Oct 30, 2007 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
So an undefeated Cazenovia football team will go up against undefeated Westhill with the Section III Class B championship on the line.
If that sounds familiar, well, it is. The Lakers thrived in this exact same scenario 12 months ago, crushing the Warriors 32-7 in the Carrier Dome to achieve its first sectional crown since 2001.
Now the venue changes — to Cicero-North Syracuse’s Bragman Stadium — but the stakes are the same when Cazenovia and Westhill reunite Saturday at 5 p.m. And if possible, the sequel has even more of a build-up than the original.
To go to 9-0, the Lakers had to scrape through a fierce battle with Solvay in last Saturday’s Class B semifinal at Chittenango High School, relying on the magic of Coleman Koesterer and well-timed defensive stops to beat back the Bearcats 22-8.
It was, by far, the toughest assignment Cazenovia had faced all season. Solvay, 7-1 going into the game, massed at the line of scrimmage in the early going, limiting Chris Nourse’s gains on the ground while, at the same time, forcing Koesterer into throws that sailed over the heads of open Laker receivers.
Also, an early fumble and a long pass play from Jonathan Orioli to Mike Acchione forced Cazenovia to make a stand inside the 10-yard line. On fourth down, Pat Roszel knocked down Orioli’s pass, ending the threat.
Right after that, Cazenovia took advantage of Acchione’s fumble on a punt return and marched to the game’s opening points, a 31-yard Nick Rogers field goal.
But Solvay wasn’t fazed, answering with a 77-yard march that stretched into the second quarter. From the Lakers’ 33, Orioli ran an option through a hole on the left side and never stopped until he jumped into the end zone.
After an empty possession, and facing a 6-3 deficit (the latest it had been behind in a game all season), head coach Tom Neidl switched to a spread offense, something the Lakers had practiced all season but had rarely used in games.
By forcing Solvay defenders to go wide and by not huddling to allow for substitutions, Koesterer started to flourish.
On a 62-yard scoring march, the senior quarterback used runs of 15 and 19 yards to go inside the 20, then broke three tackles on a 12-yard run to the end zone that gave the Lakers a 9-8 edge.
Following a quick Bearcat possession and bad punt, Koesterer went back to the air. He found Aaron Race on a 21-yard completion in between short throws to Ben Dewan and Chad Dorrance, then used his scrambling ability to find Dewan wide open in the end zone on an eight-yard TD play just 43 seconds before halftime.
Now up 16-8, Cazenovia tried to pull away in the third quarter, as Koesterer again used his legs to lead a scoring march, going the final 15 yards for his second TD. He had 14 carries for 95 yards on the afternoon, to go with 10-of-16 passing for 96 yards.
Still, Solvay wouldn’t quit, using more than five minutes of clock on a long march inside the Lakers’ 10-yard line late in the third quarter.
But on fourth-and-goal, Roszel again batted down Orioli’s pass, and Nourse ended another Solvay threat in the fourth quarter with a clinching interception.
Overall, Roszel had a superb game, matching teammate Sean Dougherty as they each made 11 tackles in support of defensive leader Artie Bigsby, who had 16 tackles of his own.
Neidl said that this was just the kind of battle his team needed before dealing with Westhill, an opponent even more daunting than it was in 2006.
In going to 9-0, the Warriors have put up astonishing offensive numbers, including 452 points, and much of that is due to the work of senior running back Dale Ross.
On its way to beating Marcellus 55-14 in last Friday’s other Class B semifinal, Ross set a state record by rushing for 569 yards, scoring all eight of his team’s touchdowns. For the season, Ross has 2,194 yards and 37 touchdowns, both school records.
Koesterer said his team has done a good job focusing on the games at hand and not looking ahead to a Westhill showdown everyone had anticipated from the moment training camp started in August.
Now, the preliminaries are over, and the main event — Cazenovia against Westhill for the Class B title — is at hand.