Oct 02, 2011 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Cold, wet and weary, the Cazenovia football team could do nothing more, except watch.
Late Saturday afternoon, the Lakers clung to a slim lead at Vernon-Verona-Sherrill, but as time ran low in regulation the Red Devils were lining up for Nash Robb’s 26-yard field-goal attempt.
If Robb missed it, the Lakers, no. 4 in the state Class B rankings, would stay undefeated and clinch a second straight B East regular-season title. If Robb was successful, though, VVS would grab a tie for first place and hold a championship tie-breaker, too.
As fans from both sides looked on, the Red Devils snapped, and Robb let his first field-goal attempt of the season fly. It had some distance, but not the correct path, drifting wide right with just 20 seconds to play.
And so Cazenovia had escaped with a 14-12 victory, which proved a far cry from any of the Lakers’ previous B West outings this fall. Instead of fading away when down 14-0, VVS stormed back and made everyone in Laker blue and gold nervous until the final ticks.
Then again, it was only fitting that Cazenovia and VVS play a thriller, for they had done the same one year ago at Buckley-Volo Field, the Lakers escaping 50-44 in a double-overtime epic.
Of course, with the soggy, slippery field for this latest encounter, neither the Lakers nor Red Devils were getting anywhere near 50 points. And for a long while, it looked like a pair of touchdowns would prove plenty for Cazenovia to get through.
It was ugly at the start, VVS nearly fumbling the ball three times on its first possession before getting Dakota Jenson to intercept Tanner Whiteman’s pass on Cazenovia’s first attempt.
Then the Lakers’ defense, so strong throughout the season, caused Red Devils quarterback Eli Cleveland to fumble, and Darian Smith returned it 27 yards for a touchdown, putting Cazenovia ahead 7-0.
Another Cleveland fumble, this one early in the second quarter near midfield, got the Lakers a short field, and from the VVS 21 Whiteman went deep and found his top receiver, Doyle Judge, in the end zone.
VVS nearly got on the board before halftime, moving 75 yards before Chris Beavo, in for an injured Matt Silker, got stuffed on fourth down at the Cazenovia five. So the Lakers took a 14-0 lead to the break.
Still, the Red Devils’ defense was containing the Lakers at every turn. All Cazenovia could manage was 110 total yards, not even half the VVS total (245), and those struggles gave the hosts all kinds of time to catch up.
Beavo burned the Lakers when, from his own 36, he took off on a 64-yard TD run in the third quarter, but the Red Devils missed the conversion, leaving it 14-6.
Through all its own ups and downs, VVS refused to give in, even after it could not turn a Laker fumble deep in its own end into any points. Forcing a punt, the Red Devils got the ball back at its own 46 and drove to Cazenovia’s goal line, where Cleveland sneaked in from one yard out with 3:30 left.
Forced to go for two and the tie, the Red Devils could not get it. Cazenovia recovered the ensuing onside kick, but again stalled, unable to pick up a clinching first down.
So VVS had one more chance. From his own 46, Cleveland mixed in runs and passes and got help from Laker penalties as the clock ticked down and the Red Devils got nearer the goal line.
Out of time-outs, VVS saw Beavo, who finished with 163 yards on the day, get a five-yard run to the eight and had to rush Robb and the field-goal unit onto the field, which may have affected the rhythm in that final kick.
Cazenovia can finish off an unbeaten run through the B East division with a win at home Saturday against Ilion on Senior Day. The Lakers’ regular season concludes Oct. 15 with a visit to Madison County neighbor (and Class B West leader) Chittenango.