[ Continued from Page 1 ]
Senior Earnest Edwards, who started his season with four first-half touchdowns at the Carrier Dome against Syracuse CBA, concluded his Little Irish career with four more first-half scores in what may have been the greatest highlight-reel day in the history of the NYSPHSAA football finals.
His spectacular plays and a 462-yard passing day by Jake Zembiec allowed Aquinas to cruise to a 44-point lead and beat Saratoga 44-19 for the Class AA championship at the Carrier Dome. Edwards 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.
Less than four months later, Edwards and eight other players off the football roster helped the school's basketball team down Middletown 68-50 to make Aquinas the first NYSPHSAA member to win state football and basketball crowns in the same school year.
Aquinas' 2014 football season had ended abruptly when it was made to forfeit a sectional playoff victory over a player eligibility issue in the aftermath of an injury and lost its bid in court for reinstatement into the postseason, so the perfect season and seventh NYSPHSAA championship were sweet satisfaction, a feeling also enjoyed by probably the most dominating boys soccer team in state history.
Six Elmira Notre Dame players scored goals as the Crusaders completed a 21-0 season with a 9-1 victory over Solomon Schechter for the NYSPHSAA Class C championship.
"It's an amazing feeling," senior Alec Cutler told The Star-Gazette after serving up four assists to finish the year with 44. "We kind of had a sad end to the season last year and we just came out and showed what we can do when we put our minds to it."
The 2014 season ended when Notre Dame was forced to give back its Section 4 championship and pull out of the playoffs just days before the state tournament because they were informed they had played the season with a student whose transfer paperwork was not in order.
Seven returning seniors helped Notre Dame outscore its 2015 opponents by a 186-5 margin, setting NYSPHSAA marks for offense and goal differential. The closest game of the season was a 4-0 win vs. Waverly, and the margin for six postseason wins was 45-1.
If 2014 was the year for off-the-field issues detracting from the postseason, then 2015 was all about controversies over what took place on the playing field.
Trailing by a goal early in the second half of the NYSPHSAA girls Class C soccer quarterfinals, Sauquoit Valley's Adrianna Grande broke behind the defense with the ball and was 1-on-1 with the goalie inside the penalty area. As she prepared to attack, a whistle could clearly be heard -- but the whistle came from the stands, apparently by a fan in the Notre Dame section.
Grande stopped. The Notre Dame defense hesitated, then caught up and cleared the ball to the side, at which point game officials stopped play to sort out what had happened. Veteran Sauquoit Valley coach Tim Clive called the incident unprecedented and lobbied for a penalty kick, saying fans were warned before the game that use of a noisemaker would lead to a penalty kick. Instead, the officials awarded the ball to Notre Dame on a throw-in.
Notre Dame went on to win the game and also won its next time out before falling to Port Jefferson in the championship game.