? Watertown getting 50 first-half points at ESM?
And most of all, Weedsport winning at Dolgeville? Really?
They’re still stunned in Blue Devil land after the green-clad Warriors showed up and won 28-27. Remember, Weedsport was only in the playoffs because it edged West Canada on a wild-card tie-breaker by 0.08 points. But Will Wittmer ran for 205 yards and, more importantly, the Warriors’ defense didn’t flinch when, after Dolgeville cut it to one with 3:56 left, Chris Connolly went for two – and Mike Barnes was stopped inches from the goal line. Connolly didn’t second-guess himself, even though time was left and Cody Petras had made all three of his PAT’s. Dolgeville fans might not be as forgiving.
Thanks to that, we’ve got a Class D West festival in the semifinals on Friday. On one side is Weedsport and Sandy Creek, meeting at Liverpool after the Comets streaked away from Waterville 42-14. On the other side is Onondaga, rugged survivors of a 14-7 battle with Cooperstown, meeting the only outsider, those pesky guys from Beaver River at RFA Stadium. All the Beavers did was go to New York Mills, fall behind 21-9, then come back and pull it out 24-21, Paul Puddington (son of coach Steve) scoring the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter.
It’s very tempting to proclaim that Saturday’s Class C semifinal at Liverpool between defending champ General Brown and Ilion is the real title game. You’ve got 8-0 against 8-0, and they’ve both maimed most of their opposition this fall, including first-round laughers where the Lions smashed Westmoreland 58-8 and the Golden Bombmers bashed Bishop Ludden 52-6. Only GB’s late-game experience gives them any kind of edge, but they’ve got to contain Jon Treen to get back to the Carrier Dome.
Cato-Meridian and Watertown IHC arrive at their Class C semifinal at Central Square off twin cases of high drama on Friday. Cato needed two overtimes and seven Utica-Notre Dame turnovers before it finally escaped, 42-36, on a fourth-down TD pass from Nick LaLone to Utah Perham that kept the game from going longer. IHC needed its own kind of fortune at Canastota in the form of a muffed punt with less than two minutes left that set up the second Anthony Magovney game-winning last-second field goal in three weeks and a 24-22 win. Simply put, the Cavaliers will not give the Blue Devils as many gifts as the Jugglers did.
Oneida registered the first figurative earthquake of the weekend when it won 24-8 at Oneida. The Indians never let the Warriors get its vaunted passing game off the ground, and found that it had in Matt Barlow a back that liked to run, a lot – to the tune of 42 carries and 260 yards. A day later, having moved its playoff home date to New Hartford, VVS unleashed a healthy Tyler Mautner again, and his 278 yards and four TDs keyed a wild 35-20 win over Homer where the Red Devils led 21-0, nearly blew all of it, then scored twice in the fourth quarter to get clear.
That means – you guessed it – the Oneida-VVS rivalry is on again for Saturday’s semifinal at Chittenango. Given how the Red Devils pushed the Indians around in that 33-7 game at the end of the regular season, the Indians will be burning for atonement. And it gives VVS a real dilemma – run at them, which worked so well the first time? Or let Mautner fling it? Nothing much on the line with that decision – except bragging rights for a long time and a Dome ticket.
Before that, though, it’s 8-0 Cazenovia taking on 7-1 Marcellus on that same Chittenango turf. Caz needed a half to shake off its fellow stubborn Lakers from Skaneateles in eventual 47-13 style. The Mustangs needed much longer – like into the fourth quarter – before finally taking a lead against Holland Patent and getting a 27-17 win. For much of the season, Marcellus has maddened its own coaches and fans by playing one great half and one terrible half, and getting away with it. Needless to say, 48 superb minutes are needed against Jeff Hopsicker, John Greacen, Doyle Judge and the rest of the Laker machine.
Call Class A Whitesboro and the Three Upstarts, if you wish. Whitesboro is expected to be here, and expected to win in the kind of 62-7 style that it did against J-D in the first round. Cortland is new to all this, though it showed, in its 22-0 blanking of Camden, just how much it had grown since surrendering 35 to those same Blue Devils in September. On Friday night at Chittenango, the Purple Tigers take the measure of the Warriors. Both teams have fine defenses. But the question is whether Whitesboro, with all its depth and all the coaching know-how Tom Schoen and his staff bring to the field, will take Cortland lightly. That’s very doubtful.
It is not a stretch to say that the Class A semifinal between Indian River and Watertown at Carthage on Friday might provide the most entertainment of all. On one side is the explosive, high-scoring Warriors, who amassed 408 rushing yards in dropping Mexico 51-14 and has two dominant backs in Darrius Bryant and Shawn Dukes. On the other side is the Cyclones, just as explosive and just as high-scoring. And that’s just Tevion Cappe.
What Cappe did at ESM, as a follow-up to his 391-yard exhibition against Camden, was breathtaking. How about 458 yards? That was just the third-highest total for a single game in state history, and it helped Watertown score 50 points in the first half to bury the Spartans. Now it’s the rematch with IR, who beat the Cyclones 52-30 in the regular season. There could be more points this time as someone will get a shot at their first-ever sectional championship.
Only in Class AA did all of the home teams win in the first round. And only Utica Proctor’s 42-28 win over RFA in the first-ever playoff meeting between the ancient rivals had any suspense going into the fourth quarter, as the Raiders, down 28-27, used a double-reverse pass (Jordan Treen eventually finding Walkery Mills) to move ahead for good. And it didn’t hurt to have Richard Pete run for 205 yards and score twice.
Proctor will need those big plays, and a lot more, to topple CBA in Saturday’s semifinal at CNS’s Bragman Stadium. The Brothers, in the course of knocking out West Genesee 55-6, bore an awful resemblance to that purple juggernaut that everyone grew to loathe (and imitate) early in the millennium – explosive offense, hard-hitting defense, the whole package. In Utica, they must wonder – why is it that every time the Raiders get good, CBA is here to stand in their way?
Once CBA and Proctor are done at CNS, the other semifinal takes the stage – a little affair between Baldwinsville and F-M. Yes, it’s good enough to be a final, and both the Bees and Hornets know it. Having easily handled their respective opening-round affairs (B’ville over Corcoran 40-6, F-M over Liverpool 31-7), the focus immediately turned to the epic ahead, already being called the “Bug Bowl”.
Where it might all come down to is how the Brett Strickland-led F-M defensive line, which has caused all kinds of havoc in eight straight wins, fares against the mountainous B’ville offensive line. If green prevails, then Tyler Rouse might not get started, just as what happened in the mud against CBA. If red prevails, then Rouse will get into his usual tackle-busting, legs-churning, run-away-from-everyone-else routine, and the Bees will get a return ticket to the Dome.