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Monday, Nov. 30, 2015: Aquinas cruises, Cazenovia rallies at Dome

   Leading off today: If you want to throw another reason onto the list of why Syracuse University had to sack its head football coach last week and will almost certainly cut loose the rest of the staff, maybe those guys just didn't recognize talent when they saw it.

   Aquinas senior Earnest Edwards started his season with four first-half touchdowns at the Carrier Dome against Syracuse CBA and then concluded his career Sunday with four more first-half scores in what may have been the greatest highlight-reel day in the history of the NYSPHSAA finals.

   His spectacular plays and a 462-yard passing day by Jake Zembiec allowed the Little Irish to cruise to a 44-point lead and beat Saratoga 44-19 for the Class AA championship. It was Aquinas' seventh state title and second in three years. The Little Irish were derailed a year ago by a forfeit over a player-eligibility issue in the Section 5 tournament.

   Edwards, who holds only an offer from the University at Buffalo despite three rock-solid seasons on offense, defense and special teams, scored on a fumble recovery in the end zone and three spectacular catch-and-run collaborations from Zembiec. He finished with five grabs for 286 yards plus four tackles and an interception on defense.

   "He's a big-time player obviously," Zembiec told the Democrat and Chronicle. "He's got some pretty scary talent, so when he's hot and he's feeling it, he's dangerous. You saw that today, on the biggest stage of the season.

   "Hopefully, he picks up a few more (scholarship) offers, he's really an underrated player. He's been huge for us this season."

   Said Edwards: "It's an honor to have it in my senior year, knowing that they cut us off last year. "It's whatever (now), we got it in our last year."

   Not to be overlooked, Zembiec was in top form as his future college coach, James Franklin, and a Penn State entourage looked on. He was 18-of-23 with four TDs to set a Section 5 career record of 76 scoring throws. His 6,375 passing yards despite missing almost all of his junior season is another career record.

   Zembiec will leave Aquinas at the end of next month to enroll in classes in State College, Pa. His 75-yarder to Edwards on the game's second play gave Aquinas the lead for good. A botched handoff the started with a Saratoga snap at its own 18 ended with Edwards falling on the ball in the end zone, then the Aquinas standout turned a catch into a 60-yard TD on the first play of the next Aquinas possession.

   "I know they have some kids going Division I, but how (Edwards) isn't already inked to a big-time Division I scholarship's got me because we didn't have an answer for him on the field," Streaks coach Terry Jones told The Saratogian.

   Cazenovia triumphs: Having struggled on both offense and defense for much of the day, Cazenovia made a crucial stop in the closing two minutes and beat Schuylerville 22-19 for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class B championship.

   The Lakers, who had surrendered two touchdowns on fourth-down plays and had to dig out of a 12-0 first-quarter hole, saw the Black Horses drive to the Cazenovia 28 with 2:01 to go. On third-and-8, quarterback Will Griffen scrambled desperately before being hunted down by defensive end for a 25-yard sack that all but ended the threat and preserved the championship.

   "At that point, it just comes down to guts," Cazenovia linebacker Kevin Frega told Syracuse.com. "You've just got to be a man and suck it up; keep fighting."

   Said Shaffner, who also stood out on offense with two TD passes and a run for a score: "Thank God I held on. Just like holding on, I'm like, fingers don't fail me now."

   The Lakers then ran out the final 1:35 on the clock. On the final snap, injured running back T.J. Connellan was inserted for his only play of the game. Connellan, who injured his knee in the Section 3 finals, took the football and put down his knee to run out the clock.

   Schuylerville had driven 76 yards in 12 plays to take a 19-15 before halftime, with Griffen throwing 33 yards to Brady Griffin of 4th-and-1 for the TD.

   Cazenovia took the second-half kickoff and scored at the end of an eight-play, 63-yard drive as Shaffner threw a swing pass to receiver Paul McLaughlin.

   Longwood overcomes slow start: Longwood ran for a crushing 555 yards and defeated Farmingdale 47-28 in the Long Island Class I final at Stony Brook's LaValle Stadium.

  

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  •    "That is the definition of Longwood football right there," senior lineman Anthony Lavio told Newsday. "We have the best O-line on the Island. I say that with confidence because we do. We have the best backs on Long Island, too. Blocking for them is easy."

       The Lions finished with a net minus-4 yards passing on their way to the win.

       Longwood recovered from a 14-0 deficit by rattling off the next 47 points en route to its first Long Island crown since beating Farmingdale in the 2011 title game. Khalil Owens (19 carries, 271 yards) ran 77 yards for the first of his three TDs just 57 seconds after Farmingdale's Anthony Burriesci connected with Hakeem Cesar on a 57-yard TD pass.

       The game turned late in the first half for Longwood. Two plays after an interception by Josh Rivers, Latrell Horton (seven carries, 118 yards) gave the Lions a 27-14 lead with :13 left in the second quarter. Owens then raced 80 yards for a score on the first play from scrimmage in the second half.

       Sayville cruises: Sayville junior QB Jack Coan threw for 294 yards and ran for 246 in a 59-15 victory over Plainedge for the Long Island Class IV championship. He threw for two scores and ran for three.

       "It means a lot," said Coan, who was the first player to throw and run for 200 yards in a Long Island Championship game. "The whole season we've been working so hard to get to this moment. Now we finally experience it, and it's just amazing."

       Coan, who was 14 of 26 and ran 17 times, connected with Michael Dionisio for a 4-yard score less than two minutes into the game, then running back Ashton Bradley (11 carries, 64 yards, four touchdowns) scored on a 1-yard carry.

       Davien Kuinlan answered with a 33-yard scoring run for Plainedge and the defense intercepted Coan. But Mike Leach recovered a fumble to give the Golden Flashes the ball back. Coan ran the ball 48 yards for a score to make it 20-7 midway through the second quarter.

       "That was a huge momentum shifter for us," Leach said. "Jack just threw a pick and we really needed the ball back. I saw the ball open just hit it loose, and recovered it."

       Bradley scored again to make it 27-7 with 1:47 left in the first half.

       "Everyone did their job and it worked out well," Bradley said.


      
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