May 28, 2011 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
In a complete and convincing manner, the Cazenovia boys lacrosse team seized the first Section III championship in the program’s history.
A patient and opportunistic attack, combined with a defensive effort as good as any this season, helped the Lakers conquer defending champion Skaneateles 12-6 Saturday afternoon in the Class C final at Cicero-North Syracuse’s Bragman Stadium.
“We’ve come a long way, and it’s a great feeling for our school,” said senior Sean Cannizzaro.
According to head coach Jim Longo, who has led the Lakers’ program from the start less than 15 years ago, it’s a victory in which many can share the glory.
“It’s a credit to the (Cazenovia) community,” he said. “To achieve this says it all.”
For all that Cazenovia had done in 2011, this, playing in a sectional final, was an entirely new experience. That wasn’t the case for Skaneateles, accustomed to yearly championship runs, Yet from the opening face-off, it was the newcomer taking the veterans to school.
Given the reputation both Laker teams had on the offensive side, whoever could establish itself on the defensive side first might gain a permanent edge.
And Cazenovia had it. As with its previous two meetings this season, Cazenovia put senior Doyle Judge on Skaneateles’ All-American, Kevin Rice, while junior Clayton Goris followed Paul O’Donnell. They, along with the rest of the back line, forced Skaneateles to rush shots and turn the ball over.
Judge gave credit to his teammates, saying that, “if he (Rice) beat me, I had plenty of guys to help out. It was a team effort.”
From the time Sean Cannizzaro scored off a feed from John Greacen 2:43 into the game, Cazenovia led for keeps. Barely three minutes later, Joe Nardella converted off an open feed from Mason Powell to make it 2-0, and Skaneateles, mad at its own defensive effort, called a time-out, hoping to regroup.
It worked for a moment as O’Donnell, who missed the second half of that last meeting due to a shoulder strain, got Skaneateles on the board at the 8:31 mark and it controlled the ball for the rest of the period, though it didn’t lead to a tying goal.
In the second period, Cazenovia started to really take charge as Nardella and Connor Cannizzaro scored 43 seconds apart. Later in the period, Greacen would dazzle with a snaking move to the net that led to another goal.
It helped that, just like the last meeting (an 18-9 Cazenovia win on May 10), Nardella and Greacen were dominating the face-offs, giving the top seed more possession time and the defense a chance to rest.
Skaneateles, with a notable lack of energy, also didn’t get much fortune, either, as it hit three shots off various posts in the first half. Only when O’Donnell hit on a man-up goal 16.7 seconds before the break did Skaneateles regain some energy as Cazenovia led, 5-2, going to the half.
Every time Skaneateles tried to get closer in the second half, Cazenovia kept answering, whether it was Ben Romagnoli recording 13 saves or the Cannizzaro brothers, Sean and Connor, making nifty offensive plays.
With the score 8-3 as the third quarter wound down, Sean Cannizzaro converted to make it 9-3, and Connor Cannizzaro hit in the first minute of the final period to extend the margin to 10-3, which seemed to put the championship away.
Rice would not give things up, scoring early in the period and converting twice more within a 27-second span to make it 10-6 with more than six minutes to play. Again, though, the Cannizzaro brothers restored control, Sean and Connor scoring in a 23-second span to put it out of reach.
Sean and Connor Cannizzaro each finished with four goals, while Nardella added three goals. Sean Cannizzaro said he and Connor are “relentless players, and we knew we needed to keep momentum on our side.”
They did, and as a reward Cazenovia now heads to the Class B regional playoffs, starting Wednesday night when it meets Section IV champion Chenango Forks at 8 p.m. at Ithaca High School.
Sean Cannizzaro said a state championship run is quite possible. “We have to get smarter,” he said. “If we do that, we’ll be a hard team to stop.”
“We’re playing our best right now,” said Longo.