For more than a decade, the Chittenango football program has gone through a wide range of successes and disappointments without knowing the unique feeling of playing for a Section III championship.
At last, though, the Bears are heading back to the Carrier Dome, having roared past Camden 42-14 in Friday night's Class B semifinal at Rome Free Academy Stadium.
Not since 1999, when it won the sectional Class A crown and advanced to the state semifinals before falling to Canandaigua, have the Bears gone this far, and Camden wasn't about to stop that drought from ending.
The Blue Devils never recovered from Chittenango's blazing start, as it jumped to a 28-7 first-half lead behind a relentless ground attack and a defense that never let Camden get comfortable.
A move earlier in the week benefited the Bears, too. Originally, the game was set for Saturday at Central Square, but it got switched to RFA and moved up to Friday, giving Camden, who had edged Homer 7-0 in last Saturday's opening round, less than a full week to prepare.
And Chittenango took full advantage of Camden's slow start. On its first possession, the Bears, starting at midfield, moved to the Blue Devils' one-yard line on two plays, one of them Devin Phelps' 34-yard run, before Devin Christopher dove in for the touchdown.
Later in the period, Chittenango got the ball again and went 70 yards in 10 plays. From Camden's nine, Joe Gilona found the end zone, and the margin had doubled to 14-0.
Chittenango expanded the lead to 21-0 in the second quarter as Kyle Zimmer scored on a four-yard run. Camden briefly answered as Cody Sullivan got a three-yard TD run, but after the Bears smothered a Blue Devils onside kick attempt, Zimmer struck again just before halftime, going 14 yards for his second TD.