Nov 02, 2010 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
We have a meaningful weekend of football to look forward to – three days of it, not two. Who’d have imagined it?
Already on the slate was the Section III championship games – two on Friday night, then three more on Sunday. In between, there was SU and Louisville, which a lot of people thought would be filler – but has turned killer thanks to the Orange’s 6-2 start. It’s a remarkable turnaround, and not over yet.
There’s plenty of outlets to talk about the Orange, though. Here, we’ll concentrate on the stuff before and after – how the 10 finalists got there, and what to expect on football’s biggest local stage.
Each of the semifinals took a similar track. Sandy Creek trailed Weedsport going into the fourth quarter, only to produce 17 points in that last frame to knock out the Warriors. Onondaga, too, saw the issue in doubt against Beaver River until a late offensive surge backed up the defense’s game’s long domination in a 24-0 verdict.
So that leaves the Comets and Tigers to clash Friday at 5 p.m. in the Dome. Sandy Creek has never played in a sectional final, and expectations going into 2010 were modest. But starting with that Oct. 2 win at Weedsport, the Comets found magic, and coach Mike Stevens did a terrific job bringing a modestly talented roster to the title game.
At OCS, the expectations are slightly higher, thanks to the Mike Hart-Latavius Murray years. No one of that sort is on the roster now, but coach Jason Ryan emphasized strength and power, and got an 8-1 mark out of the Tigers that included a hard-fought 20-14 win over Sandy Creek in the regular-season finale Oct. 16.
What to expect now? Something just as close, with the defenses making points a luxury. Maybe OCS is a slight favorite, but it might be Sandy Creek’s time, at long last.
The Class A final at 7:30 Friday night is, like Class D, a situation where a long-time power confronts a real upstart. Whitesboro is the power, its only defeat coming by a single point at Indian River before a dominant through October that, for coach Tom Schoen’s Warriors, included playoff romps over J-D and Cortland where a rash of turnovers broke things open.
Watertown is the newcomer, breaking free of a long stretch of mediocrity (or worse). Vince Williams, a Watertown alum, has transformed the Cyclones, first by putting together a dominant offensive line, then finding a superstar named Tevion Cappe to handle the rest.
And Cappe has taken over, to the tune of 2,080 yards and 35 touchdowns. Half those yards have come in the last three weeks, including the first-round romp at Whitesboro (458 yards) and a semifinal where Cappe got “only” 258 yards, but the Cyclones still avenged a regular-season loss to Indian River 42-22.
Everyone is waiting to see how the deep, physical and dominant Whitesboro defense deals with Cappe – which may give Watertown quarterback Tyler Augliano a chance to air it out. Also, the Cyclones have to take care of the ball, or Whitesboro could match the 60 it rang up on New Hartford in last year’s final.
For the first game Sunday at 11 a.m., it’s the only confrontation between two undefeated teams – 9-0 General Brown, the defending champions, against 9-0 Cato-Meridian, in its first final since 1993.
And few will give the Blue Devils a chance. They’ll point out that Cato needed a rash of turnovers, plus double overtime, to survive Utica-Notre Dame in the first round, then got more gifts from Watertown IHC in the semifinals – try 10 turnovers – that turned what looked like a toss-up into a 42-7 romp. What they forget is that Nick LaLone is a terrific quarterback and great athlete (note his wrestling record), and that with a senior-heavy lineup, Cato does not get rattled.
The other reason is that, well, GB is really, really good. No semifinal performance, in any class, could even come close to the total beatdown the Lions gave to once-vaunted Ilion. Many thought GB would win – but 62-6? It helps to have a defense that holds the Golden Bombers to 90 rushing yards (when it had 300+ a game this season) and Jon Treen to 29. Plus, the offense is diverse and relentless.
Neither Tom Frears nor C.J. Hannon has coached in a sectional final before. But Frears learned quite well in his long apprenticeship under Steve Fisher, and for that the Lions should repeat – unless Cato’s trend of forcing the opponent into coughing up the ball, a lot, continues.
Ah, Baldwinsville vs. CBA II at 2 p.m. on Sunday. This is a sequel that, somehow, involves payback on both sides.
The Brothers want to avenge last year’s sectional final where, leading at halftime, it got run over by Malik Burks and company in a 30-10 decision. Conversely, the Bees are burning to avenge the unforgettable 14-10 slopfest back on Oct. 14 where a combination of great CBA defense and mud – mostly mud – made the difference.
Both sides met their semifinal challenges – CBA by taking over in the second half against Utica Proctor 27-13, B’ville by fighting past F-M 21-14. The latter game proved more noteworthy because of Tyler Rouse exiting at the end of the first quarter – and Parker Kiff getting 155 yards after replacing Rouse.
Yes, that Bees offensive line remains the key to the whole show. Nick Robinson, Matt Moreland, Jake Margrey, Ryland Jennings and Joe Tanguay will have the proper footing this time to deal with Greg Thomson, Joey Pascarella, Mike Magnarelli, Sam Kelley and the rest of CBA’s quick, charging defenders. At the same time, Tyler Hamblin has spent two seasons working against B’ville’s defense, so he has to know how to go after it. Mix up the run and pass, as usual, and keep them guessing.
Joe Casamento would like to see his best coaching job rewarded with a title. Carl Sanfilippo, having waited 20 years between championships, would prefer a repeat. It’s just about a toss-up to see which coach gets their wish.
Raise your hands if, two weeks ago, you had Cazenovia reaching this Sunday’s 5 p.m. sectional final. Okay, everyone put them down. Now raise your hands if you had Oneida getting there, too. Still waiting…
What Bill Carinci’s Indians have done is nothing short of remarkable. Six days after rival VVS waxed them, Oneida went to Westhill and stunned the defending champs, then got a rematch with VVS eight days later and risked everything in overtime on a two-point run. Matt Barlow made it, by inches, and with a 28-27 win the Indians have a chance at a second title in three years.
As for Tom Neidl’s Lakers, a November date in the finals is becoming routine – it’s now five title games in six years. What isn’t routine is the way Caz survived that tense semifinal with Marcellus, needing a safety in the last two minutes to escape 16-14.
When these two teams met a month ago in Oneida, the Indians led the Lakers (playing without Doyle Judge) in the fourth quarter, only to see Travis Mimms make two big plays (a defensive touchdown, then a fourth-down sack) that keyed an 18-8 victory.
What’s changed in the interim is Barlow’s emergence as a power back that the Indians can use to control the clock. It could come down to which back – Barlow or John Greacen – is more effective picking up yardage. Plus, Jeff Hopsicker is quite good at selling the fakes and taking off.