Well before the 2018 season began, the Fayetteville-Manlius football team was confident that the depth of its roster would lead to plenty of success.
But the Hornets had no idea just how much it would factor at critical moments of Friday night’s Section III Class AA playoff game at Corcoran.
Whether it was a series of big plays on special teams, or a defense that made two crucial stops inside its own 20-yard line in the final minutes, all phases of the game were needed for F-M to defeat the Cougars 22-14.
Only when Jack Nucerino and Zak Conley sacked Corcoran quarterback Dewayne Young in the final seconds, with the Cougars bidding to tie the game, could F-M seal the victory – and Nucerino was only in the game because of a severe ankle injury suffered by Mike D’Ambrosio in the second quarter.
“As a unit, we all came together,” said linebacker Tim Shaw. “Everyone knew their responsibilities, and executed.”
In particular, F-M’s special teams had a special night. Without their contributions at the start of each half, the Hornets’ season may already be over.
Zach Page, back from missing three games due to injury, followed some great blocks on the opening kickoff and returned it 67 yards deep into Corcoran territory. Six plays later, Shaw scored on a one-yard plunge.
Those were F-M’s lone points of the first half. The Cougars took an 8-6 lead early in the second quarter on a 19-yard Jerome Davis touchdown run and two-point run by Cincear Torrence, which came just two plays after D’Ambrosio’s injury caused a delay of more than 20 minutes.
Still down 8-6 as the third period got underway, F-M turned to another unlikely hero – kickoff specialist Massimo Giacona, whose high-bouncing boot was fumbled by Corcoran and recovered by Ben Delmarsh.
Given another short field, F-M moved out in front for good, running the ball until Shaw scored again from one yard out and Owen Neuman threw a two-point pass to Trevor Porzucek.
The special teams struck again when Jack Hannah returned a Corcoran punt 20 yards to set up another short scoring drive. This time, it was Mitchell Seabury finding the end zone on a counter play that covered 26 yards as Hannah caught a two-point pass from Owen Neuman.
As if all this wasn’t enough, Giacona executed a perfect onside kick that Branden Florczyk recovered, nearly leading to more points. But John Egnaczyk’s 40-yard field goal attempt fell just short.
That gave Corcoran, down 22-8, some life, and it closed within eight on Young’s 12-yard TD pass to Branden Denham with seven minutes left.
So confident were the Hornets in its defense, though, that it went for it on fourth down at its own 35 and missed. That faith was rewarded by a fourth-down stop when Jordan Leuze broke up a pass to Denham in the end zone with 3:46 to play.
Even with that, F-M couldn’t run out the clock, and Corcoran, out of time-outs, drove to the Hornets’ six. On fourth down, Young, before he could throw, was brought down by Conley and Nucerino.
This gives the Hornets a second opportunity to take down defending sectional champion Cicero-North Syracuse in next Friday’s sectional Class AA semifinal at 4:30 at Bragman Stadium, with the winner to advance to the Nov. 3 sectional final at the Carrier Dome against Liverpool or West Genesee.
Back on Sept. 22, F-M lost, 35-21, to the Northstars, but the Hornets did not have Seabury or Page in the lineup, and still got closer than any other local foe to C-NS this fall.
“It’s going to be a good game, for sure,” said Shaw.
Earlier that day, Bishop Grimes kept itself undefeated in eight-man football, surviving its closest call of the season with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to beat Altmar-Parish-Williamstown 34-20.
Twice in the first half, A.J. Burnett found Nate Gay on scoring passes of 26 and 32 yards, and T.J. Bradford returned an interception 47 yards for a TD.
Despite this, the Rebels fought back, Jon Comstock twice in the second quarter to only trail 20-14 at halftime, and tied it in the third period when Comstock netted his third TD on a two-yard run.
The score remained 20-20 until the final period. From his own 25, Burnett threw deep and found Gay, who completed a 75-yard dash to the end zone to put Grimes ahead for good. Burnett added some insurance with a one-yard TD plunge.
In the eight-man sectional semifinals, Girmes will have a rematch with APW next Friday at 5 p.m. at Central Square, the winner to face Weedsport or South Lewis in the Nov. 3 final at the Dome.
Nov 13, 2018
Nov 13, 2018
Nov 13, 2018