SYRACUSE 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.