Fayetteville-Manlius running back Zack Page (3) runs in front of lineman Andrew Testani (76) on his way to a first-half touchdown in last Friday’s Section III Class AA playoff game at Baldwinsville.
Injuries played a large role in the way things turned out for the Fayetteville-Manlius and Christian Brothers Academy football teams in the opening round of the Section III Class AA playoffs.
Both the Hornets and Brothers dropped games on the road, F-M taking a tough 24-17 defeat to Baldwinsville at Pelcher-Arcaro Stadium and CBA overwhelmed by undefeated Cicero-North Syracuse in a 61-7 loss at Bragman Stadium.
Of the two games, F-M had the much better opportunity to move on. True, Mitch Seabury was sidelined, a torn knee ligament in the Hornets’ Oct. 6 loss to Central Square sidelining him for the season.
But the rest of F-M’s lineup was relatively intact, and B’ville, who beat the Hornets in this same sectional round a year ago, was without three starters in its lineup – Gabe Horan, John Hernandez and Kolin Wolff.
John Egnaczyk’s 27-yard field goal capped the Hornets’ first possession, and it still led 3-0 late in the first quarter when things began to get lively thanks to four lead changes.
B’ville senior lineman Cameron Majchrzak broke through the line and blocked an F-M punt, the 6-foot-4, 270-pound Majchrzak picking up the loose ball and returning it for the first touchdown of his varsity career.
F-M didn’t get rattled by this, Brody Phelan’s long kick return setting up Mikey Porter’s four-yard scoring pass to Jack Hannah early in the second period. B’ville countered with an 80-yard march of its own, most of it picked up by quarterback Ben Dwyer, who ran the last six yards for the score.
Again, the Hornets tore through the Bees’ defenses on an 80-yard march that Zach Page capped off with a five-yard TD run with 1:42 left in the half. Going into the break, F-M held a 17-14 lead.
But the Bees’ defense was a far different unit once the second half got underway, closing the gaps F-M found throughout the first half and hitting hard, ultimately knocking out two of the Hornets’ top backs, Page and Deion Travis, with injuries.
More importantly, B’ville forced the game’s only turnover, a fumble early in the third quarter that Judson Fletcher recovered on F-M’s 23. Two plays later, E.J. Edmonds tore into the end zone from 14 yards out, giving the Bees a 21-17 lead.
A seven-minute B’ville drive later in the period got halted by F-M near its own goal line, B’ville settling for Garett Selover’s 24-yard field goal, but the game was still within the Hornets’ reach.
Ultimately, the game came down to a quartet of fourth-down plays. B’ville’s defense stopped F-M at the Bees’ 35, and then, facing its own fourth-and-inches minutes later, chose to punt with 3:10 left.
The Hornets, now with Owen Neumann under center, drove to midfield, but again B’ville made the big defensive stop and forced a turnover on downs with 1:38 to play.
Then, on fourth-and-three from the F-M 35 with less than a minute left and F-M out of time-outs, the Bees decided to go for it, and Dwyer scrambled for a clinching first down.
At least F-M had a chance at the end. CBA, still missing the likes of Stevie Scott and SirVocea Dennis, had a very different outcome against the C-NS side it beat in the 2016 sectional final.
The unstoppable Northstars offense, averaging better than 50 points per game, needed just six plays and 68 yards to get on the board with Conner Hayes’ 25-yard TD run.
Much more was in store, from Erik Pride’s 75-yard scoring dash to Hayes finding Shy’rel Broadwater on a 30-yard scoring pass, which made it 21-0 before the game was eight minutes old.
Things went quiet for a while, but then Pride netted a second TD midway through the second quarter and Hayes found Broadwater again, this time on a 40-yard connection, that made it 35-0 going into halftime.
Not wanting to get left out, the C-NS defense notched points when Omar Mere returned an interception 60 yards for a TD in the third quarter after Pride scored a third time on a one-yard plunge.
Jeremiah Willis, on a 10-yard run, and Gaiden Nelson, on a 13-yard run, got the Northstars’ eighth and ninth touchdowns of the night, CBA finally getting on the board when J.J. Razmovski found Avion Othman on a 60-yard TD pass in the final minutes.