SYRACUSE Put under pressure never before in its undefeated quest for ultimate glory, the Christian Brothers Academy football team had a ready answer - and gained possession of a second consecutive Section III Class AA championship.
From J.R. Zazzara's long touchdown run early in the fourth quarter to a defense that overcame injuries to key starters to make a key stop in the final minutes, the state no. 2-ranked Brothers fought past Henninger 19-14 in Saturday's sectional final at the Carrier Dome.
For Zazzara, who played through an injured ankle and scored the game's winning points on a 59-yard run with 8:28 to play, the special part of this win was getting more chances to play with what he calls his "family".
"We just want to be together for another week," said Zazzara. "Much as we want to get to the next level, this (winning back-to-back sectional titles) feels great."
Head coach Joe Casamento said that Henninger, unlike so many of CBA's other opponents this fall, was sure to make the Brothers work all the way to the end.
"This was like a state final, in terms of intensity," said CBA head coach Joe Casamento. "This was about whether we could execute at the end of the game, and we managed to keep our poise."
Henninger's impressive 44-14 win over previously unbeaten Fayetteville-Manlius in the sectional semifinal, combined with the scare the Black Knights gave CBA on Oct. 12 at Sunnycrest Field, left little doubt as to which side was most worthy to challenge the Brothers' throne.
But what neither side may have counted on was how the game would turn into a battle of attrition right from the start, with far more opportunities missed than gained.
Twice in the first quarter, Henninger had the ball in CBA territory, one of them set up by Romero Collier's 60-yard return of the opening kickoff, but didn't get any points out of either of those first two chances.