Oct 27, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
To be sure, the Christian Brothers Academy football team has figured out the part about reaching the Section III Class AA championship game. Now, it’s just a matter of closing the deal.
The Brothers improved to 9-0 and earned a return trip to the Carrier Dome by smashing West Genesee 35-13 in Friday night’s AA semifinal at Liverpool High School Stadium.
It nearly echoed the 35-20 decision CBA earned over the Wildcats back on Sept. 20 and, at the same time, offered a bit of atonement for the 57-35 loss to WG in the sectional finals a year ago.
So now the Brothers play in its fourth straight sectional final, going up against Baldwinsville next Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Dome. The Bees held off Fayetteville-Manlius 38-36 in the other semifinal.
What made the night more special for long-time Brothers fans was seeing a return of CBA’s vaunted passing attack, which coincided with the return to good health of quarterback J.R. Zazzara.
In mid-season, Zazzara went out with mononucleosis. Though he returned a couple of weeks ago, head coach Joe Casamento said that Zazzara needed more time to regain the rhythm he had running the offense and finding his receivers.
Against West Genesee, a team geared up to try and contain CBA’s star sophomore tailback, Deshawn Salter, Zazzara thrived once more. Though he completed just seven passes, they went for 167 yards, an average of more than 23 yards per completion, and three went for touchdowns.
“We think we’re a passing team, but (so far this season) we didn’t have to do it,” said Casamento. “We knew we could throw against West Genesee, and J.R. was itching to do so.”
Late in the first quarter, after Salter’s 65-yard touchdown run got called back due to an inadvertent whistle, Zazzara drove his team down to the Wildcats’ 25, from where he found a wide-open Andre Dowdell in single coverage for a TD that, this time, counted and put CBA ahead to stay.
On the first play of the second quarter, Zazzara, from WG’s 31-yard line, again isolated Dowdell in single coverage and found him open as Dowdell streaked to the end zone again, making it 14-0.
Then, in a 17-second sequence, CBA all but put the Wildcats away. First, WG’s Naesean Howard fumbled, and Joey Pascarella recovered at midfield. Then Zazzara took off on a 42-yard run, which set up Salter’s nine-yard TD sprint on the next play.
That made it 21-0, a mark that was more than enough for CBA’s defense. In the first half alone, Pascarella had two tackles for losses, while Keegan O’Hern sacked Wildcats quarterback Dan Ginestro twice.
“The defense has been very special,” said Casamento. “We’re not as big or physical as CBA teams of the past, but we’re quick and intense.”
That intensity slacked a bit in the second half, as the Wildcats put together a pair of scoring drives. But the Brothers countered both times, Zazzara throwing his third TD pass, a 16-yard strike to Cody Radziewicz and Salter going 25 yards for a TD late in the fourth quarter to ice it.
Overall, Salter gained 159 yards on 21 carries, and will have extra motivation going into the final, given all the attention that Baldwinsville’s star back, senior Tyler Rouse, will receive. Rouse had four touchdowns in the semifinal against F-M, and two more called back due to penalties.
Of course, every CBA player is burning to get that elusive sectional title after three straight finals defeats in the Dome, two of them to B’ville in 2009 and 2010. That, plus the fact that Casamento will be honored later that night as an inductee into CBA’s Athletic Hall of Fame, only adds to the excitement surrounding this championship game.