October 20, 2012
What kicked off Thursday night at Jamesville-DeWitt did not end until Saturday night, down the road at Chittenango, when Lowville left the turf triumphant.
Such was the opening round of the Section III football playoffs, which had its fair share of mismatches, but also immensely impressive efforts on both sides of the ball that set up some very tasty semifinals at various neutral fields next weekend.
Just take a gander at the first semifinal you see in the Class AA bracket - Baldwinsville against F-M. Tyler Rouse against the fearsome Hornets front seven. Not bad to consider, especially since they played a Sept. 14 classic in the rain, F-M pulling it out 34-25.
A day after Rouse (five TD's, 262 yards, five touchdowns) helped the Bees sink Central Square, it was the Hornets' turn, at Henninger, and that F-M defense punished Henninger all afternoon at Sunnycrest Field, only allowing a disputed TD in the third quarter.
The storyline is clear - can Rouse, on clean turf this time around, get those big runs that have discouraged so many other foes against Wheatley, Cavah, Pulver and company?
And the other semifinal is merely the 2011 title game redux, CBA-West Genesee. The undefeated Brothers, for once, were pushed to the fourth quarter by Utica Proctor, but still won 56-33. The Wildcats, for once, finished on top in a close one, getting two late scores to send Liverpool to yet another first-round playoff exit.
Yes, it was 35-20 CBA a month ago in Camillus, so what could change? Perhaps just WG's belief that it can make the big plays when it absolutely needs them. Given that, the Brothers, knows it's wise not to let the Wildcats hang around for four quarters in this edition.
Home teams dominated the Class A opening round, whether it was J-D thumping Watertown or Whitesboro, glad to be on home mud (it sure didn't look like grass watching those highlights) gaining sweet revenge for last season's title-game loss to ESM with Matt Felitto's four TD's (two of them long runs in the fourth quarter to put it away.
Same was true in the other bracket, as the Derrick Gore show unfolded at Nottingham to the tune of 355 yards on the ground to bury Carthage, and in the North Country a 21-0 first half quickly pushed Indian River past Fulton as Darius Bryant ran for 151 yards - on just six carries, an average of merely 25 yards per touch.
In the Class A semis, you've got J-D's quick, aggressive and opportunistic defense staring down Whitesboro's power, while Nottingham's trump card against IR might be Marty Clanton and a passing game (he threw for 203 yards against Carthage) that complements Gore.
The Class B narrative features an undefeated team from Madison County putting its 8-0 mark on the line against Oneida. Twelve months ago, that was Cazenovia. This time, it's Chittenango.
Tired of the drama of a pair of one-point wins, the Bears replicated its dominant September formula against VVS, leading 35-0 by halftime of a first-round romp as, a few miles down Route 5, the Indians found itself trailing in the fourth quarter before Dylan Cafalone's pair of late TD's allowed Oneida to get past Cortland 20-12.
So if the Indians defy the odds and again upend the perfect season of a defending sectional champion...there's a hunch that Cazenovia will be grateful.
The Lakers' routine dismissal of Westhill got them into a semifinal against a Camden side that Caz whacked 33-7 late in September. But the Blue Devils were very impressive at Homer - or rather, Ryan McCarthy was impressive with his four TD passes, scoring run and field goal that, almost by himself, ended the Trojans' title dreams. Something similar might be needed to make the Lakers worry.
We have our finals set in Class C-1 and C-2, which took two days to figure out. In C-1, the big plays of Antoine Montgomery helped the Gaelic Knights stave off Canastota 33-20 Friday night at F-M, and Ludden has now won eight in a row...ever since it blew a fourth-quarter lead at Skaneateles in the Aug. 31 opener.
Right, those other Lakers. Skaneateles went to Chittenango's turf Saturday and proceeded to pound fellow unbeaten General Brown into said turf in a 49-14 manner, the fun including Conor Herr throwing for three TD passes, running for a fourth and returning an interception for a fifth, because apparently he needed more.
Maybe Ludden is the one team that can stop the 2012 Skaneateles Redemption Tour. It's hard to imagine either C-2 finalist stepping up to them, even though Herkimer has won every game when it has a full roster, as the Magicians did Friday night at Utica Proctor when it flattened Frankfort-Schuyler 42-6.
Herkimer now meets Lowville, a genuine surprise who topped Tully at Chittenango Saturday night 34-26, the key blow being Matt Bush's 60-yard fumble return for six in the fourth quarter, when the Black Knights were threatening to catch up.
The Class D side shows how emotion can only take you so far. Port Byron was on a sugar high after stunning Weedsport 14-7 in the regular-season finale. Seven days later, the Panthers' title dreams were cooked, defending champ Westmoreland reminding everyone why it has the crown with, arguably, the best first-round game anyone played this week, a 48-13 romp.
Could Westmoreland do the same to unbeaten West Canada in the Class D semifinals? The Indians were in a nervous situation against Pulaski on Saturday, only up 21-20 in the fourth quarter before late TD's by Ryan Moody and Ryan Grogan (who finished with 195 yards on the ground) provided an escape for the hosts.
Sandy Creek draws Weedsport in the other semifinal. Quickly shaking off the Port Byron loss, the Warriors, with Matt Pelc's late 60-yard run the key blow, shook off Sauquoit Valley 28-19, just as the unblemished Comets had to hang on to beat Dolgeville 28-21, nearly seeing a 21-points lead vanish.
Now it's 20 teams left, chasing the dreams of sectional and state titles, patiently awaiting next weekend's games - and the 10 golden tickets (or is it Orange tickets?) to the Dome.