Oct 07, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
When the West Genesee football team left the field last Friday night at Fayetteville-Manlius, the last thing it saw was a swarm of F-M students on the field, giddy in celebration over the biggest surprise of the Section III season so far.
In the minds of most, what was supposed to happen was that the 4-0 Wildcats, with its high-octane offense, would swoop in, keep the 0-4 Hornets winless, and move on to this Friday’s Class AA-1 league first-place showdown with Christian Brothers Academy.
What did happen, though, threw the whole AA championship race wide-open.
Playing with focus, urgency, emotion and complete confidence, the Hornets built a 23-point lead on the shocked Wildcats, then held on for dear life at the end to earn a 47-37 victory that might, by the time all is said and done, propel F-M to the playoffs.
That’s right, folks, the playoffs.
For anyone at 0-4, about to face the defending state Class AA champions and no. 1-ranked team in the state, the mere thought of a victory, much less a late surge to reach the post-season, would provoke laughter and scorn.
But F-M head coach Paul Muench and his players saw it in a far different light. Muench said his team had shown lots of heart and spirit while dropping four games in a row to teams with a combined mark of 15-1, and that sooner or later that hard work would lead to results.
Winners of 10 in a row dating back to 2007, WG received the first surprising blow when F-M quarterback T.J. Earley moved his team to the Wildcats’ 34-yard line, then threw deep to find Mike O’Neil for the game’s first touchdown.
Responding well, WG zoomed into a 10-6 lead, capping one drive with Joe Fazio’s 30-yard field goal, then moving ahead when quarterback Jim Marks hit Jake Fietkiewicz on a 33-yard TD pass. It was Fietkiewicz’s 10th touchdown of the season.
But it was the game’s middle stages that served as F-M’s big move, a terrific effort on both sides of the ball that resulted in 27 unanswered points.
Right from the start, F-M found that it could run the ball on WG’s shaky defense. And it did so, using the blocks of Kevin Cooper, Karl Thomson and Evan Butcher, among others, to spring Matt Taylor and Matt Fallico loose for big gains.
In all, Taylor had 117 yards, on 24 carries. Fallico wasn’t far behind, with 105 yards. After Taylor scored on a five-yard run, Fallico added a pair of TD plunges close to halftime, and suddenly F-M had a 26-10 edge.
Shocked by this deluge, the Wildcats saw it get worse when F-M drove down the field again early in the third quarter. When Fallico landed his third TD of the night on a seven-yard scamper, the margin had grown to 33-10, and the F-M crowd was delirious.
As happy as Muench and the players were, though, they knew that the Wildcats were quite capable of putting up a lot of points in a short amount of time.
Sure enough, WG began to oblige. First, Josh Cruz scored on a six-yard run to cut it to 33-17. Then, when Earley tried to rush a throw to the sidelines, Kevin Petrick stepped in front of it, returning the interception 35 yards for a TD to ignite the Wildcat fans.
When yet another WG drive culminated in Jeremy Jones’ five-yard TD run early in the fourth quarter, F-M’s margin was just two, 33-31, and the upset — not to mention the Hornets’ playoff hopes — were slipping away.
Once again, F-M reached deep inside and put together a key scoring drive, Taylor this time finishing it off on an 11-yard run, Dan Costa’s extra point making it 40-31.
Wasting little times, Marks moved his team to F-M’s 23-yard line, then found Fazio in the end zone. Though the extra point got missed, the Wildcats, down 40-37, were a field goal from tying it, and needed a defensive stop.
But just when it looked like WG would get the ball back in the last minutes, it committed a late-hit penalty, giving F-M a first down deep in Wildcat territory. Milking the clock, F-M ran the ball down and, with a minute left, Fallico got his fourth touchdown on a six-yard run to begin the celebration.
Somehow, F-M must try and get focused again for this Friday’s game home test against 0-5 Utica Proctor, and make sure to win to have its Oct. 18 regular-season finale against Liverpool mean as much as it could. Game time for Proctor is 7 p.m.
WG, meanwhile, will go back to the defensive drawing board as it gets ready for CBA’s visit to Camillus. How that defense performs against the Brothers’ running duo of Tom Trasolini and Fajri Jackson will prove crucial, though the hype will be centered around Marks and the offense dueling with a ferocious CBA defense that has shut out both Henninger and Cicero-North Syracuse this fall.