Laker Joey Gates, with his fierce pass rush, led the Lakers’ defense, recording seven solo tackles and assisting on four others during the Oct. 21 game against Westhill. (photo by Lisa Liddell)
Make any mistake against the Cazenovia football team, and it’s difficult to make up ground. A handful of mistakes can turn a potentially close contest into something far more lopsided.
Westhill found this out in the most direct way possible during Saturday’s opening round of the Section III Class B playoffs at Buckley-Volo Field, where the undefeated, state no. 5-ranked Lakers piled up points and big plays on both sides of the ball to beat the Warriors 61-18.
As the fourth-place finisher in the B West division, Westhill knew that anything other than flawless execution would not work against Cazenovia, especially after the Lakers scored on its opening possession when Jake Macheda made a one-handed grab of a Matt Regan swing pass and sprinted 31 yards to the end zone.
On the Warriors’ next play from scrimmage, a fumble was pounced on by Cazenovia defensive lineman Evan Duskee at the Westhill 30, and Regan immediately threw deep over the middle, finding Kevin Stalder for a touchdown. Those two scores came just 23 seconds apart.
Before the first quarter was done, Macheda had scored again, on a 16-yard run, with Regan’s extra point making it 21-0, just the start of a Lakers first-half clinic on both sides of the ball.
A series of sacks pinned Westhill at its one-yard line, leading to a short punt that Matt McLaughlin returned inside the Warriors’ 20. Three plays later, Regan found Stalder in the end zone from 18 yards out.
Another short scoring drive involved Will Huftalen taking a Regan screen pass near midfield, picking up blocks and dashing up the middle 53 yards to the end zone.
Not leaving anything out, the Lakers made it 35-0 late in the half right after a short Westhill punt. Macheda took a toss, ran right and then threw a perfect spiral to Huftalen in the end zone.
Westhill did score right before the break, preventing the shutout, but the Lakers’ defense answered with interceptions from McLaughlin and 270-pound lineman Nolan Frisbey in the third quarter, along with Regan’s spectacular 67-yard TD run down the left sideline where he broke several Westhill tackles.
As if that wasn’t enough, the reserves produced two touchdowns in 19 seconds during the fourth quarter thanks to Tony Heaney’s five-yard run and Isaac Senehi’s 30-yard interception return.
Regan completed nine of 16 passes for 160 yards and also ran for 98 yards. Huftalen, before suffering a fourth-quarter injury, had three catches for 90 yards as Macheda had nine carries for 60 yards.
Joey Gates, with his fierce pass rush, led the Lakers’ defense, recording seven solo tackles and assisting on four others. Stalder also had seven tackles as McLaughlin earned six tackles and Shawn Szlamczynski got five tackles.
Cazenovia is headed to the sectional Class B semifinals against Marcellus (7-1), who beat Utica-Notre Dame 43-30 in the first round. The winner goes to the Carrier Dome Nov. 4 for the sectional final against Homer or Vernon-Verona-Sherrill.
VVS achieved its spot in the semifinals at the expense of Chittenango, the Bears unable to get on the scoreboard in a 27-0 defeat to the Red Devils.
For much of the first half, Chittenango’s defense kept the game close. Bryce Cousin’s first-quarter TD on an 11-yard run put VVS in front, the only points as it was 7-0 going to the break.
Not until late in the third period did the Red Devils take over. Facing fourth down at the Chittenango 11, VVS quarterback Alex Oliver scrambled out of the backfield and made his way to the end zone.
That play appeared to deflate the Bears, for Oliver connected with Nate Palmer on a 30-yard scoring pass early in the fourth quarter to make it 20-0. and Tyler Roach scored on an eight-yard run.
Chittenango finished with a 4-4 record, while VVS moved to 7-1, its lone blemish a Sept. 8 defeat to Cazenovia. The Bears will play host to both of the sectional semifinal games Friday night, with Cazenovia and Marcellus kicking off at 5 p.m. and Homer facing VVS at 8 p.m.