Sep 23, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Though still young, and still learning in many spots, the Christian Brothers Academy football team is slowly regaining that unmatched confidence that only comes when someone wins with regularity.
By making the plays it needed to down the stretch, the Brothers kept itself unbeaten and kept Fayetteville-Manlius without a victory last Friday night at Alibrandi Stadium, prevailing by a score of 26-16.
A large crowd turned out at Alibrandi for CBA’s Homecoming, bearing witness to two teams on completely opposite paths as Class AA-1 division play got underway. With its 2-0 start after wins over Henninger and Baldwinsville, the Brothers (no. 11 in the first state Class AA rankings of the season) were in good spirits.
By contrast, F-M, had lost to Binghamton and Henninger to start 0-2. The Hornets had proven in years past that it could overcome tough starts — but with the strength of the AA-1 league, it could ill afford similar behavior this time around.
On its opening drive, CBA went to the air, as sophomore quarterback Tyler Hamblin threw at will to test the Hornets’ secondary. That proved successful until, at F-M’s five-yard line, Hamblin threw into end-zone traffic — and Mike O’Neil intercepted.
Fueled by that stop, F-M kept the shutout going into the second quarter. More importantly, it established a ground game against CBA’s highly-touted defense. Matt Taylor’s big gains set up Dan Costa for a 31-yard field goal early in the second quarter that put F-M up 3-0.
Now CBA went to the ground, something Henninger’s Greg Spears had done the week before to the tune of 247 yards against the Hornets’ defense.
In this case, Fajri Jackson carried the load. Four straight times, he got the ball, capping it with a 30-yard touchdown run that featured several broken tackles. On CBA’s next possession, after Tom Trasolini broke loose for a 26-yard gain, Jackson scored again on a tough 19-yard run to make it 12-3.
Sensing some urgency, F-M responded with an 85-yard drive in the late stages of the half, getting to the two-yard line before fullback Matt Fallico punched it in. As they went to the break, the Hornets were down 12-10, but had seized the momentum.
And that momentum carried over into the third quarter. Newly energized, F-M’s defense made a couple of stops, and a drive late in the period led to Fallico’s second TD, another two-yard push, as the Hornets went back in front 16-12.
Unlike the first two games, CBA head coach Joe Casamento stuck with Hamblin, giving backup Jared DePalma just one play all night. Now, with his team trailing later, Hamblin pushed the Brothers to a go-ahead score, throwing 19 yards to Doug Bailey for that touchdown.
Much of the fourth quarter was a tense struggle, neither side able to do much. As time began to wind down, F-M, down 19-16, drove to CBA’s 30-yard line, only to see quarterback T.J. Earley throw a trio of incomplete passes as the drive stalled.
Jackson would then seal CBA’s victory with four long runs, including his third TD, a 20-yard sprint with a minute to play. Once again, F-M’s run defense had been burned, as Jackson, running behind massive linemen Andy Phillips and Ted Barrett, had 141 yards on 13 carries, and Trasolini added 88 yards on the ground.
Yet F-M could not stack the line of scrimmage because of Hamblin’s work through the air. Making a case to see every starting snap, Hamblin completed 12 of 23 passes for 208 yards, while Earley went 14-for-26 for 185 yards. Taylor had an effective night on the ground for the Hornets with 21 carries for 136 yards.
With its 3-0 mark, CBA will take on Liverpool Friday night at the Warriors’ temporary home field, Solvay’s Earl Hadley Stadium. Liverpool got off to its own 2-0 start before defending state Class AA champion West Genesee outscored them 51-34 last Friday night in Camillus. Stopping junior running back Greg Bell is crucial to CBA’s fortunes.
F-M, at 0-3 and desperate to break into the win column, will have to visit Cicero-North Syracuse Friday for a 7 p.m. kickoff at Bragman Stadium. The Northstars’ 3-0 start includes a 34-0 shutout over Utica Proctor in last week’s league opener.