Nov 08, 2010 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
A tackle, and a kick. One saved a championship. The other decided a championship.
Those two single acts stood out as the dramatic centerpieces of last weekend’s Section III football finals at the Carrier Dome. The outcomes also proved quite familiar, as three teams repeated from 2009 and the other two returned to what is, for them, familiar territory at the top.
Most of all, though, you had those decisive end-of-game moments that men who are young now will talk about long after they’ve turned old and stopped wearing helmets. They both eerily resembled two of the most famous moments in Super Bowl history.
In the first of the sectional finals on Friday, Onondaga, in Class D, was doing everything it could to hold off first-time finalist Sandy Creek in a game quite similar to their Oct. 15 encounter. The Tigers had a 14-7 lead, but was watching, in complete agony, as the Comets drove toward its goal line, 17 plays in four and a half minutes.
Seven seconds left, ball on the four-yard line, a title at stake. In moments like this, it’s far more difficult to focus and execute, which made what OCS did on the defensive side that much more remarkable.
First, the Tigers blanketed Sandy Creek’s receivers, giving Corey Sprague no choice but to run for it. Then Dan Southard, reading the play, grabbed Southard and tackled him two yards short of the end zone as the clock ran out. Think Mike Jones of the Rams grabbing the Titans’ Kevin Dyson and stopping him one yard short of the goal line at the end of Super Bowl XXIV.
So it’s the sixth OCS sectional title in 10 years, but the first without a superstar back (Mike Hart and Latavius Murray, anyone?) at the helm. Now the Tigers become a major underdog for the regional against Walton, who has flattened past Section III survivors. Silver Creek or Caledonia-Mumford await in Rochester next weekend.
Now let’s fast-forward to Sunday’s Class AA final. Turns out that Baldwinsville and CBA didn’t need a full field of mud to grind it out, as points proved precious and everything came down to one strong right leg.
Just 21 seconds left, and the Brothers are down 16-14. Out of time-outs, Tyler Hamblin has drove his team to the Bees’ 25, but can get no closer, leaving Riley Dixon to try a 42-yard field goal. Talk about pressure – make this low-percentage kick, and CBA reigns. Miss, and B’ville repeats.
If you are a Bills fan, you know how this turned out nearly two decades ago in Tampa. Dixon, like the star-crossed Scott Norwood, absolutely belted the ball, adrenaline sending it halfway up the net. And it starts out straight, with Joe Casmaento convinced it’s good on one sideline and Carl Sanfilippo unable to even watch on the other sideline.
Alas, it hooked to the right. And everyone in red exhaled.
B’ville had forced four turnovers, but nearly blew a 16-7 lead after the failure to cover a punt led to Evan Adamo’s TD return midway through the fourth quarter that set up the final act. Dixon, who had missed an earlier extra point, has absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. He hit a great kick. It just went wide.
The Bees’ next task involves playing the Corning Hawks in the AA regionals. Remember Corning East and Corning West? They’re now combined, and unbeaten, so B’ville’s task (even if Tyler Rouse is back) is considerable if it wants to return to Rochester for the state semifinals against Clarence or Rush-Henrietta.
All the tension of those two finals that came down to the last play should not obscure what the other three champions – Whitesboro, General Brown and Cazenovia – accomplished in the Dome, and they all have reasonable chances to get through the regional round, too.
Start with the Warriors, who now have put up 115 points in consecutive sectional finals, including last Friday’s 55-14 demolition of Watertown. The Cinderella Cyclones had hoped that Tevion Cappe would carry them to glory, but even he couldn’t disguise a defense that got pushed around all night.
How good was Whitesboro? It had a rare 200-200 double as Steve Almond ran for 204 yards and four TD’s, and Bradee Holtslag threw for 202 yards, completing 10 of the 12 passes he tried. That helped create a 35-14 margin before halftime, and the defense did the rest, containing Cappe enough to give coaching dean Tom Schoen yet another title – his fourth in seven years.
Whitesboro will take the measure of Maine-Endwell in the regionals Friday night. Meanwhile, the obligatory Sweet Home-Rochester Aquinas showdown takes place in the west as Sweet Home, out to win a third straight state title, has to conquer the Irish again.
Two days after winning in the Dome, Whitesboro saw its sectional record of 60 points in a final obliterated, thanks to those fine folks from General Brown who, well, did not like it too much when Cato-Meridian hung around in a 22-22 first half during the Class C finals.
The Lions’ response? Try 44 points in the second half of a 66-36 affair that made it five championships in eight years – and proved that, Steve Fisher or no Steve Fisher, the Dexter dynasty is still smashing everyone in sight. GB has scored a ridiculous 186 points in three playoff games.
It all turned when Cato tried an onside kick to open the third quarter and couldn’t fall on it. Within two minutes, the Lions had scored two touchdowns, and it kept going from there, the Blue Devils simply overwhelmed the way Ilion was a week earlier as Nick Klusacek, Devin Tyler, Nick Frears and company had a good time trying to outscore Jim Boeheim’s guys on an average night.
So we have a tasty Class C regional rematch on Saturday morning – General Brown against Chenango Forks, the reigning dynasty of the Southern Tier. Last season, the two met near Binghamton, and it went 27-0 to Forks. Every Lion player has remembered and wants revenge. What’s more, there could be an opening as two-time defending state champ Southwestern got ousted by Fredonia, who meets Letchworth in the western regional.
Last, and far from least, is Cazenovia. It’s remarkable that the Lakers, champs in 2006 and 2007, went down to Class C for two years and couldn’t snatch a title either time, but that the moment it got promoted, the banner-winning resumed.
Oneida, in the Class B finals, proved a formidable last obstacle for Caz, even enjoying an 8-7 halftime lead and a real chance deep into the fourth quarter. But the well-rounded Lakers put together two beautiful long drives to control the second-half clock and rode the multiple talents of Jeff Hopsicker to a 22-8 triumph over the Indians.
Hopsicker mixed in 147 yards on the ground and 93 yards through the air, most of them in the second half as his 40-yard TD run with 1:34 left clinched matters. When Oneida threatened, Caz’s defense, led by Liam Ryan and Travis Mimms (who had big plays in the first meeting with the Indians a month ago), made the key stops.
Chenango Valley (not to be confused with Chenango Forks, thank God for Caz fans who remember those ’05 and ’06 regionals), awaits in Saturday night’s regional at ESM Stadium. What lies down the road? Possibly Hornell, a defending state champ who merely won its sectional final over Midlakes by the small margin of 67-0. Hornell plays Alden in the West regional.