Sep 07, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
In one night under new head coach Mike Olley, the Skaneateles football team flirted with the possibility of losing as many games – one – as it had done the previous two seasons.
Just in time, though, the Lakers found its top form on both sides of the ball, and a big second half produced a 35-21 victory over Canastota Friday night at Hyatt Stadium.
The hiring of Olley in June to replace Joe Sindoni was not the only change Skaneateles had to deal with. Canastota, long a Class C contender, moved into the Class C West division, only adding to the league’s depth, even as the Raiders were replacing top running back Zach Zupan.
Adding to the pressure, of course, was the traditional notion that a reigning sectional champion like Skaneateles is bound to get every opponent’s best effort, and Canastota proved no exception.
Opening-night nerves were evident, even after the Lakers took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. Tyler Parr, the new Skaneateles quarterback, scored on a one-yard plunge and Colin Alexander added the extra point.
Minutes later, though, the Lakers dropped a punt deep in its own territory, and Canastota turned that mistake into points when Matt Russitano got a two-yard touchdown run.
Continuing to pound away on the ground thanks mostly to the work of tailback Matt Lee, Skaneateles reclaimed a 13-7 lead when John Parsons scored from two yards out.
Once more, Canastota had an answer, and it came in the form of a revamped passing game. Andrew Sicilia’s 19-yard scoring pass to Ryan Zophy, plus the extra point, put the Raiders in front 14-13, and right before halftime Sicilia pulled off a bigger play, going long and finding Eric Klaister for a 58-yard TD strike.
Now finding itself trailing 21-13 at the break, the Lakers revamped its defense, and that led to a shutout the rest of the way, starting with the pivotal third quarter, where Canastota could not add to its margin.
Then, just 6.5 seconds before the period ended, Skaneateles capped off a scoring drive with Parsons going 10 yards for the TD, followed by a two-point pass from Parr to Connor Hill that tied it at 21-21.
Getting those points sparked the Lakers on both ends. The defensive proved disruptive, especially the pass rush as Skaneateles sacked Sicilia seven times, two each from Cooper Pitman, Aubrey Leverich and Dan McLean. Also, Hill and Nick Hyland earned interceptions.
Skaneaeles also got the offensive balance it wanted. Parr, getting more comfortable as the night went on, went 13-for-26 for 164 yards, but he preferred to hand it off, especially to Lee, who finished with 174 yards on 30 carries.
A lot of those carries came in the fourth quarter, helping Skaneateles to wear down Canastota’s defenses. It also helped that one particular gamble paid off.
Forced into a punt, the Lakers saw the Raiders go downfield, so Alexander, instead of punting, just took off on his own. The fake was not planned, and the spontaneous move sparked a march that ended with Parr sprinting 12 yards for the go-ahead score.
Going seven-for-10 in the second half, Parr led the Lakers down the field in the closing minutes, and finally got the big pass play he wanted when he spotted Collin Jones for a 43-yard TD pass, which all but put Canastota away.
Skaneateles goes out of league play next Friday to visit Homer, long a Class B contender, who will have a short week to work with following Sunday’s game against Phoenix at the Carrier Dome. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.