Oct 27, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
All season long, the football teams from Cazenovia and Chittenango eyed each other, two Madison County powerhouses both seeking the same prize.
Now they’ll finally get together at the Carrier Dome, with that prize, the Section III Class B championship, waiting for whichever side proves more successful in its quest.
But the Lakers and Bears got there in vastly different manners, at least in terms of what took place during Friday night’s Class B semifinal doubleheader at Rome Free Academy Stadium.
Going first, Chittenango bolted out to a big lead over Oneida, but the pesky Indians fought back in the latter stages, forcing the Bears to hang on for a 21-15 victory.
When it was Cazenovia’s turn, the Lakers dispensed with the drama early against Camden, piling up 35 first-half points and smashing its way past the Blue Devils 54-7.
Chittenango knew of the dangers with Oneida. A year ago, Cazenovia, like the current Bears an undefeated team with an 8-0 mark, went into the semifinals as a solid favorite – and blew a 10-point lead in the final minutes to the Indians, seeing its sectional title reign coming to a shocking end in a 12-10 loss.
So with its radar on full alert, Chittenango played a strong first half against Oneida, especially on the defensive side, where the Aaron Jones-led unit kept the Indians from even making a first down on any of its first five possessions.
That gave the Bears lots of time to seize control. Late in the first quarter, Chittenango moved to Oneida’s 19-yard line, where Devin Phelps threw a pass to Steve Billington and saw the ball tipped – right into the hands of Josh Cretaro in the end zone for the touchdown.
On Chittenango’s next possession, it again found the end zone, this time seeing Kyle Zimmer go 31 yards for the score early in the second period. Only a stop by the Indians inside its own 20 late in the half kept Oneida within sight as the Bears led, 14-0, at the break.
Phelps, displaying his defensive prowess, gained an interception on Oneida’s first possession of the second half, and quickly drove the Bears seven plays to seven more points, Zimmer getting his second TD on a 15-yard run.
Just like in the 2011 semifinal, Oneida refused to go away. Later in that third period, after Phelps nearly got a second interception, Rory McCarthy converted a fourth-down pass to Dylan Cafalone, setting up an Indians drive that Cafalone capped off with a one-yard scoring plunge.
From there, Chittenango’s defense tightened again, and late in the fourth quarter it looked like the Bears would put it away with an 18-play march that covered 68 yards, only to have Oneida stop it at the two-yard line, preventing a clinching score.
Instead, Cafalone stunned Chittenango by breaking several tackles on an 88-yard sprint to the other end zone with 3:24 left. Combined with Cody Peck’s two-point pass to Drew Mallinder, that cut the Bears’ margin to six.
Then, pinned at its own seven-yard line after mishandling the kickoff, Chittenango needed to hang on to the ball. By a slim margin, the Bears converted a pair of crucial first downs, Connor Mills getting the last of them, and Oneida was, at last, put away.
Not long after that, Cazenovia took the field, with no intention of making it as interesting against a Camden side it throttled 33-7 late in September at Buckley-Volo Field.
Remembering that, as well as the semifinal loss it took a year later, the Lakers went out and dismantled the Blue Devils, aided by early Camden mistakes that really made things lopsided.
Already in front 7-0 after Jake Wilson scored on a 26-yard run on his team’s second possession of the game, Cazenovia pounced on a punt that glanced off a Camden player’s leg and, seconds later, Wilson was on his way to the end zone a second time on a 37-yard run.
But the real barrage began in the second quarter, after Camden got its only points on Ryan McCarthy’s 54-yard TD pass to Kevin Jones to briefly cut the Lakers’ margin to 14-7.
Twice, Kevin Hopsicker set up scores with long passes, going 30 yards to Joe Colligan before taking off on a 23-yard TD sprint, and then zipping it 40 yards to Ryman Seeley to set up a one-yard plunge, this after the Blue Devils muffed another kick that the Lakers recovered.
When Hopsicker put home his third TD on a three-yard run after Wilson threw a 27-yard pass to Colligan, Cazenovia enjoyed a 35-7 halftime margin, but just to be sure the Lakers tacked on three more touchdowns in the third quarter.
Andrew Vogl had two of those clinching scores, on a one-yard plunge and 38-yard sprint, and Alex Sullivan added his own three-yard TD run later in the period, set up by Ryan Cook’s 55-yard punt return deep into Camden territory.
And now it’s Cazenovia against Chittenango for the sectional title. Laker fans will point out that their side beat the Bears in the 2011 regular-season finale, but never got the rematch because of that stunning semifinal defeat to Oneida, and they’ll note how much trouble Chittenango had getting rid of Oneida, in contrast to the Lakers’ romp over Camden.
Next Saturday night at 6 p.m. in the Carrier Dome, all the talk stops, and the action of pursuing a championship begins.