Nov 07, 2010 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Back in its old home in Class B, the Cazenovia football team found something else that was quite familiar – namely, a Section III championship.
Repeating its triumphs from 2006 and 2007 before it got moved down to the Class C ranks, the Lakers toppled Oneida 21-8 Sunday night at the Carrier Dome, taking control in the second half on both sides of the ball.
In one of the best performances of his high-school career, quarterback Jeff Hopsicker ran for 147 yards on 20 carries and also threw for 93 yards. Hopsicker’s 40-yard touchdown run with 1:34 left helped clinch the title.
“Jeff came out this year with a great deal of confidence,” said head coach Tom Neidl. “And he’s been steady all year long.”
In their regular-season encounter on Oct. 1, Cazenovia (playing without top wide receiver Doyle Judge) trailed the Indians in the fourth quarter, only to have Travis Mimms score a defensive touchdown and make a key fourth-down sack that led to another score and, eventually, an 18-8 Laker victory.
Much more was at stake in the rematch, with the Indians having found a power running game thanks to sophomore back Matt Barlow – something that it would test against a well-regarded Cazenovia defense.
And Oneida gambled right away on the game’s opening possession, going for a fourth down near midfield that Matt Barlow converted. Just two plays later, though, Barlow fumbled, and Cazenovia’s Ben Spangler pounced on it his team’s 41-yard line.
The Lakers came out in a no-huddle offense, and had the Indians off its rhythm as Judge, Jeff Hopsicker, John Greacen and Jose Wells all ripped off long gains to get it inside Oneida’s 10-yard line. Greacen finished it off with a two-yard TD plunge, and Nick Christakos’ extra point made it 7-0 midway through the opening period.
Early in the second quarter, the Indians struck back. It moved to the Lakers’ 35, then on third-down-and-five Barlow barreled through a hole on the left side of the line and went untouched to the end zone. Oneida then faked the PAT as Matt Mosack, the holder, ran and fumbled near the goal line – only to have lineman Travis Morrison recover it for two points.
Now trailing 8-7, Cazenovia went back to a huddle – and moved right back down the field. A key completion to Tanner Whiteman and effective runs from Greacen and Hopsicker moved the Lakers inside the 20, but on third down Hopsicker threw into traffic – and Kyle Armstrong picked it off at the Indians’ 12-yard line, the Lakers’ first turnover.
This changed the field position, for though the sides exchanged punts, Hopsicker pinned a quick kick on Oneida’s one-yard line late in the half. But (unlike Marcellus the week before) Barlow used a 10-yard run to escape danger, and the Indians carried that slim 8-7 lead into the break.
So Cazenovia was behind, just as in the first meeting (it was 8-3 back then), and now it had to make a second comeback, even if it was of the modest variety. Of course, the circumstances were anything but modest – and the way the Lakers answered the challenge was far from subtle.
Taking the second-half kickoff, Hopsicker quickly moved his team 65 yards, with key completions to Judge and Ben Romagnoli, plus some timely running from Greacen, during the march. From the two-yard-line on third-down-and-goal, the 5-5, 135-pound Wells leaped over the Indian defenders into the end zone, and the Lakers were back in front 14-8.
Jimmy Moyer promptly returned the ensuing kickoff 42 yards into Laker territory, giving Oneida a short field, and it quickly moved toward the Cazenovia goal line. But once again, Mimms made a big defensive play, sacking Mosack on third down back at the 35 and forcing a turnover on downs.
At the same spot where its last TD march began, Cazenovia set off on another long journey to the other end zone, using up seven-plus minutes on a 63-yard possession that went deep into the fourth quarter.
Faced with a fourth-down-and-goal, Cazenovia took a time-out, then sent out Christakos to try a 19-yard field goal – but he hooked it wide right, and the Indians got the ball on its own 20 with 8:44 to play.
Oneida moved it to the Cazenovia 42, where it faced fourth-down-and-inches, but Mosack converted with a sneak. Two plays later, he took off on a 22-yard bootleg to Cazenovia’s 38, and minutes ticked off the clock.
On third-and-eight at the 35, Mosack’s bad option pitch cost them 11 yards. Facing fourth-and-19, Mosack threw deep – and Judge tipped it out of danger, the Lakers taking over at the 46 with 2:36 left.
Greacen picked up a first down, Oneida burned through their remaining time-outs – and Hopsicker sealed it by going 40 yards for the clinching touchdown with 1:34 left. Once again, the Lakers were on top of the sectional ranks.
With the win, Cazenovia advanced to face Section IV champion Chenango Valley in Saturday night’s Class B regional final at East Syracuse-Minoa Stadium at 6 p.m. Whoever wins here goes to Rochester on Nov. 20 to play Alden or Hornell in the state semifinals.
Mimms, for his part, said the Lakers have a lot more to accomplish.
“It (the sectional championship) means a lot to us,” he said. “But we won’t be satisfied until we win a state championship.”
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