SYRACUSE Here, after a month's worth of one-sided victories and starters on the sidelines for much of the second half, was the test the Christian Brothers Academy football team needed.
Trailing at halftime, flustered on both sides of the ball, the undefeated, state Class AA no. 2-ranked Brothers went back to basics - and back to their top players - and was rewarded Saturday with a 34-20 victory over Henninger at Sunnycrest Field.
"That was a great game and that was nice for us," said CBA head coach Joe Casamento. "We got rattled (in the first half), but we kept our composure."
"We weren't playing with heart," said senior quarterback J.R. Zazzara."We needed to come together as a team and play like brothers. This win feels great. That (Henninger) is a great football team."
With the win, the Brothers not only improved to 6-0, it clinched the Class AA-1 division regular-season title and will be at home for the first round of the Section III playoffs.
None of that was a given the way things started against Henninger, who entered the game a perfect 3-0 in league play and unleashed its defense on the Brothers during a back-and-forth first half.
After Deshawn Salter scored on a 14-yard run with 4:28 left in the first quarter, CBA did not score the rest of the half. Runs up the middle were thwarted, and when the Brothers tried to air it out, Zazzara was often flushed out of the pocket, leading to a fumble and two interceptions.
Taking advantage of this, Henninger mixed up a power ground attack featuring running back Justin McGann with Romero Collier's play-action passes, which often went to tight end Brandon Wilbur.
Collier's 12-yard touchdown pass to Tiquan Simpkins tied it, 7-7, and a 31-yard pass to Wilbur set up Collier's two-yard scoring scramble late in the half, putting CBA in a 14-7 deficit going to the break.