A few inches here, or a few inches there, and perhaps the Cazenovia football team is celebrating one of the landmark victories in a glorious program's history.
Instead, the Lakers had to cope with a bitter 35-34 defeat to two-time reigning state champion Maine-Endwell in Saturday night's Class B regional final at Union-Endicott's Ty Cobb Stadium and will wonder, for a long time, how things might have turned out were it not for those precious inches near the goal line.
It all climaxed with 1:17 to play. Trailing 35-28, the Lakers, who had run wild on M-E all night, did so again on a long march that culminated with Andrew Vogl taking an option pitch 18 yards to the end zone to cut the margin to one.
Each of the previous four times Cazenovia had scored, Keaton Ackermann had blasted the extra point. Here, though, the Lakers called time-out and brought back its offensive unit in an attempt to go for two points and the victory.
Taking the snap, Kevin Hopsicker battled his way to the goal line. He said that he crossed the goal line, with the ball, before his knees touched the turf. A replay showed that Hopsicker may have fumbled before reaching the goal line, and that lineman Cody Westfall recovered the loose ball in the end zone.
But officials ruled that the play was stopped short. Furious, the Lakers argued and drew a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, pushing the onside kick attempt back to the 25-yard line. When the Spartans fell on that kick, it was able to run out the clock.
Trying to topple an M-E program that had won state titles in 2011 and 2012 and had won 34 consecutive games was daunting enough for Cazenovia, who also carried the stigma of seeing the Spartans smash them 50-14 in this same regional round a year ago.