November 10, 2012
So this is what the 2012 Section III football season has come down to - everyone in Central New York rallying around.....Christian Brothers Academy. Really.
This is not the norm. Rarely does a week, or a day, or an hour go boy without some public-school coach, or parent, whining about how CBA has all the advantages, they recruit, they cheat, and on and on until the break of dawn.
Doesn't matter whether it's true. All that matters is that, when you wear purple and gold, prepare for some ribbing. Like the Yankees or Lakers or Duke basketball, the praise comes with the knives, and usually they arrive at the same time.
Not now, though. The Brothers have become Section III football's only hope, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Ted Striker and other pointless pop-culture references.
This was in the wake of a quintet of weekend regional football games at East Syracuse-Minoa that, for the most part, was brutal to take in. Only at the end, when the Brothers put up 31 first-half points and sleep-walked the rest of the way through a 31-14 win over Binghamton, did it get redeemed.
Not only was CBA close to perfect in the first half, Deshawn Salter lived again. Sidelined by mono for the sectional final against Baldwinsville, Salter was back on the field Saturday night, and the sophomore sensation bagged a pair of touchdowns while J.R. Zazzara took apart the Patriots' defense for 267 total yards, 212 through the air.
And that brings the Brothers to quite a state semifinal next Saturday night at Whatever They Call That Stadium Now in Rochester (oh yes, Sahlen's, good hot dogs) against Orchard Park. All the Quakers have done is win two of the last three state titles, and it took out Aquinas 14-7 in its regional. A tall order ahead.
At least CBA has an order and still has a place at the table. Everyone else got cleaned out, each in their own maddening ways.
Going first as dusk fell on Friday afternoon, Sandy Creek fell harder in the Class D regional against Tioga. It was merely 30-0 Tigers at the end of the first quarter, and didn't get much better from there, the Comets run over in a 54-13 romp.
Granted, a lot of that was experience, Tioga having traversed this same path a year ago. Sandy Creek just could not stop anything the Tigers tried, mostly on the ground, as it got to 38-0 by halftime. The Comets had a historic season, but it's Tioga on the way to face Randolph in the state semis.
Nottingham, by contrast, never let Union-Endicott far out of its sights in the Class A regional. It's just that the Bulldogs fell victim to two big plays from this other bunch of Tigers.
Through one quarter, Nottingham led 8-7. Then U-E quarterback Joey Orlando scrambled and found Nick Yesensky on a 38-yard scoring strike,and minutes later Yesensky struck again, this time on defense as he stepped in front of a Marty Clanton pass and returned it 49 yards for six.
Even Clanton's 61-yard TD run in the third quarter could not derail U-E, who ended up with a 34-23 winning margin and a chance to upend eternal Western power Sweet Home, who came from 14 points down in the fourth quarter to stun Eastridge in overtime and get this far.
The Saturday slate began with Cazenovia meeting Maine-Endwell in Class B. Or, to put it more accurately, it started with the Spartans, Class A champions in 2011 with all but one starter back, eating up and spitting out the Lakers.
For M-E, a 21-point first-quarter outburst was the inevitable result of a power option running attack that no one in two years has come close to solving. The Lakers' defense sure could not, except for Joe Colligan's TD on a fumble return in the second quarter.
Running, and running, and running some more when it was bored with the running part, M-E didn't let up until it had a 50-14 verdict in hand. This was not a Caz indictment, rather a tribute to an amazing group of Spartans who now set its sights on a state semifinal against Alden that should be terrific.
With those other Lakers from Skaneateles, there was no illusion about the Class C regional against Chenango Forks. As always, the Blue Devils were big, physical, disciplined and tenacious, and any mistake made against them would hurt.
Conor Herr, in fact, did get hurt, likely a shoulder injury, in this game after Forks intercepted him three times and grabbed a 21-7 lead early in the third quarter. Then, with Herr feeling better, Skaneateles reverted to its old (passing) ways and very nearly caught up.
Twice, the Lakers were within a touchdown, perhaps one play, or one mistake, from it really getting dramatic. Forks did not relinquish control, though, and pulled it out 28-21 to give the Lakers its first defeat since 2010.
Oh yes, that part about win streak. Forks stopped a big one. Now the Blue Devils go after the proverbial Everest when it plays Hornell in the state semifinals. The Red Raiders have merely won 50 in a row, the nation's third-longest streak, and it's only fitting that a streak-breaker will try to stop Hornell from a possible four-peat at the Dome.