Sep 07, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
So it just might work out for Joe Corley, Jim Marks and the rest of the West Genesee football team as the next chapter begins.
Dragged into a high-scoring shootout last Friday night in its season opener at Auburn, the Wildcats, perhaps drawing upon its 2007 state Class AA championship experience, showed all the poise down the stretch and produced a 56-35 victory over the Maroons.
A large, boisterous crowd at Holland Stadium bore witness to a rare sight — the last two state champions confronting each other during the regular season.
As improbable as Auburn’s run to that ultimate prize in 2006 was, it soon got company when the Wildcats made the same sprint to the top one year later, propelled there by the sideline leadership of head coach Steve Bush and the cool, brilliant work of quarterback Tim Moran.
When both of them left — Bush to take an assistant coaching position with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, Moran to graduate — the Wildcats’ task of doing it all over again got a lot taller.
But at the insistence of the remaining players, WG promoted Corley, the popular offensive line coach, to the top job. And Marks, who had watched Moran practice his magic from the sidelines as a junior, now took over, determined to do the same thing.
Marks sure did his part, completing 16 of 22 passes for 330 yards. Much of the time, he threw it to wide receiver Jake Fietkiewicz, who had seven catches for 168 yards and a career-best four touchdowns.
First, though, WG had to withstand Auburn’s fast and furious start. Sending the home fans into a frenzy, Ismail Brooks broke loose for a 69-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, and Dave Jacobs found Matt Wild on a 15-yard scoring pass to make it 14-0.
Having rallied to beat the Maroons a year ago (in a 13-12 game), WG did not get flustered. Instead, with Auburn defenders fixated on top returning wide receiver Joe Fazio, Marks instead found Fietkiewicz on a shovel pass and Fietkiewicz did the rest, going 16 yards for a TD that got the Wildcats on the board late in the period.
The second quarter proved even wilder. Going deep, Marks hit Fietkiewicz again, this time for 57 yards, to tie it 14-14, and in the late-summer heat, the defenses would continue to get burned.
After Brooks scored again from 26 yards out to put Auburn ahead 20-14, WG answered with a pair of scores. Marks threw his third TD pass to Fazio, covering 43 yards, and speedy running back Jeremy Jones took off on a 38-yard sprint to the end zone to make it 28-20.
Continuing this crazy, can-you-top-this theme, Auburn tied it again, 28-28, when Jacobs hit Eddie Charles on a 24-yars scoring pass and found Brooks for two points. That’s how they stood at halftime as both sides tried to figure out how they could stop anything.
Early in the third quarter, it was Marks to Fietkiewicz again, this one a 60-yard connection that produced the Wildcats’ second lead at 35-28. Not to be outdone, Auburn’s J.T. Foltz tore through WG’s defenders and went 54 yards to the end zone, with Jesse Infante’s extra point producing a third tie at 35-35.
Only in the fourth quarter did the Wildcats’ conditioning and stamina pay off. It began to control the line of scrimmage on both sides, with veterans Stefan Cavedine and Craig Simmons anchoring the effort on one end and defenders like Dave Hildman containing Brooks and his teammates, too.
Marks found Fietkiewicz a fourth time on an eight-yard TD pass, giving WG the lead for good at 42-35 early in the fourth quarter.
With the defense making those crucial stops, the Wildcats got the ball back and would twice convert to pull clear. Sirron Wright ran 37 yards for one TD, and Tom Flynn went eight yards for the other. Kevin Petrick, replacing Luke Cometti (and also starting at tight end), made all eight of the extra points he attempted.
To put what the Wildcats did in perspective, consider that it never scored 56 points in any single game leading up to its state title a year ago. The prospect that WG’s offense has improved in the transition from Moran to Marks is downright scary.
And now the folks in Camillus will get to see the show up close, as the Wildcats meet Central Square Friday night at 6 p.m. in the home opener. Central Square had a rough opening night, falling to Cicero-North Syracuse 63-19, and might not have quarterback Nick Moran, who suffered an injury during the CNS game.