CBA quarterback J.R. Zazzara (5) slips out of a tackle, flanked by Johnathan Stackhouse (20) and Alex Rost (60), during Saturday's Section III Class AA final at the Carrier Dome. Zazzara ran for one touchdown and threw for another in the Brothers' 35-24 victory over the Bees.
SYRACUSE All that was anticipated from Saturday's Section III Class AA championship game at the Carrier Dome manifested itself in a second half full of big plays, bigger momentum shifts and multiple lead changes.
And when it was done, Christian Brothers Academy had claimed the crown, shaking off three years worth of frustrations to beat Baldwinsville 35-24 by scoring twice in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter.
Seven years had passed since CBA last won a sectional title. That the drought was broken against the same B'ville team that beat them in the finals in 2009 and 2010 only made it sweeter.
"It's such a relief," said senior captain Joey Pascarella. "We had to redeem ourselves after the past three years."
For head coach Joe Casamento, who would be inducted into CBA's Athletic Hall of Fame that very night at an induction banquet at a nearby hotel, the satisfaction went beyond a happier evening.
"It makes dinner taste better tonight," he said. "For us to be here (in the finals) four years in a row is something I'm proud of, but then to win it is even more special."
Most of the pre-game focus was on the match-up between B'ville's superstar running back, Tyler Rouse, and CBA's fast, hard-hitting defense, which had cut down so many high-flying offenses throughout a 9-0 run to the no. 3 spot in the state Class AA rankings.
But it was the absence of the other star running back that became a bigger story. In the week before the final, CBA sophomore Deshawn Salter, who gained 1,255 yards and scored 17 touchdowns this season, averaging better than 11 yards per carry, fell ill with mononucleosis, sidelining him for the title game.
This changed the composition of the Brothers' backfield, forcing Pascarella to see more time at running back alongside Salter's replacement, Jonathan Stackhouse, who would distinguish himself by game's end.