Leading off today: Canandaigua
has a full head of steam heading into the NYSPHSAA Class A football semifinals next weekend.
The Braves, ranked 17th in the state, suffered an opening-night loss to Victor but have been perfect since, with the latest victory coming by a 24-6 margin over No. 6 Buffalo South Park in Friday's state quarterfinals in Brockport. Canandaigua scored on its first two possessions and never looked back.
Canandaigua's defense forced South Park into a pair of three-and-outs to start the contest. A short punt after the first possession set the Braves up at the South Park 44, and Joe Urlacher scored his first varsity touchdown on a 29-yard pass play from Bryan Boldrin on a 4th-and-3 snap. The next drive covered 78 yards, culminating in a 58-yard screen pass to Matt Vierhile.
"A couple of three-and-outs and then some good field position," said coach Jeff Welch. "You're always hoping to get starts like that."
The Braves opened the second half with 75-yard drive capped by Zach Wantuck's 5-yard TD run for a 21-0 lead.
More upsets: The NYSPHSAA Class C bracket isn't playing out as projected, with a pair of upsets punctuating the quarterfinals.
Fifth-ranked Gouverneur squeezed out a 10-2 victory over No. 3 Stillwater on the strength of senior quarterback Caleb Farr's 23-yard TD run less than two minutes into the game.
Gouverneur outgained Stillwater 315-195 behind Farr's 157 yards on 29 carries.
Meanwhile, No. 16 Valhalla downed No. 16 Chester/Tuxedo 19-8 at Dietz Stadium. The Vikings had opened the season with a 42-22 loss to the Hambletonians but improved throughout the fall.
"We're more disciplined. We're more mature. And we definitely like to win," senior wideout Mahari Davis Jr. said.
Davis and Sammy Mussuto caught first-half TDs to help forge a 17-0 lead.
Pinch-hitting: A lot of football observers were keeping an eye on one Class D game in particular in the aftermath of an incident in the Section 1 final. Forced to use a freshman quarterback with almost no experience in varsity action, Valhalla advanced with a 12-6 victory over Section 3 runner-up Waterville.
Michael Annunziata was forced into action last week following the ejection of starting QB Justin Lee, who had to miss the state quarterfinal due to the mandatory one-game suspension. He went 11-for-16 for 198 yards.
"Its was huge shoes to fill for Justin, even for one game," Annunziata said. "Everybody had to step up, not just me. Everyone gave 100 percent effort. Now we can get him back next week."
Clutch when it counted: William Pickett drove No. 24 Rockville Centre South Side to three fourth-quarter TDs as the Cyclones rallied past No. 26 Wantagh in the Section 8 Conference III semifinals.
Nick LiCalzi's 4-yard TD run and a 67-yard pass from Pickett to T.J. Maher pulled South Side to within 21-20 with 5:28 left. Pickett was given the ball back at his own 6 with 2:14 left and ran or threw on every snap of the 12-play drive, finishing it off with a 5-yard touchdown with :20.3 remaining.
"We're not a team that ever feels like there isn't enough time to get back," said LiCalzi, who had a pair of touchdowns. "As long as there is time left, we like our chances."
Pickett carried 24 times for 132 yards and was 10-or-18 through the air for 176 yards and one score.
Following up: New Rochelle coach Lou DiRienzo will miss Saturday's Class AA football quarterfinal vs. Utica Proctor because the district's investigation will not be completed before the game, Superintendent Laura Feijoo said Friday.
Feijoo made the announcement in a letter to football parents that was preceded by a half-hour protest by students on campus. The students gathered at the one of the school's football fields to show their support for DiRienzo, who was reassigned after an unspecified incident that led DiRienzo to be reassigned this week from teaching and coaching duties.