Nov 03, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
All that was anticipated from Saturday’s Section III Class AA championship game at the Carrier Dome manifested itself in a second half full of big plays, bigger momentum shifts and multiple lead changes.
And when it was done, Christian Brothers Academy had claimed the crown, shaking off three years worth of frustrations to beat Baldwinsville 35-24 by scoring twice in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter.
Seven years had passed since CBA last won a sectional title. That the drought was broken against the same B’ville team that beat them in the finals in 2009 and 2010 only made it sweeter.
“It’s such a relief,” said senior captain Joey Pascarella. “We had to redeem ourselves after the past three years.”
For head coach Joe Casamento, who would be inducted into CBA’s Athletic Hall of Fame that very night at an induction banquet at a nearby hotel, the satisfaction went beyond a happier evening.
“It makes dinner taste better tonight,” he said. “For us to be here (in the finals) four years in a row is something I’m proud of, but then to win it is even more special.”
Most of the pre-game focus was on the match-up between B’ville’s superstar running back, Tyler Rouse, and CBA’s fast, hard-hitting defense, which had cut down so many high-flying offenses throughout a 9-0 run to the no. 3 spot in the state Class AA rankings.
But it was the absence of the other star running back that became a bigger story. In the week before the final, CBA sophomore Deshawn Salter, who gained 1,255 yards and scored 17 touchdowns this season, averaging better than 11 yards per carry, fell ill with mononucleosis, sidelining him for the title game.
This changed the composition of the Brothers’ backfield, forcing Pascarella to see more time at running back alongside Salter’s replacement, Jonathan Stackhouse, who would distinguish himself by game’s end.
Following a scoreless opening period, back-to-back plays early in the second quarter put the Brothers out in front. The Bees’ first sustained drive reached CBA’s 25-yard line, but on fourth-and-one, instead of running again, B’ville tried a play-action pass. Josh Demoski got sacked, fumbled, and Keegan O’Hern returned it to the Bees’ 47.
On the very next play, CBA quarterback J.R. Zazzara (who has come back from his own mono bout to start again) kept it on an option fake, cut back up the middle and went all the way to the end zone, a 53-yard run giving the Brothers a 7-0 lead.
Other than that, though, the Bees’ defense held up well in the early going, and Brent Grippe’s 20-yard sack midway through the period pinned CBA deep in its own end, leading to a short punt and another B’ville scoring opportunity.
This one wasn’t wasted, as B’ville moved to the Brothers’ 19, from where Rouse broke through the line of scrimmage, got inside the five and leaped over the last defenders into the end zone.
Tom Scarfino’s extra point tied it, 7-7, where it stood at halftime. Rouse, to that point, had 123 yards on 19 carries, but he would never break a big run in the second half, even as the excitement was just getting started.
CBA reclaimed the lead on the first possession of the half, aided by Dametrius Brown’s 20-yard kick return near midfield. Two Zazzara passes to Cody Radziewicz, covering 22 and 15 yards, led to Stackhouse going seven yards for the go-ahead TD.
Shay Sargeant returned the ensuing kickoff 33 yards into CBA territory. After five straight Rouse runs, Demoski found Eric Anthony on a 20-yard pass, putting the Bees’ inside the Brothers’ 10. Two plays later, Rouse had his second TD on a four-yard run, and with Scarfino’s PAT, they were even again, 14-14.
Then the Bees’ short kickoff slipped out of CBA’s hands and into those of Brian Mahar at the Brothers’ 39. With a chance to go in front, the Bees again mixed in Rouse’s runs with a key fourth-down conversion when Demoski threw a 10-yard pass to Sargeant.
Stopped at the five, B’ville had to settle for Scarfino’s 22-yard field goal. Still, the Bees were up, 17-14, putting CBA in a position it had never faced all season, trailing with one period left.
Despite this new adversity, said Pascarella, “we were very composed. If we didn’t lose our heads, we would be okay.”
Just 11 seconds into the fourth quarter, CBA went back in front, 21-17. Finally unleashing a long pass, Zazzara found Andre Dowdell behind B’ville’s secondary, and Dowdell did the rest, going 55 yards for the go-ahead score.
But that lead didn’t last two minutes, either. Demoski struck again with a 37-yard pass to Sargeant that ended up on CBA’s one-yard-line, and Rouse scored on the next play.
Trailing a second time, 24-21, CBA quickly moved to the Bees’ 11-yard line, leading to the game’s biggest decision. On fourth-and-one, Casamento went for it, and Pascarella powered six yards, setting up first-and-goal.
Two plays later, Stackhouse went five yards for his second TD of the game with 4:44 left, and the lead, now belonging to CBA 28-24, had changed hands a fourth time in less than eight minutes . But it would not change hands again.
Finally, the Brothers made a stop and forced a punt. From its own 45, CBA, with a chance to put the game away, could not get a first down, giving B’ville one more chance on its own 27 with 1:53 left.
The Bees thought it had a big play when Demoski threw deep to Eric Anthony, but an illegal block penalty brought it back, and on fourth down Demoski again lost the ball on a sack, Pascarella returning it 15 yards for a clinching TD.
CBA, with its 10-0 record, advanced to play Section IV champion Binghamton next Saturday at 6 p.m. at East Syracuse-Minoa Stadium in the Class AA regional finals. The winner of that game goes to Rochester for the Nov. 17 state semifinal against Orchard Park or Rochester Aquinas.