Oct 22, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
At many different points in last Friday night’s Section III Class AA playoff opener, the Liverpool football team was on the verge of putting away defending champion West Genesee and keeping its hopes for a first sectional title in 14 years alive.
But the Warriors never quite put things away – and as a result, the Wildcats got a chance to recover, ultimately getting two touchdowns in a 41-second span late in the fourth quarter to knock out the Warriors 36-25.
It marks the third year in a row Liverpool fell in the first round, and also brought up reminders that WG beat the Warriors in the semifinal round in 2007 and ’08, the first of them on the way to a state championship.
Perhaps the Wildcats were due to win a tight contest. During an up-and-down regular season, WG lost to Clarence, Fayetteville-Manlius and Henninger by a combined five points, which made its 3-4 mark a bit deceptive.
Liverpool certainly didn’t take the Wildcats lightly, and in this playoff classic, kept trading blows for most of the contest, especially in a wild second quarter after the two sides played to a 0-0 draw in the opening period.
Down 7-0 after Naesean Howard’s four-yard touchdown run, the Warriors got going when Jeff Edwards took off on a 43-yard run from midfield, setting up his own two-yard scoring plunge that, with Trevor Monk’s extra point, tied it 7-7.
Then, down 15-7 with less than two minutes left in the half, the Warriors rallied again. Monk kicked a 30-yard field goal and, after a bad WG possession and poor punt, Justin Capoto hit Edwards on a 37-yard pass play near the goal line.
On the last play of the half, Edwards scored on a one-yard plunge. Capoto’s two-point pass to Brandon Bertelli gave the Warriors an 18-15 lead going to the break, and the hosts seemed to have all the momentum as a fog settled over LHS Stadium for the second half.
Then, early in the third quarter, Howard fumbled at Liverpool’s four-yard line, and the Warriors recovered, promptly marching 96 yards, all on the ground, to stretch out its lead to 25-15 as Anthony Miller scored from three yards out.
But Howard atoned with a series of long runs to set up a nine-yard TD sprint late in the third quarter, and he also ran in for two points, making it 25-23 going to the final period.
The game turned for good when Liverpool drove to WG’s 11-yard line, set to put the game away in the middle of the fourth quarter.
Needing just one yard for a key first down, the Warriors never got it as Garrett Waldron made two big tackles to stuff Miller and force a turnover on downs with 6:11 left.
Howard got the decisive march started with a 20-yard run near midfield. WG stalled, though, at its own 45 and faced a fourth-down-and-11 with less than four minutes left.
Rather than punt, the Wildcats went for it – and Dan Ginestro, getting enough protection, found Brett Colvin on a crossing pattern for 21 yards and the game’s biggest first down.
With that new life, WG gave the ball back to Howard, who ran 21 yards to Liverpool’s six. With 1:54 to play, Waldron powered in from one yard out, and the Wildcats were back in front, 29-25.
Liverpool still had a chance to win it. On the very next play from scrimmage, though, Justin Capoto’s pass floated through the fog and got picked off, Anthony Armstrong returning it inside the Liverpool 10.
Howard did the rest, scoring the clincher on a one-yard plunge with 1:13 left to cap a night where he gained 281 yards on 32 carries, despite the ill-timed fumble. His counterpart, Edwards, also was strong, carrying the ball 33 times for 239 yards.
So once again, Liverpool would play host to the Class AA semifinals – West Genesee against CBA, followed by Baldwinsville against Fayetteville-Manlius – but not be an active participant.