Sep 05, 2007 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Here stood the Cicero-North Syracuse football team, less than six minutes away from knocking off the Auburn Maroons at Holland Stadium for the second year in a row.
When it was done in 2006, it took two days (thanks to a power outage) and overtime to settle the affair, and no one had any clue that the Maroons would go on an improbable run to the state Class AA championship, making the Northstars’ win more significant in hindsight.
Now CNS had a chance to ruin the defending state champions’ home opener, giving itself a tidal wave of momentum that could last throughout the fall.
Yet when the final whistle sounded, the Northstars were on the wrong end of a 42-35 decision, cursing its own mistakes and wondering if fate was smiling in Auburn’s direction — again.
Twice in the second half, CNS held the lead. Twice, it gave that lead away, and when it attempted to rally at the end, an ill-timed penalty thwarted the deal.
Both running backs set the tone early. Laquan James kick-started his senior season by tearing through Auburn’s rebuilt defense on a 64-yard touchdown sprint on his team’s first play from scrimmage. Auburn’s Ismail Brooks countered by taking Chris Gomez’s screen pass and going 32 yards to the end zone to tie it, 7-7.
It quieted down a bit in the second quarter, but CNS pulled in front. Steven Ianzito, in his first varsity start at quarterback after succeeding Greg Larioni, threw 12 yards to Chad Dubiel for the go-ahead TD, and the Northstars took a 14-7 lead to the break.
Just as quickly, Auburn took back the momentum with three touchdowns in the third quarter. Brooks added two more TD’s to his total, and Malcolm Bryant entered the picture with a 48-yard run.
Now down 28-14, it was the Northstars’ turn to roar. A solid drive near the end of the third quarter culminated in fullback Richie Lickfield’s one-yard plunge, cutting Auburn’s lead in half, to 28-21.
When the Maroons fumbled deep in its own territory early in the fourth quarter, James made them pay by racing 22 yards for his second TD, tying it at 28-28. A failed Maroons lateral led to another fumble, which CNS turned into the go-ahead score when Lickfield ran five yards into the end zone.
So the Northstars were up 35-28, exactly the same score by which it beat the Maroons in OT a season ago. Soon enough, though, it would be different.
On the kickoff after Lickfield’s second TD, Matt Hoey, one of the main heroes of Auburn’s ’06 state title run, returned it 78 yards deep into CNS territory. A short drive followed, and Brooks finished it off with a six-yard scoring run with 5:38 left in regulation to tie it, 28-28, the fourth tie of the night.
Barely a minute later, CNS committed a costly fumble at its own 32-yard line, and Auburn pounced on it. Carefully, the Maroons drove to the Northstars’ seven-yard line.
Gomez, who spent most of the night managing affairs, now seized the moment, as he lofted the ball to the end zone — where Hoey caught the go-ahead touchdown, putting the Maroons back in front with less than two minutes left.
CNS had one more chance. It moved into Auburn territory, only to get hit with penalties to force a fourth-down-and-30 at its own 42.
Ianzito had no choice but to throw deep, and he found Dubiel, who caught it at the 10-yard line, only to see it nullified when CNS was ruled to have an ineligible receiver. The penalty all but ended the Northstars’ hopes.
James, in defeat, picked up 164 yards, while Brooks showed he was a worth successor to Quendel Ellison by carrying the ball 21 times for 172 yards.
After all this, CNS will need to bounce back in a grand setting, as it meets Central Square Saturday at 5 p.m. in the Carrier Dome. The Red Hawks also lost its opener, falling 32-14 to West Genesee.