Nov 04, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
After a year’s absence, the Section III Class B football crown is returning to Cazenovia.
Better yet for all the Laker faithful, it came at the expense of its neighbors from Chittenango, as Jake Wilson’s pair of long fourth-quarter touchdown runs helped to deliver a 35-21 victory over the Bears Saturday night at the Carrier Dome.
“It’s always exciting to win the title,” said Cazenovia head coach Tom Neidl. “These kids learn a lot from the players that have gone before them, and they want to keep the tradition alive.”
This final was two years in the making. Cazenovia and Chittenango had dominated their respective Class B divisions in 2011, too, but the Lakers lost in the semifinals to Oneida, clearing the Bears’ path to its first sectional title since 1999.
Then they had eyed each other throughout this season, Chittenango going undefeated and Cazenovia only losing once (to Class A finalist Jamesville-DeWitt), fully expecting a clash for the title.
And they got it, a game that figured to be a fierce battle between two teams with defenses very stingy about allowing points, but didn’t go that way from the outset.
After an early exchange of punts, the Lakers slowly gaining better field position until Ryan Cook returned a punt 37 yards to the Bears’ three-yard line. Wilson scored two plays later on a three-yard run, only hinting at the bigger plays ahead.
Giving up a TD seemed to wake up Chittenango’s offense. Mixing in runs from Devin Phelps and Kyle Zimmer, the Bears moved to the Lakers’ 33, from where Phelps threw deep and found Matt Cretaro for a touchdown. Steve Billington’s PAT was good, and the defending champs were up 7-6.
Much the same thing happened in the second quarter. Effective runs from Phelps and Cory Benn set up another long pass to another open receiver, in this case Josh Cretaro, as the 29-yard play moved Chittenango inside the Lakers’ 10. Three plays later Phelps charged into the end zone on a six-yard bootleg.
Trailing 14-6, the Lakers needed to get going – and did, with a 61-yard drive set up by Ryan Cook’s 30-yard kick return. Going no-huddle, Cazenovia started to get big chunks of yardage, and Cook returned to catch a short pass from Kevin Hopsicker and go 19 yards for the TD.
Hopsicker’s two-point pass to Ryman Seeley tied it, 14-14. When the Bears fumbled near midfield in the last minute of the half and Cameron Braathen recovered, the Lakers had a chance to go back in front, but could not capitalize, so it remained 14-14 at the break.
When play resumed, Hopsicker ran 23 yards on the first play of the third quarter and went nine yards on fourth-and-six, moving the Lakers to the Chittenango two. A fumbled snap, though, cost Cazenovia 22 yards, and on fourth down Phelps intercepted Wilson’s attempted halfback option pass.
Chittenango gave it right back when Andrew Vogl stripped Zimmer on a screen pass. That led to Wilson, on an option pitch, zig-zagging around Chittenango defenders and going 38 yards for the TD that put the Lakers in front 21-14.
Both teams missed on scoring opportunites late in the period, the Lakers stopped at the Bears’ 15 in the waning seconds. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Phelps went 48 yards on a keeper, and Chittenango had another chance to catch up.
On fourth-and-eight at the Lakers’ 33, Phelps went 10 yards and got the first down, leaping the final few yards to keep the drive going. A personal foul got Chittenango to the 13, threatening again to catch the Lakers.
Then, and only then, did it really get wild.
In the span of less than a minute, (1) Chad Warren intercepted Phelps on the goal line and returned it 25 yards, (2) Wilson went 75 yards for a TD, and (3) a long kick return by Josh Cretaro and 30-yard pass to Matt Cretaro set up Phelps to score from two yards out.
All of this left the Lakers still in front by a touchdown, 28-21, with 7:02 left, and still needing to make plays to snatch the crown from the Bears. Instead, it fumbled a handoff, and Chittenago’s Mitch Mahosky recovered with 5:46 to play.
Again the Bears worked for a tying score, moving inside Cazenovia’s 20. Again the Lakers stiffened, leaving it to a fourth-and-six at the 16. Phelps threw it to Matt Cretaro at the five, but Cretaro could not hold on, the pass incomplete.
Wilson then supplied the dagger, one more time out-running Chittenango’s defenders on an 81-yard sprint to the end zone that sealed the Lakers’ second sectional title in three years.
In the second half alone, Wilson’s trio of TD runs amounted to 194 yards, this after only getting 28 yards in the first half. Wilson said that the Bears’ defense had to respect Hopsicker’s ability to run out of the option, which made them commit to the middle, giving Wilson room to get outside and find daylight.
Cazenovia advances to meet the Section IV champions, undefeated Maine-Endwell, next Saturday in the Class B regional final at East Syracuse-Minoa High School.
The Spartans won the state Class A title a year ago, beating the likes of East Syracuse-Minoa, Rochester Aquinas and Burnt Hills to win it all.
And with 20 of 22 starters back from that team, M-E has crushed most of its opposition (including a 55-19 win over Chenango Valley in the sectional finals) this fall, meaning the Lakers have a tall order ahead.