Oct 26, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Four impressive quarters and six turnovers later, the Liverpool football team is moving along in the Section III Class AA playoffs, bound for what could be one of the biggest games in the program’s recent history.
The Warriors’ defense provided many of the highlights in Friday night’s 28-0 victory over West Genesee in the AA opening round at LHS Stadium, as those six takeaways led to 21 of the team’s points.
And it sets up, for Liverpool, a shot at the area’s reigning power, state no. 2-ranked Christian Brothers Academy, in next Saturday’s Class AA semifinal – which will be played, ironically, at West Genesee, starting at 1 p.m.
The Warriors go into that showdown with the Brothers riding a five-game win streak, and it’s clear that Liverpool is peaking in most phases of the game, one side of the ball helping the other to create a total team effort that West Genesee found too much to handle.
Head coach Dave Mancuso said his team’s defensive attitude has undergone a total shift since allowing 42 points to Fayetteville-Manlius in the second half on Sept. 20. Since then, the Warriors have won five in a row, but saved its best performance of that streak for the post-season curtain-raiser.
Quite unlike last year’s defeat to the Wildcats in this same round of the sectional playoffs, Liverpool established control in a hurry. Taking the opening kickoff, it marched 72 yards in just six plays, sophomore tailback Jaydakis Scott going the final 17 yards for the touchdown just 1:41 into the game.
Holding a lead it would not relinquish, Liverpool began the turnover barrage when the Wildcats muffed a punt midway through the first quarter.
Leith Ashkar recovered the fumble at WG’s 43, and Scott did most of the work from there with three long carries, including 10 yards for a TD on fourth-and-two that made it 14-0.
And there it stayed deep into the second quarter. Liverpool’s quick front seven never let WG’s star tailback, Naes Howard, get on track, and they proceeded to harass both of the Wildcats’ quarterbacks, Bailey Gauthier and Dashot Turner, who took turns under center throughout the night.
With less than a minute left in the half, Pat Twum picked off Turner for Liverpool’s second turnover, returning the interception 23 yards to the Wildcats’ 27. One play later, Justin Capoto found Joe Scro over the middle on a crossing pattern, Scro going the rest of the way to the end zone.
Up 21-0 at the half, the Warriors didn’t stop there. Fittingly, it was that Liverpool defense recording the only points of the second half, coming when Matt Sala, who intercepted Turner on the last play of the first half, stepped in front of another errant Turner throw and brought it back 27 yards for the TD.
From there, the only suspense came from whether Liverpool could finish the shutout – and it did, tacking on two more turnovers, including an interception from Scro and a fumble recovery by Nick Demarzo.
And now it all leads to CBA. The defending sectional champion Brothers have mostly cruised to an 8-0 mark, including a 42-14 romp over Auburn in the opening round of the sectional playoffs where it built a 42-0 lead by the third quarter before the reserves took over.
Liverpool’s defense must find a way to keep CBA’s chief trio of playmakers – quarterback J.R. Zazzara and tailbacks Deshawn Salter and Andre Dowdell – from making their trademark big plays, while the offense must find ways around the Brothers’ quick, agile front seven, anchored by ends Aaron Donalson and Keegan O’Hern.
Pull this off, and the Warriors, absent a sectional title since 1998, will get to the Carrier Dome Nov. 9 to play Fayetteville-Manlius or Henninger (who meet in the other semifinal at LHS Stadium) for the AA championship.