MARCY — On several occasions over the past half-century or so, teams from West Genesee and Fayetteville-Manlius have come up against in-game championships on the lacrosse field.
That’s never been the case in football – until next weekend, when inside the JMA Wireless Dome, the Wildcats and Hornets face off in their biggest gridiron showdown.
This was all made possible by the events of Friday’s Section III Class A semi-finals, where WG rallied from behind to defeat Whitesboro 35-28 as FM pulled away in the second half to dominate New Hartford 40-21.
Traveling to Whitesboro, the Wildcats sought to avenge what happened two months earlier in the season opener, when the Warriors stopped a late two-point conversion to claim a 27-26 thriller. .
From the start, both teams hit for big plays, with the Warriors scoring first on Kyle Meier’s 52-yard run, WG countering seconds later when quarterback Vincent Firenze escaped on a run from 70 yard touchdown.
When Meier converted again on a 44-yard dash and threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Tony Dorozynski, the Wildcats found themselves trailing 21-6 in the second quarter.
What happened at the end of the period turned things around. WG cut it to 21-13 on a four-yard TD by Francisco Cross and the defense, which had struggled early, made a key save that led to a missed Whitesboro field goal.
Back in range, the Wildcats again showed their talent for big plays when, less than two minutes into the third quarter, Cross broke free in midfield and ran 48 yards to the box. goals, Firenze hitting Christian Pagan on a game-tying two-point pass.
On WG’s next possession, he ran through midfield again and again burned Whitesboro with a big play, this time Firenze rushing for 39 yards for his second rushing touchdown of the night to give the Wildcats their first advance.
Even when the Warriors regained the lead, 28-27, on Meier’s 43-yard run, the Wildcats had a quick response.
Working from his own 14, Firenze threw a screen pass to Cross who, picking up big blocks from the offensive line and receivers, took off on an 86-yard dash. A two-point pass from Firenze to Alex Maione followed.
There was more than a quarter left, but it was here that the Wildcats defense got stronger, especially on a goal line where they would stop Whitesboro at the two-yard line, allowing them to miss the remaining time.
Now WG (8-2), who have won seven in a row but are seeking their first section title since 2007, can focus on Friday night’s section final at 6 p.m. and try to avenge their other loss to FM, which it lost at 29. -20 in September.