Oct 31, 2006 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
For seven glorious weeks, the Liverpool football team built up the momentum and piled up the victories, moving within sight of its first Section III Class AA title since 1998.
But the Warriors’ dreams of being in the Carrier Dome fell one game short, as Rome Free Academy earned its first trip to the finals since ’98 last Saturday night at Utica Proctor, beating Liverpool 30-0.
This was the classic instance of two great powers that had fallen from their thrones and wanted it back. RFA, who once dominated large-school football in the area, has gone a decade without a sectional championship, and Liverpool was determined to keep that drought going.
Right from the start, though, the Black Knights controlled the flow of play, using its ground game to wear down the Liverpool defense.
Twice, RFA scored in the first quarter, Jamar Zwiefach finishing off one drive with a three-yard touchdown run, Justin Manning ending the other with a 23-yard field goal.
That 10-0 lead was enough for the Black Knights. All season long, Liverpool had won by controlling the line of scrimmage with its massive offensive line, which gave running back Lonnie Johnson room to run.
RFA’s defense changed all that, shutting down the Warriors and limiting it to a mere 142 yards of production amid the wet, cold conditions. And Johnson carried the ball 20 times, but got just 70 yards on it, his lowest total of the year.
Even the special teams went in RFA’s favor, as Wayne Towne took a punt in the second quarter and raced back 58 yards for a big TD that built the Black Knights’ advantage to 17-0 before halftime.
True, Liverpool had come back from 14 points down to beat Corcoran on Oct. 13, but RFA’s defense prevented any hope for a rally.
Towne and Zwiefach would both score in the second half to add to RFA’s margin. For the night, Towne had 164 yards on 25 carries, and Zwiefach added 80 yards on the ground as the Black Knights advanced to meet Auburn in the AA final.
Meanwhile, Liverpool could reflect upon a remarkable season. It went 7-2, far exceeding everyone’s expectations in Dave Mancuso’s inaugural campaign as head coach, and Johnson earned a lot of player-of-the-year votes through his 1,511 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Now Johnson departs, as does a slew of talented players, including Mike Buckenmeyer, Ryan Argy, Matt Root, Joe Stotsky, Jon Thomas, Cody Latimer and Brandon Tyson.
But with T.J. Davis, Dom Caruso, Ricky Azzoto, Kyle Green and Mike Suatoni among the returnees for 2007, this winning trend might not be temporary.