Jun 18, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
This has turned into the mandatory point, at the end of each high school sports season, to look back, reminisce, celebrate and pontificate on the last 10 months.
One easy conclusion can be drawn – that this 2011-12 season was unlike all others, both in the extreme ability of some to shine, and in the extreme volatility of others, leading to all kinds of off-the-field dramas.
That dual nature was evident in the fall. Even as the extraordinary girls of Fayetteville-Manlius won yet another national cross-country title, Cazenovia repeated as state field hockey champions and Hamilton’s tough boys rose to the top again in Class D boys soccer, the smell of controversy overshadowed the good stuff.
What should have been a historic winning season for Skaneateles football got sunk amid questions over whether some of the players were improperly recruited. It turned out that none of the players were ineligible, but Section III still kicked the undefeated Lakers out of the playoffs, leading to Tim Green’s resignation and a deep divide within the Skaneateles community.
Lacking the real chance Skaneateles had to win it all, Section III stumbled in football a bit. Only Chittenango reached the state semifinals, and Hornell stopped the Bears there on the way to a third straight state title, 39 straight wins, a proper end for retiring coaching great Gene Mastin.
Thankfully, the winter offered a lot of respite, both in the lack of snow and in the extraordinary work done by basketball teams – and one girl in particular.
It wasn’t just that Breanna Stewart and her mates at Cicero-North Syracuse swept the state and Federation Class AA titles, claiming the latter for the first time after repeating in Troy.
They did so while Stewart was literally sweeping every national-player-of-the-year award that could get dreamed up. No local product, male or female, in any team sport has ever received the sort of accolades the UConn-bound Stewart received. That she has handled them with total grace and humility, while still kicking everyone’s tails on the court, is something to truly admire.
All of this was part of a fruitful March for local hoops sides. Bishop Ludden, young and hungry, and Sackets Harbor, full of senior leadership, both won state boys basketball titles, a tribute to the coaching jobs of Pat Donnelly and Kurt Robbins along the way.
South Jefferson got close on the girls side, going to the title game, while Little Falls inspired us reaching the state final four with a seven-player roster. Dajuan Coleman, Tyler Cavanaugh and Jamesville-DeWitt were stopped two wins short of a fifth straight state conquest, but the fact that they had four in a row was mind-blowing enough.
Individuals dazzled, too, whether it was Zavon Watkins winning state indoor and outdoor track races or Cory Keefe handling the indoor part for Oswego. The hockey Buccaneers made it to the state finals, and West Genesee almost got there, thwarted in a four-OT epic with Suffern, and they’re still complaining about Shawn Lynch’s shoot-out goal that wasn’t counted.
Oh well, at least Mike Messere earned the national lacrosse wins record at West Genesee, one coach who has remained a legend even as other successful ones, like Liverpool’s Jerry Wilcox (in basketball) and Marcellus’ Pete Birmingham (in baseball) were run off in mid-season, a very disturbing trend. Are parents holding too much sway? It’s a question that must get addressed.
For all the disappointment elsewhere, a West Genesee team did win a state title – in girls lacrosse. After three straight years of tense semifinal defeats, the senior-laden Wildcats climbed over that hurdle this time around and went on to beat Penfield at SUNY-Cortland for the sixth state crown in 12 years. That’s Messere-like domination.
Others could not repeat, whether it was the boys at J-D (stopped in the state semis) or Cazenovia, or the girls at CBA, despite an absurd rally from a 14-7 and four-players-down deficit to pull within one in the semifinals against Shoreham-Wading River, who held on there and won it all.
Yet the final week of the spring brought different bits of glory. Whether it was New Hartford’s Daniel Bard earning the first state golf championship for Section III in 20 years or F-M’s Nick Ryan sweeping the state 1,600 and 3,200-meter track events, there was reason to smile.
Also, the runs of New Hartford’s baseball team (from sub-.500 to the state final four), and softball sides from J-D and C-NS (both of whom made the state finals in dramatic fashion), were fun to follow, even if they, along with the diamond heroes of Oriskany, fell just short of the ultimate summit.
So, now time to breathe, relax, chill out, enjoy the summer – and wait for September, for the whole crazy show to start up again.