Nov 06, 2007 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Cazenovia football running back Chris Nourse had heard, all season along, the praise and accolades showered on Westhill counterpart Dale Ross as he surpassed 2,000 yards season and set a single-game state record of 569 yards in the Section III Class B semifinals against Marcellus.
“Most of the time I like to be out of the spotlight,” said Nourse. “But I like the big games.”
And when the Lakers and Warriors got together in their much-hyped Class B final last Saturday at Cicero-North Syracuse’s Bragman Stadium, Nourse would have his turn to shine.
Nourse’s 34 carries for 281 yards and five touchdowns was more than what Ross (227 yards, two TD’s) could put together, and was a big reason why Cazenovia knocked off Westhill 44-34, the second year in a row the Lakers had claimed a sectional title at the Warriors’ expense.
“Chris is one important link in our chain,” said head coach Tom Neidl. “He had an outstanding effort, as part of a total team effort. We played with our heart and soul for 48 minutes.”
Of course, the effort went well beyond one Saturday evening.
Neidl said that the week leading up to this showdown featured the best preparation had seen his long tenure as Cazenovia coach. Aside from afternoon practices, team members came in at night to watch tapes of Westhill, to see what they needed to do against Ross and his mates.
All the while, the build-up continued, just as it had in 2006 before the Lakers smacked the Warriors 32-7 at the Carrier Dome. And while most people honed in on the battle between Ross and the vaunted Cazenovia defense, the guys on offense were quietly confident.
The game’s first four minutes proved to be telling. Ross began the theatrics just 2:39 into the game, taking a toss and making several defenders miss on a 54-yard sprint down the left sideline for a touchdown.
What was so critical was the way Cazenovia responded. Just 45 seconds later, Nourse, on an option pitch from Coleman Koesterer, started left, then cut back across the field and got perfect blocking as he went 59 yards to the end zone, tying it at 7-7.
Once it saw that it could run outside, the Lakers kept going to it, even after a TD put Westhill back in front 14-7. Nourse went 23 yards on another option pitch to set up Nick Rogers’ 36-yard field goal late in the first quarter.
Early in the second period, just as Westhill was getting used to the option, Koesterer threw deep and found Aaron Race, picking up 35 yards. Then Nourse resumed his rampage, going 20 yards for the go-ahead score.
Less than five minutes later, Nourse struck again, as he this time found a gap on the sidelines and ran through it, 33 yards to his third TD of the night.
Meanwhile, Cazenovia’s defense was closing the gaps through which Ross normally ran, physically dominating the line of scrimmage and forcing Westhill to do throw the ball.
This led to two quick punts, then a big play late in the second quarter when Pat Roszel, on a blitz, sacked Mike DeCarr and forced a fumble that Mike McGinnis recovered on the Westhill 30. Nourse did most of the work from there, going the final five yards for his fourth TD.
Cazenovia had put up 23 unanswered points and were now 30-14 as they went to the break. Nourse already had 187 yards on the ground and, while he ran out of some steam in the second half, his teammates would keep the magic going.
Late in the third quarter, facing third down on Westhill’s 40, Koesterer went back to pass, escaped pressure and threw deep — where Dewan was wide-open for the touchdown that made the score 37-14.
Desperate, Westhill resorted to an offense where Ross took direct snaps from center, occasionally flipping it to DeCarr for throws. This led to 22-yard TD pass from DeCarr to Jake Burgess that made it 37-21.
But just when the Warriors were threatening to make it interesting again, Cazenovia dusted off the night’s most memorable play — something they had tried in practice but never needed in a game situation.
Forced to punt near midfield with 10:59 left, the Lakers faked it. Ryan Kelly took the snap, then pretended to hand the ball to Koesterer, who was running out of punt formation, while placing the ball in between his knees.
At least 10 Westhill defenders followed Koesterer as he ran to the right — but Kelly took off left, going 45 yards before Ross caught him at the four-yard line. Nourse, naturally, scored on the next play — his fifth TD — and it was 44-21 in Cazenovia’s favor.
Ross and his Warrior teammates wouldn’t quit, as Dale returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards for one TD, and DeCarr would team with Burgess for another score with 3:27 left. The Lakers stopped the two-point conversion, though, ending Westhill’s last gasp.
Happy as the Lakers were for stopping Westhill again and earning back-to-back sectional titles, their minds have already turned to Saturday night’s Class B regional final against Chenango Forks at Binghamton’s Alumni Stadium at 7 p.m.
Every Cazenovia partisan remembers that the Blue Devils beat the Lakers in last year’s regional final, a 3-0 game decided as much by a torrential downpour as anything else, since the rain limited anything Cazenovia tried to do.
In the huddle following the win over Westhill, Koesterer told his teammates not to be satisfied with this, reminding them of what happened a year ago against Forks. Now the Lakers have a chance to get even — something it didn’t let Westhill pull off.