Just when the dream of a first-ever Section III Class B championship appeared to be slipping away once more, the Marcellus football team rescued itself. Westhill could not do the same.
In an exciting opening round of the Class B playoffs Friday night, the Mustangs trailed visiting Holland Patent going into the fourth quarter, but made all the plays it needed to in the homestretch to beat the Golden Knights 27-17.
At the same time, Westhill saw its reign as sectional champions come to an abrupt end as Oneida showed up and, playing first-rate defense from start to finish, stunned the Warriors by a score of 24-8.
All season long, Marcellus, on its way to a 6-1 mark, had fought inconsistency, especially on the offensive side - potent one minute, silent the next. Only the defense had stood out on a week-to-week basis, and even that notion was tested against Holland Patent, who had only made the playoffs by beating Chittenango in its regular-season finale six days earlier.
Neither team scored in the first quarter. In the second period, as the Mustangs continued to sputter on the offensive side, HP went out in front, first converting on Dan Mower's 38-yard field goal, then finding the end zone on Andy Hurteau's 18-yard touchdown pass to Lucas Bardo.
Down 10-0 at the break, the Mustangs did what it has done many other times this season - in short, find a higher gear for the second half.
Early in the third quarter, Kyle Hastings finally moved his team down the field, reaching the Golden Knights' eight-yard line before Hastings himself ran in for his team's first points of the night.
A missed conversion kept Marcellus behind 10-6, and the trouble appeared to increase when Hurteau found Chris Parshall on a 29-yard scoring pass to make it 17-6. But the Mustangs' other quarterback, Duncan Merritt, stunned HP late in the period when, from the Mustangs' 42, he threw deep and hit Chaz Hayes, who cut through the HP secondary for a 58-yard touchdown to make it 17-12 going into the final period.