Cazenovia Remember those days early this season when the Cazenovia football team was a defensive questions mark, surrendering large chunks of yardage and a fair amount of points, too?
So do the Lakers. And it's not about to go back to those struggles if it has any say in the matter.
What transpired Saturday afternoon in Cazenovia's 43-0 shutout of Cortland in the opening round of the Section III Class B playoffs at Buckley-Volo Field was nothing less than a defensive clinic, start to finish.
The Purple Tigers recorded one first down - for the entire game. In nine first-half possessions, Cortland went three-and-out seven times, fumbled once and ran out the clock at the end of the second quarter, finishing with minus-five yards.
Head coach Tom Neidl said his team's 26-0 shutout of Oneida on Oct. 5 marked a turning point for the defensive unit. No longer are the Lakers hoping to make plays, as against Cortland, it was executing with maximum efficiency.
"They've really progressed," said Neidl. "(Today) we had a great defensive game plan and the kids played really well."
In every way, it was an effort the entire defensive unit could be proud of. Up front, linemen Reed Lucas, Ryan O'Herien, Cody Westall, Pat Karmis and Ryman Seeley exploded off the snap, often appearing in Cortland's backfield before the blockers could settle down.
From the linebacker spot, Mike Nourse anchored a unit where Dan Phillips, Carter Woodworth and Hayden Polhamus made solid tackles, including some hard hits from Polhamus.
Finally, the Lakers' secondary, which includes Kevin Hopsicker, Noah King and Keaton Ackermann, prevented Cortland from establishing any sort of pass attack. Better yet, the Lakers' reserves maintained the shutout for large portions of the second half.
This was after the defense proved so good in the first half that Cazenovia only started one series inside its own territory, the short fields leading to 34 unanswered points that settled the contest early.