Nov 03, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
What the Skaneateles football team started in 2011, it finished in 2012, and no outside force could do anything about it.
Four touchdown passes from Conor Herr to Jake Cooney, combined with a defense that continually made key stops when they were needed, helped the Lakers defeat Herkimer 33-16 in Saturday’s Section III Class C championship game in the Carrier Dome.
“This would be special if (the controversy) last year never happened,” said head coach Joe Sindoni. “But it’s still special. The kids have a very big sense of accomplishment.”
Cooney said that, as big as the win was for this program, it meant more for the future.
“Ten years from now, people will remember us as the start of something big,” he said.
This is the Lakers’ first sectional title since it tied Mount Markham 12-12 in the 1992 title game. The ensuing two decades were mostly full of futility, where even the notion of a championship run seemed like folly – at least until the 2011 season that got cut short, even though Skaneateles never lost a game.
In fact, this was the match-up that everyone had anticipated a year ago in the Dome, only to have Section III’s ruling against the Lakers’ alleged recruiting practices prevent that from taking place.
Absent the controversy, and absent the two quarterbacks (Troy Green for the Lakers, Sean Crandall for the Magicians) that were the stars of both teams in 2011, Skaneateles set out for fulfillment and atonement, and got both.
It didn’t take too long, either. On the Lakers’ third offensive play from scrimmage just 2:14 into the game, Herr went deep over the middle and found Colin Jones, who got behind the secondary on a 60-yard touchdown strike to put the Lakers up 6-0.
Another possession brought another Skaneateles TD, this one set up by another deep pass, Herr going 48 yards to Jake Cooney, setting up a shorter connection as Herr went seven yards to Cooney for the score and Colin Alexander’s extra point created a 13-0 margin.
Just as fired up was the Lakers’ defense, who started out with a pair of three-and-outs and got two interceptions – one from Max Weiss, the other from Jones – deep in its own end late in the first quarter to preserve that early margin.
Five times, Herkimer had the ball in Skaneateles territory, but only scored once. Midway through the second quarter, the Magicians broke through, as a 29-yard pass from Austin Mills to Eric Johnston set up Mills’ three-yard TD run and a two-point pass to Johnston, which made it 13-8.
Skaneateles had a ready answer, driving 60 yards and converting two third downs, plus a fourth down, before Herr connected with Cooney on an 11-yard TD strike, which made it 19-8, where it stood at halftime.
Herkimer forced Herr into a second interception, this one by Brennen Thompson, early in the third period, but that led to nothing, too, as the Magicians continued to squander chances to inch closer.
Instead, the Lakers started to put the championship away. From its own 26, Skaneateles drove to Herkimer’s 42, where on third-and-one it lined up as if to run – only to have Herr throw and find Cooney, in mid-stride, and the senior wide receiver cruised to the end zone for his third TD of the afternoon.
But even that wasn’t enough. The Lakers put together an 85-yard match that Herr capped off with 11:15 left when he found a wide-open Cooney over the middle for 25 yards and a fourth TD.
Both Herr and Cooney said that Herkimer’s early tendency to pack seven defenders on the line of scrimmage left them with one-on-one coverage that they could exploit.
Sindoni agreed. “Jake is tough one-on-one,” he said. “If you don’t get pressure on Conor, he (Jake) is very good at creating separation.”
For the game, Herr completed 17 of 29 passes for 296 yards, moving his season total to 2,478 yards and 38 TD passes, while Cooney caught 11 of those passes for a season-best 196 yards, moving within seven yards of 1,000 for the year.
Max Weiss, despite all the attention given to the ground game, still managed 78 yards (giving him 1,223 for the season) on 23 carries as Herr ran for 53 yards.
The Lakers are on its way to next Saturday’s Class C regional final against Section IV champion Chenango Forks at East Syracuse-Minoa High School.