Sweet Success

Dec. 2-8, 2004
Sweet Success
By Luke Eggleston/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
The Christian Brothers Academy Football Program has Knocked at the Door Many Times

Roaming from Class C to Class B to Class A and now to Class AA, CBA has almost always been able to earn a berth in the state tournament, however the championship had eluded the Brothers at every level.

With a constellation of high school talent perhaps never seen before in Central New York, CBA finally claimed that crown Saturday night with a gritty display on the Carrier Dome’s bright green carpet as they defeated defending AA champion New Rochelle 41-35. “It’s the best feeling in the world,” said CBA wide receiver/defensive back Bruce Williams. “For four hard years I’ve been at this and for four hard years our team has been at this. Just coming out to win this and then pulling it out at the end was the best feeling in the world. I feel so great right now.”

Going into the contest, the Huegonots, with their powerful rushing attack led by Syracuse University-bound running back Ray Rice, had won 23 consecutive games, including the 2003 state championship. CBA’s solar system has, for the past four years, orbited around the unique talents of quarterback Greg Paulus, ranked by many publications not only as the nation’s top quarterback prospect, but also the top point guard. After the game, Paulus beamed, noting that the enormity of defeating a team that had not lost in 23 games had yet to settle in. “It hasn’t even hit me. It feels so surreal. It’s unbelievable,” the Brothers standout signal caller said. “Maybe it won’t hit me for another couple of weeks or maybe tomorrow, but right now it’s just awesome.”

Paulus, who made a verbal commitment to Duke University last year, passed for three touchdowns and a state tournament record 371 yards. The previous record was held by Mark Zappia, whose Aquinas team defeated CBA in the Class A tournament in 2002. His record was 349 yards. Williams, who was selected as the game’s Most Valuable Defensive Back, nearly equaled his importance on offense, finishing the game with 130 yards receiving and getting in on the receiving end of all three of Paulus’ touchdown passes. Paulus was selected as the game’s Most Valuable Player.

Not detracting from Paulus’ impressive day throwing the ball, the Brothers’ ground game was incisive early on when the Huegonots dropped armies into their defensive backfield in an effort to curtail the Brothers’ celebrated aerial attack. While Brian Bojko was the primary ball carrier on designed running plays, Paulus’ scrambling caught the Huegonots off guard on more than one occasion.

“A lot of people forget that I can run and that just opens up the tailback, the running back, and the wide receivers,” Paulus said. “It just opens everything up with another dimension.” Paulus was credited with 40 yards rushing, Bojko rushed for 43 and two touchdowns. Nevertheless, New Rochelle took a 28-14 lead early in the third quarter with Rice accumulating three of the Huegonots’ four touchdowns on runs of 1, 3, and 7 yards. Quarterback Geoff McDermott scrambled 27 yards on a broken play for New Rochelle’s second touchdown. At the 1:17 mark in the first quarter, Paulus and Williams connected for an 8-yard touchdown pass to tie the game. In the second quarter, CBA took a 14-13 lead on a 4-yard run by Bojko. The Brothers had been dealt a scare late in the second quarter when Williams sustained a frightening injury on defense. But during the end of the halftime intermission, their playmaking receiver could be seen in the center of the warm-up circle, helping gear up CBA for the second half.

CBA was undeterred by the Huegonots’ first second-half touchdown and on their ensuing drive, the Brothers scored on a 4-yard run by Bojko with 7:06 remaining in the third quarter. With 23 seconds remaining in the session, Paulus delivered a 22-yard touchdown strike to Williams who had been left wide open in the right corner of the endzone and CBA tied the game 28-28 after Erik Estabrook kicked for the extra point. New Rochelle took the lead again on a 74-yard touchdown pass from McDermott to Davis, but Casamento said the coaching staff had told its team to anticipate a very close game the result of which would be determined in the final moments. “We knew before the game even started that it was going to come down to the fourth quarter,” Paulus said. “We knew exactly what we would have to do and we knew that we had to capitalize. We knew that it was going to be a close game that it would come down to the fourth quarter.”

CBA swiftly knotted the affair once more when Paulus threaded the ball between two Huegonot defensive backs to Williams with 9:59 remaining in the game. It didn’t hurt the Brothers that Rice had been injured some time in the third quarter, and CBA’s defense began to clamp down in the decisive phases of the game. A fourth and one stand by CBA’s defense turned the ball over on downs and some offensive heroics resulted in the Brothers taking the final lead with less than three minutes to go in the game.

A sack on Paulus put the Brothers in a second and 24 situation on their own 47 during their next drive. Paulus once more found Williams on the Huegonots’ 40 and the 6-foot senior wriggled through a number of would be tacklers to get seven more yards out of the play. CBA converted a first down on third and inches on a screen to Williams, then scored using Lavar Lobdell on an end around from the 27-yard line to complete the Brothers’ scoring.

“I can’t imagine anyone finding a better high school football game anywhere,” Casamento said. “That New Rochelle team is a great high school football team. I think one of the things that we kept saying and we had to keep saying to our kids was that this game will not be decided until the final three minutes of the fourth quarter, it’s ironic that I was finally right for once.”

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