Nov 13, 2010 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
For the third time in five years, the Cazenovia football team ventured into the state Class B playoffs. And just like the previous two times, a team from Chenango, in the Southern Tier, snuffed out the Lakers’ dreams of a state championship.
But unlike 2006 and 2007, when Chenango Forks knocked out the Lakers, this time it was Chenango Valley in the role of villain as it beat Cazenovia 27-14 Saturday night at East Syracuse-Minoa Stadium.
Despite the defeat, head coach Tom Neidl said he was pleased with how his team came back from last season’s disappointment (a loss to General Brown in the sectional Class C finals) and got a sectional title this time.
“I’m tremendously proud of these kids,” he said. “They worked together since last year’s finals to get to this point and beat some very good football teams along the way.”
The Warriors scored on the game’s opening drive and never trailed, using a deft mix of misdirection runs and play-action passes on long drives that ate up large chunks of the clock. And CV’s defense stood up to make big plays any time Cazenovia tried to catch up.
Through much of the first quarter, and well into the second period, Jeff Hopsicker and the rest of Cazenovia’s offense could only serve as spectators, watching as the Warriors bolted out to a 14-0 lead with a pair of effective drives.
Following a fine kick return by Adam Greene, CV took the opening kickoff from its own 43 and, with a series of runs, moved to the Lakers’ 30-yard line. On a key fourth-down conversion, Warrior quarterback Kevin Cox threw deep down the middle and hit Zack Collins at the three-yard line, and three plays later Adam Greene scored on a one-yard plunge.
Though CV missed the extra point, it still cost the Lakers dearly as senior captain Liam Ryan, a standout on both the offensive and defensive lines, left with a knee injury and would not return.
On the Warriors’ next possession, it went 80 yards in seven-plus minutes, again converting a fourth down in the middle of the march and again using a pass (Cox going 24 yards to Conor Mahoney) to set up a short TD plunge, this time by Cox. For good measure, Cox hit Collins on a two=point pass.
Trailing 14-0, Cazenovia needed to get something – and did when Hopsicker’s 35-yard run keyed a 65-yard drive, conducted in Cazenovia’s newly-sprung no-huddle offense. Hopsicker hit Jose Wells on a five-yard scoring pass and, with Nick Christakos’ PAT, cut the deficit to 14-7.
But Cox continued to test – and beat – the Lakers secondary, his 40-yard pass to Mahoney setting up, arguably, the game’s best play. On third down at the Lakers’ 26, Cazenovia sent an all-out blitz at Cox – but he threw over it to fullback Josh Kilts, who ran untouched to the end zone, the PAT extending the margin to 21-7, where it stood at halftime.
Despite Hopsicker’s pair of interceptions (both by Justin Gaudinier), Cazenovia appeared to jump right back in it when a high punt snap, over the head of CV’s Eric Silvanic, led to a recovery at the Warriors’ 10-yard line late in the third quarter. Hopsicker, the game’s MVP on the Lakers’ side, scored on an eight-yard bootleg that, with the Christakos PAT, cut the deficit back to single touchdown, 21-14.
CV kept its poise, though, and early in the fourth quarter took the ball on its own 15 and started grinding its way down the field once more, eating up nearly eight minutes of clock. Except for another big pass play (28 yards from Cox to Greene), the Warriors kept to the ground until it reached the Lakers’ 16.
Then, with 3:56 left and facing third down, Cox gambled with a throw to the left. Chris Schaffner had Mahoney well-covered, but Mahoney still made a terrific catch in the end zone, putting CV ahead by a pair of scores again. Cox finished nine-for-12 through the air for 178 yards, while Mahoney caught six of those passes for 103 yards.
Frantically, Hopsicker drove his team once more, reaching the Warriors’ 10 before taking back-to-back sacks that led to CV taking over on downs and running out the clock on Cazenovia’s magical season.
As Chenango Valley advanced to play defending state champion Hornell in the state semifinals in Rochester, Cazenovia contemplated the end of a 10-1 season and the fact that Hopsicker, Ryan, Wells, Schaffner, Noah Shephard, Ben Romagnoli, Dan Majewski, Tom Toole, Forest Blanchard, Travis Mimms, Ben Spangler and Xavier Coates will depart – one of the best senior classes in the Laker program’s rich history.