Fayetteville-Manlius wide receiver Brandon Gesler (6) tries to get away from Baldwinsville’s Ricky Sparks (23) after making a catch in Friday night's Class AA semifinal, where the Hornets lost a narrow 38-36 decision to the Bees.
Liverpool Not until the last minute, not until a swarm of eager punt-blockers roughed Tyler Rouse, did the Fayetteville-Manlius football team surrender in Friday night’s Section III Class AA semifinal against Baldwinsville.
Having erased most of a 20-point deficit, the Hornets were one big play – or one Bees mistake – from completing the rally and possibly setting up a showdown with CBA in the Carrier Dome.
But F-M never got that last chance, instead settling for a 38-36 defeat in a pulsating contest played out deep into the night in front of a large crowd at Liverpool High School Stadium.
Back on Sept. 14, at rain-soaked Pelcher-Arcaro Stadium, F-M had prevailed, 35-26, the only defeat the Bees had taken in the regular season. The rematch would feature its own continual wave of swerving momentum, only without the precipitation as a backdrop.
F-M first caught a break after Rouse, the Bees’ record-setting senior tailback, scored on a 75-yard dash early in the first quarter. Minutes later, Rouse intercepted a poor Wolfgang Shafer, but since Shafer got roughed, the Hornets kept the ball.
Given new life, F-M drove deep into Bees territory, setting up Jake Wittig’s 27-yard field goal. Then, after forcing a B’ville punt, the Hornets used Wittig’s 48-yard pass to Jack Wilson to set up Sean Bright’s one-yard TD.
So now F-M had a 9-7 lead, but despite that, and despite the fact that Rouse had two long TD runs called back due to other penalties, the Bees still put together 21 unanswered points.
That began when Josh Demoski threw a screen pass to his left to Shay Sargeant, who made a great move to elude a tackle and took off on a 48-yard TD sprint, putting the Bees ahead 14-9.
Another pass play, going 19 yards from Demoski to Eric Anthony, set up Rouse's second TD that made it 21-9, where it stood at halftime. On the first play of the second half, Rouse took a toss and was never caught, a 54-yard scoring play.