Nov 10, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Mistakes and inconsistency on the offensive end threatened to derail the Cazenovia football team’s bid for a third Section III Class B championship in four years.
But with a defense allowing nothing, making big stops and forcing turnovers at key moments, the Lakers still reached the top again, beating the Oneida Indians 14-0 in Sunday’s sectional final at the Carrier Dome to earn back-to-back sectional titles.
Eight different times in this game, Oneida entered Cazenovia territory, and did not get any points out of it, resulting in the second Laker shutout of the Indians in as many weeks.
“We’ve been improving every week,” said senior captain and linebacker Mike Nourse. “Everyone (on defense) knows what to do, and is exactly on the same page.”
Senior quarterback Kevin Hopsicker, who scored both of his team’s touchdowns (which were set up by turnovers that the Lakers’ defense forced), admitted the offense took a supporting role in this game.
“Our defense won the game for us,” said Hopsicker.
Cazenovia facing Oneida in the post-season was turning into a familiar ritual. This was their third playoff encounter in the last four years, including the 2010 final that the Lakers won 21-8 in the Dome and the semifinal in 2011 that the Indians pulled out 12-10 with two touchdowns late in the fourth quarter.
But their more recent history was what gave Oneida the motivation for this final. That was the Oct. 5 meeting at Buckley-Volo Field where the then-unbeaten Indians never got on the board in a 26-0 defeat to the Lakers, and it knew that the sweetest possible payback could come with a championship at stake.
What gave Cazenovia an instant boost was the return of senior tailback Andrew Vogl, who had missed most of the last month due to a hamstring injury. The Lakers hadn’t suffered too much in Vogl’s absence, but his presence in the backfield gave Oneida something more to worry about.
Each team would meet plenty of frustration in the first half. The Lakers, on its first possession, used Hopsicker’s 35-yard swing pass to Noah King to set up a scoring chance. But on fourth-and-five, Vogl’s first carry of the game was stopped one yard shot at the Oneida 21.
Cazenovia fared better late in the period, when a Laker punt hit Oneida’s William Armstrong and Hayden Polhamus recovered on the Indians’ 28. Four plays later, Hopsicker scrambled seven yards for the game’s first touchdown.
As the first quarter ended, Oneida put its first serious drive together, sparked by Dylan Cafalone’s 21-yard run past midfield. Continuing to run ,the Indians moved the ball to the Lakers’ eight, but on fourth-and-three, Cafalone was stopped a yard short.
Then it was Oneida’s turn to make a big defensive play. After Cazenovia had driven to midfield, John Nish sacked Hopsicker, forcing a fumble that Shawn Thurston recovered at his own 47. But the Indians could not capitalize, stopped again on fourth down, this time at the Lakers’ 27.
Vogl continued to run well, using his speed to elude tackles and get the Lakers moving down the field, only to have yet another drive stall at Oneida’ 13 when, again, Vogl was stopped on a fourth-down option run.
So Cazenovia had to settle for taking a 7-0 lead to the break. Both teams had twice seen chances to find the end zone thwarted, but that punt miscue by the Indians had allowed the Lakers to get in front.
Immediately, though, the Lakers got right back into trouble early in the third quarter when Oneida’s Liam Mahoney intercepted Hopsicker at the Indians’ 49. A series of penalties moved the Indians to the Cazenovia 20, but when Rory McCarthy tried to throw to the end zone, Keaton Ackermann picked it off, and the Lakers’ defense was far from done in forcing mistakes.
On Oneida’s next possession, a pass rush forced McCarthy into a bad throw that Alex Devine grabbed and returned to the Indians’ 37. Off this third turnover, the Lakers finally got on the board again, utilizing a series of runs from Hopsicker, Vogl and Dan Phillips before Hopsicker sneaked in from the one to make it a two-touchdown margin late in the period.
Early in the fourth quarter, when Nish intercepted Hopiscker at the Lakers’ 13, the Indians had its best chance yet. Three plays netted just nine yards, though, and on fourth down with 7:37 left, Carter Woodworth stopped Cafalone, forcing yet another turnover on downs.
“We just wouldn’t let them score,” said Nourse.
Vogl and Phillips combined on a series of runs to eat up more than four minutes of clock, as Vogl finished with 30 carries for 145 yards.
“We gave him the ball a lot to see how his leg was,” said Lakers head coach Tom Neidl. “Andrew is a tough player.”
Still, the Indians made one more push into Cazenovia’s territory to break up the shutout, but Pat Karmis sacked McCarthy in the waning seconds to preserve this latest shutout – and another sectional title.
Now Cazenovia looks to avenge last year’s defeat in the Class B regional finals to Maine-Endwell. The Lakers take another shot at the defending state champion Spartans Saturday at 6 p.m. at Union-Endicott High School, with the winner to advance to face Depew or Geneva in the state semifinals Nov. 23 at Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester.
Hopsicker said that a big part of the Lakers trying to knock off Maine-Endwell is simply believing that they can pull it off. Six days from now, Cazenovia would find out if belief turned into glorious results.