May 17, 2011 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Let the record show that the last bit of athletic activity on the grass field at Fayetteville-Manlius Stadium involved boys lacrosse senior Ari Waffle taking a pass from Jim Krizman and firing a shot into the net past West Genesee goalie Tim Birchler.
That goal, 2:38 into overtime, gave the Hornets a 7-6 victory over the Wildcats in Tuesday night’s regular-season finale – which doubled as the final game before the 47-year-old turf was removed, starting on Wednesday, in favor of a new, community-funded artificial turf that will open for play in mid-September.
Head coach Chris Kenneally noted that it was the first time F-M had ever beaten its long-time nemesis on this field. Other wins over West Genesee have taken place in other venues – even in Camillus – but not here, at least until this night.
To get it, F-M had to overcome a 6-4 deficit in the fourth quarter. It was Waffle igniting the comeback as he made a charge from the right side and, just before entering the crease, diving and beating Birchler to make it 6-5. Prior to that, Waffle, who had 36 goals entering the game, had not recorded a point, bottled up by John Sabert, one of WG’s top defenders.
“I had to step up,” Waffle said. “(Before then), I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to do for the team.”
F-M maintained the pressure as regulation time wound down. Just after using its last time-out, the Hornets found another opening and, with 1:30 left on a delayed penalty, Chris Anklin put in the tying goal.
Anklin won the ensuing face-off and F-M had the last shot of regulation, but could not convert. WG then got the first chance in overtime, only to see Stefan Basile block Matt Schattner’s long shot from the point, setting up one more possession – and Waffle’s game-winner, the only time the Hornets would lead all night.
A pre-game ceremony featured a groundbreaking for the new turf and all-weather track. Superintendent Dr. Corliss Kaiser, assistant superintendent Mike Vespi, athletic director Rich Roy and various F-M student-athletes all took part, as did members of the F-M Community Sports Facility Association that did the fund-raising for the new facility.
Through two years of work that involved countless donations and various forms of fund-raisers, the FMCSFA raised more than $1.35 million, entirely through private means, to put in an all-weather field, with the plan to have it ready for the first home varsity football game on Sept. 16.
In the meantime, there was the not-so-small matter of a game between F-M and West Genesee, a rivalry mostly tilted in the Wildcats’ favor through the decades. To prevent another disappointing outcome, F-M had to clamp down on the defensive side against a potent WG attack.
Having not allowed more than eight goals in any game this season, the Hornets would prove stifling again, as Matt Moro, Cody Barber, Connor Chen and the rest of the back line again played at a hlgh level. Kenneally said the fact that they are top athletes in other sports makes them more effective.
Four times, the Wildcats would go in front, but never gain a lead more than two goals. With top players like Waffle, Krizman and Kevin Lux bottled up, others had to step up – and did, as Derek Andrake scored twice in the first half, including a goal just before halftime to cut the deficit to 4-3.
Another potential crisis emerged when Dylan Donahue scored with less than a second to play in the third quarter to put the Hornets down 6-4. And it held the ball for the first four minutes of the final period, but the Hornets made another big stop, setting up the comeback.
Big as the win was, Kenneally said. “it’s only one game, and now we go to the second season,” meaning the playoffs, as the Hornets look for its first sectional title since 1993.
And despite the 15-1 mark, F-M only had the no. 3 seed behind WG, who had the top seed, and Liverpool, the no. 2 seed. The Hornets meet no. 6 seed Rome Free Academy in the quarterfinals next Tuesday, with the winner to face Liverpool or Henninger in the semifinals May 26 at Cicero-North Syracuse. The finals are May 28, also at CNS.