Leading off today:
I've watched any number of instances over the years where two programs merged into one somehow added up to considerably less than the sum of their parts -- sometimes for as long as a decade or more.
Having said that, it looks as though Elmira has gotten it right in year 3 of the consolidation of Elmira Free Academy and Southside. The Express offered evidence of that Saturday with a 24-18 win over Syracuse CBA, ranked second in the state, in the NYSPHSAA Class AA football quarterfinals.
Senior running back Eli Thomas (26 carries, 132 yards and three TDs) scored the go-ahead touchdown for 18th-ranked Elmira on a 2-yard run with 2:28 remaining.
"It's amazing," Thomas told the Star-Gazette. "We worked really hard this week and it paid off and we're going to get back after it next week."
Elmira outgained CBA 393-266, forged a 25-13 advantage in first downs and rang up three takeaways -- including an interception by Rasean Brooks on the first play from scrimmage after Thomas' go-ahead touchdown.
CBA standout running back Deshawn Salter, slowed by injuries the previous week in the Section 3 final, was limited to four touches. QB J.R. Zazzara was limited by a foot injury and defensive end Aaron Donalson did not suit up.
Elmira's opponent in Saturday's semifinal will be top-ranked Aquinas, a 48-34 winner against No. 6 Jamestown in a game that saw two heavyweights land repeated body shots throughout the second half.
Aquinas sophomore QB Jake Zembiec finished with 313 passing yards on 20 of 35 accuracy and threw three of his four TD strikes to Donato Clemente as the Little Irish rolled up 522 yards of offense. Zembiec also ran for a pair of scores.
"You let him play a full game and he's amazing," Aquinas coach Chris Battaglia said of Zembiec, who's already coveted by numerous major colleges including Notre Dame and Georgia.
Jamestown fell behind 28-6 before rallying to pull within a TD three times in the second half. Quarterback Jacob Sisson was 28-for-43 for 299 yards and one TD, also rushing for a pair of scores.
Close call: Section 4 pitched a shutout against Section 3 over the weekend, winning all five quarterfinals. The game people will surely talk about for many months is top-ranked Maine-Endwell's 35-34 win over No. 3 Cazenovia in Class B.
Working without six suspended players, including star running back/linebacker Darnell Woolfolk, The two-time defending state champs notched their 36th straight win on a day that began with coach Matt Gallagher learning that his 83-year-old mother had died.
M-E quarterback Kyle Gallagher and receiver Adam Gallagher collaborated on a touchdown with 4:45 left, but Cazenovia drove 65 yards in nine plays, scored on Andrew Vogl's 18-yard carry on a fourth-and-8 play with 1:12 to go.