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Stalwarts, surprises mark football semifinal clashes

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.

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