Christian Brothers Academy of Syracuse averted a five-game Section 4 sweep in state football quarterfinals by thumping Binghamton for 306 first-half yards Saturday night on the way to a 31-7 win at East Syracuse-Minoa High.
The Brothers had all their points on the board with 2:45 to play in the opening half against a Binghamton squad far more accustomed to halftime leads the likes of 31-0.
Quarterback J.R. Zazzara passed for 205 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed for another 61 yards — but was not recognized as his team’s Most Valuable Player. That award went to fullback/linebacker Joey Pascarella.
Quarterback Andre Yevchinecz was Binghamton’s MVP on a night he accounted for 170 yards of offense against resistance the Patriots had seen infrequently this autumn.
The outcome earned CBA (11-0) a Class AA semifinal berth opposite Orchard Park next weekend in Rochester. Binghamton finished 8-3, held short of three-TD production for the first time since a 35-6 loss to Orchard Park in last year’s semifinal round.
It was not as if Binghamton was unable to move the football. To the contrary, the Patriots boarded a southbound bus after gaining 330 yards and 20 first downs. But crossing that goal line was another matter for this squad that brought a 41.7-per-game average into the unseasonably pleasant night.
“They weren’t just physical, they were really disciplined, too,” Yevchinecz said of CBA’s defense. “They played everything pretty well. They must have done a lot of work.”
“They’re tough. They find ways to get their best players free so that they can make big plays,” Pats coach Mike Ramil said. “No. 34 (Pascarella), we knew he was the type of guy who if he got free he was going to make plays. We got to him at times, other times we couldn’t get to him.”
On the flip-side, Binghamton defenders were smacked for eight CBA gains of 15 or more yards in the first half, three of them going for touchdowns, and shoe-to-pigskin specialist Nolan Bower tacked on a 26-yard field goal to go with his four PATs.
CBA had 14 points and 121 yards of offense 6:11 into the contest. And how odd to see the Patriots punt the football to conclude their first two possessions of any game?
A 31-yard return of the opening kickoff by Cody Radziewicz set up CBA at its 49-yard line, and nine plays later Deshawn Salter rushed in from 6 yards out. The Brothers’ second score came one play after Zazzara found Andre Dowdell for a 39-yard gain to the 15. Salter scored on an option play outside for a two-TD advantage.
The Patriots’ first signs of offensive life were displayed on their third possession, when they advanced from their 15 to midfield before Amman Weaver mishandled a pitch from Yevchinecz and CBA recovered the fumble. Thereafter, they would not push beyond CBA’s 33 until trailing by 31-0.
The Brothers denied Binghamton on fourth-and-8 with 31/2 minutes of the second quarter elapsed, and proceeded on a 66-yard drive that required all of 87 seconds.
Four rushes brought Section 3’s champions 31 yards to the Pats’ 35. That was when junior QB Zazzara delivered a deep-left pass over the last remaining defender that Dowdell received with his backside facing the goal line, and the sophomore wideout backpedaled his way the remaining 5 or so yards into the end zone.
That play, with the PAT, made it 24-0 with 7:04 to play in the first half.
“I knew when they scored that touchdown on the deep pass, I knew that it was slipping away,” Yevchinecz said. “But I thought second half we turned it around. We scored, got a turnover, I thought we were going to turn it right around but we made more mistakes. Against a team like that you can’t make those mistakes.”
Before Binghamton found that second-half ignition switch, Zazzara passed 29 yards to Radziewicz for a score 2:45 before halftime — a relative 50-50 jump-ball play on which the nearest official determined it to be simultaneous possession, which favors the offense.
It was an invigorated Binghamton squad that began second-half play with a 36-yard rush by Weaver to CBA’s 33. A Yevchinecz-to-Bryan Morrison pass moved the ball to the 14, and two plays later Dan Sellepack powered 11 yards over left tackle for a touchdown 1:26 into the third quarter.
But that would be the lone touchdown for the Patriots, who’d not been held shy of 43 points during a four-game win streak they brought into the game.
Three subsequent Binghamton possessions ended with fourth-down failure on CBA’s half of the field, including one short-field opportunity that was thwarted at the Brothers’ 5-yard line.
Perhaps most impressive of Binghamton’s individual efforts was turned in by Sellepack, who turned in an uncharacteristic 16-carry workload into 70 tough yards largely between the tackles.