Cicero Close to 12 months ago, the Cazenovia boys lacrosse team's reign as state Class C champions commenced on the turf at Cicero-North Syracuse's Bragman Stadium.
And it was there that the Lakers' reign would end, courtesy of the Homer Trojans.
Up by three goals in the early stages of Wednesday's Section III Class C final, the Lakers saw that lead melt away as Homer, with poise and efficiency, outplayed Cazenovia and, with a 10-5 victory, claimed its first sectional title since 1995.
"They (Homer) outplayed us in every aspect of the game," said Lakers head coach Jim Longo. "Their offense had more energy than our defense did."
In reality, the result was a full season in the making. Cazenovia, the state's top-ranked team for most of the spring, had overcome a poor start to rout Homer 14-6 in their first regular-season meeting on April 3, and then had to make a late-game comeback to get past the Trojans 11-9 in the May 16 rematch.
Each time, the Trojans got closer, learning bits and pieces of the Lakers' approach that would pay rich dividends in the third and most important encounter.
"Our kids knew that they could beat Cazenovia if they played the full 48 minutes," said Homer head coach Tom Cottrell.
Yet the title game started quite well for the Lakers. Ryan Cook, Matt Donovan and Connor Cannizzaro all netted goals that put Cazenovia ahead 3-0 late in the first quarter.
Right after Cannizzaro's goal, the Lakers had a point-blank look that Homer goalie Jon Cottrell stopped. Instead of a four-goal lead, Cazenovia would get shut out for nearly 19 minutes, a drought that stretched into the third quarter.
That was more than enough time for Homer to take charge. It caught up, 3-3, by the end of the first quarter, and a combination of Conner Johnston's domination in the face-off circle and a baffling zone defense pushed the Trojans to a 7-3 lead early in the second half.