All the work that the Fayetteville-Manlius football team did to get to the brink of an appearance in the Section III Class AA championship game at the Carrier Dome was undone in less than 22 minutes.
That’s the amount of game time it took for defending champion Cicero-North Syracuse to amass 40 unanswered points, cruising from there to beat the Hornets 46-7 Friday night in the AA semifinals at Bragman Stadium.
As it turned out, perhaps the worst thing F-M could have done was play the undefeated, state no. 3-ranked Northstars close on Sept. 22, taking a 35-21 defeat without either of its top two running backs (Mitchell Seabury and Zach Page) in the lineup.
Perhaps that effort gave F-M some confidence that, at full strength, it could make C-NS worry. If so, the Northstars turned those feelings around in a hurry.
Taking the opening kickoff, C-NS went 81 yards in just six plays, all of it from gains by Jaiquawn McGriff, whether it was a 23-yard screen pass from Conner Hayes or a series of runs, the last of them a two-yard touchdown plunge.
Trailing 7-0, F-M had a brief burst of optimism when John Egnaczyk converted a fourth-down fake punt to set up a short drive, only to have his 44-yard field-goal try fall short.
A few plays later, Hayes threw a poor pass that Jack Nucerino stepped in front of, a sure interception – but he couldn’t hold on to the ball.
The magnitude of that missed opportunity only grew when Hayes, on the very next play, took a snap and ran straight up the middle, 64 yards to the end zone.
Though less than eight minutes of game time had elapsed, and F-M only trailed 13-0, that sequence of plays created a momentum that only built through the rest of the half.
Other than a fumble that Will Duncanson recovered late in the first quarter, the Hornets found it impossible to contain C-NS’s potent group of skill players.
Early in the second period, the Northstars faced a second-and-24, but did more than pick up the first down. McGriff took a Hayes swing pass, sprinted up the right sideline, cut up the middle and finished off a 76-yard scoring play.
The last four minutes of the half featured three C-NS touchdowns, the first on a 35-yard pass where Hayes found Nate Geloff across the middle and the Northstars receiver went the rest of the way.
McGriff intercepted Owen Neuman on F-M’s next possession, and a short drive, followed, Da-Ron Brown scoring from two yards out. And a Hornets fumble in the last minute of the half led to yet another TD for C-NS as Hayes’ 23-yard pass to Geloff put it on the one, from where Brown scored again.
All told, it was a 40-0 going into intermission, and even when F-M put together a drive at the start of the third quarter with Zak Conley replacing Neuman at quarterback, it was stopped just short of the C-NS goal line.
Hayes added a two-yard TD pass to Drew Bristow on the first play of the fourth quarter. It wasn’t until Seabury broke loose for a 19-yard scoring dash with 8:40 to play that the shutout was broken.