More than any single play, Merritt's throw turned things around. Suddenly, the Mustangs' defense started to shut down everything the Golden Knights threw at them, and soon enough Marcellus had the ball back, ready to finally move in front.
Twice, Hastings moved his team inside HP's 10-yard line. Both times, senior tailback Ricky Alfreds finished things off. Alfreds' seven-yard TD run, plus a two-point pass from Hastings to Steve Raven, put Marcellus ahead 20-17, and after a key interception by, Nick Huss, the Mustangs quickly drove again - and Alfreds scored from four yards out to clinch the victory.
Overall, Alfreds had 104 of his 152 rushing yards (on 23 carries) in the second half. Hayes had four catches for 89 yards, while Jason Decker led the defense with 14 tackles, seven of them solo. Zach WIley's seven tackles included a pair of sacks.
In the Class B semifinals Saturday at 2:30 at Chittenango High School, Marcellus will face 8-0 Cazenovia, who rolled past Skaneateles 47-13 in its opening-round game. The winner here goes to the Carrier Dome Nov. 7 to face Oneida or Vernon-Verona-Sherrill for the sectional title.
As Marcellus moved ahead, Westhill was working against Oneida in a clash of the last two sectional champions. It appeared, on the surface, that the Warriors would have no trouble at all, for the Indians limped into the playoffs coming off a 33-6 loss to its biggest rival, Vernon-Verona-Sherrill. By contrast, Westhill had beaten its last two regular-season opponents (Phoenix and Skaneateles) by a combined 83-14.
Given all of this, what took place on Friday was a total shock, right from the start. As the Warriors struggled to do anything against Oneida's suddenly inspired defense, the Indians twice moved the ball down the field and converted. Matt Barlow scored both touchdowns, on runs of 37 and six yards, and Westhill trailed 12-0.