SYRACUSE The often-used cliche of football as a game of inches sometimes holds true, and never more than in the waning moments of West Genesee's game against Clarence Sunday afternoon in the Kickoff Classic at the Carrier Dome.
On the brink of a tie game and possible overtime, the Wildcats saw Brett Colvin strike the conversion attempt off the right post, which allowed the Red Devils to escape with a 34-33 decision over the defending Section III Class AA champions.
So ended a furious comeback by WG, who had rode the strong legs of junior running back Naesean Howard for much of the second half after falling behind Clarence, a Section VI school from the Buffalo suburbs, by as many as 19 points in the third quarter.
All through the game's early stages, the Wildcats were unable to find consistency in its passing game. Howard had accounted for his team's only points in the first half with a 74-yard touchdown sprint late in the first quarter, briefly giving WG a 7-6 lead.
Clarence quickly countered, though, scoring twice in the second quarter to grab an 18-7 halftime lead as quarterback Mark Armstrong threw for 201 first-half yards. WG, on two separate occasions, got stopped without any points after driving deep into Red Devil territory.
When Emaure Williams scored on a three-yard run with 5:11 left in the third period and caught a two-point pass from Armstrong, WG's deficit grew to 26-7. But Howard was about to take charge.
Not even three minutes after Williams' TD, Howard broke free for a 32-yard scoring run on fourth down, making it 26-13. After the two-point attempt was missed, the Wildcats made a stop, forced a bad punt, and watched Howard take off again, breaking several tackles on 34-yard dash to the end zone just before the period ended.