Oct 15, 2011 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
All the Cazenovia football team had left was one more play.
But with that single play, a broken call that transformed itself into a work of art, the Lakers delivered the decisive blow and beat Madison County rival Chittenango 13-10 Friday night, clinching another undefeated regular season.
Barely a minute was left on the clock. Cazenovia, trailing 10-6 in a game full of rain, wind, physical play and crucial mistakes from both sides, faced fourth-down-and-seven at the Bears’ 25-yard line.
The Lakers called its final time-out. The plan, according to top wide receiver Doyle Judge, was for Tanner Whiteman to roll out and throw a short, high-percentage pass to David McEntee, getting enough yardage for the first down to keep Cazenovia’s hopes alive.
When Whiteman took the snap and ran to his right, McEntee was well-covered, Chittenango having snuffed out the initial plan. Far down the field, though, Doyle Judge was sprinting toward the end zone, in single coverage with the Bears’ Brad Phelps.
Whiteman set up and flung the ball deep. Judge said the hang time of that pass in the air “felt like an eternity”, but the ball eventually found Judge in the end zone and he grabbed it with 1:02 left for the go-ahead touchdown.
Chittenango could not do anything on the ensuing possession, and the Lakers’ perfect mark was intact.
“We had to battle on every play,” said head coach Tom Neidl. “But there’s a lot of fight in these guys.”
That resolve was needed, since Cazenovia went into the game without three key players – defensive captains Nick Petrovich and David Ayer, plus fullback Teddy Tormey.
On the other hand, all of the Bears’ key players were on hand, and it was a group that had managed its own 6-0 start on the way to the Class B West division regular-season title. The Lakers knew it would be tough, and the first half confirmed it.
Late in the first quarter, Cazenovia got stuffed inside Chittenango’s 10-yard line, and Nick Christakos missed a 22-yard field goal. Following a short Cazenovia punt, the Bears had a similar chance in the second period, but Steve Billington’s 20-yard kick went through the uprights, and the hosts led 3-0.
Cazenovia’s mistakes continued in a wild sequence just before halftime. A penalty for an ineligible downfield receiver wiped out a possible 85-yard TD pass from Whiteman to McEntee, and moments later Brad Phelps intercepted Whiteman’s deep pass and returned it 33 yards to the Lakers’ 17.
On the very next play, Chittenango quarterback Devin Phelps ran a bootleg around right end, winning the race to the corner of the end zone. Just like that, the Bears had a 10-0 lead at the half.
Things started to turn for the Lakers in the third quarter, when Devin Phelps dropped a punt snap and Joe Colligan tackled him at the Bears’ 17. Five plays later, using a ‘Wildcat’ formation where Andrew Vogl took the snaps, Vogl ran five yards for a TD. A missed PAT left it at 10-6.
And that’s where it stood when, with 4:54 left, Cazenovia took over on its own 33-yard line. Back in its normal formation, the Lakers mixed in short passes with runs by Whiteman and top back Jake Wilson, steadily moving the ball to the Chittenango 25, setting up the fateful fourth down.
Despite the fact that Whiteman had thrown two interceptions on deep passes, he got one more chance to find Judge – the only one that mattered. And it finished off the night’s only sustained scoring drive after two tough, physical defenses had dictated most of the action.
Chittenango (6-1) will still be at home next Friday for the opening round of the Class B playoffs against South Jefferson, a day before the 7-0 Lakers begin its sectional title defense against Marcellus at Buckley-Volo Field.
The latter is a rematch of last year’s sectional semifinal (played at Chittenango), won by the Lakers over the Mustangs 16-14 on a safety late in the fourth quarter. Following an 0-2 start, Marcellus has won five in a row to earn another shot at Cazenovia.