Irondequoit’s Paul Casanzio (50) can’t catch Indian River QB Densel Barnes (5).
No way a high school football team expects a pushover for an opponent in the semifinals of a postseason tournament.
Yet, there were signs that the Irondequoit Eagles could have an advantage or two in Sunday’s Class A state semifinal.
The game was in Rochester, just about a home game for Irondequoit, while that meant close to a three-hour bus ride from Jefferson County for the Indian River Warriors.
When more than two feet of snow fell in Philadelphia, New York, last week, schools were closed, which meant the Warriors were unable to practice for three days.
Who could tell?
The Warriors looked sharp as they ran away to a 49-22 win at Sahlen’s Stadium to move into a state final for the first time in Indian River team history.
“We’re going to win it all, we’re going to try to win it all,” Indian River senior quarterback Densel Barnes said. “Queensbury is a great team. We just have to play our game, be physical and just take it to them.”
Indian River (12-0) faces the Section II champion in the Class A state final at 3 p.m. Sunday at Syracuse University’s Carrier Dome. Irondequoit (8-4) reached the state semifinals for the first time after the Section V champion won six games in a row.
The Warriors took it to the Irondequoit defense with a running game that has its base in the flexbone offense. Navy uses this offense, which has options for handoffs or pitches to three potential ballcarriers.
“Once we did (miss assignments) they would slide right past us,” Irondequoit senior defensive lineman Jamel Young said.
The Warriors ran for 496 of their 590 yards of offense.
“Fast linemen, fast backs,” Barnes said. “You have a great offense right there.”
Romel Washington, a running back listed at 5-foot-4 and 135 pounds, gained a team-high 135 yards on nine carries. Washington was the leader among three Indian River ballcarriers who ran for 100 yards or more. Barnes scored three touchdowns.
“They do what they do, there was no magic,” Irondequoit coach Dan Fichter said. “I tell you what’s impressive, they drive 31/2 hours, on two days practice and not even miss a beat.
“They average 48 points a game.”
Irondequoit junior quarterback Sean Mannion completed 11 of 12 passes for 154 yards with two touchdown passes and an interception. DJ Walker, a senior, led Irondequoit with 104 yards on five receptions, including touchdowns of 14 and 66 yards.
The Eagles never led.
“They stopped our running game,” Walker said. “Without our running game …
“We need our running game and our passing game.”
The Warriors had everything the way they wanted to take a 14-0 lead.
Dustin Sharrit, a junior listed at 6-1 and 215 pounds, scored on a 6-yard run late in the first quarter. The Warriors caught Irondequoit looking for the run when they scored their second touchdown.
Gary Ruckman, a 6-foot-3 senior listed at 231 pounds, was able to get behind Irondequoit’s defense for a 30-yard scoring catch early in the second quarter. Sharrit pushed his way to the end zone for a two-point conversion and 14-point lead for Indian River.
An 11-yard touchdown run by Irondequoit freshman John Lombardi helped cut Indian River’s lead in half, but the Eagles were already playing catch-up. Indian River’s lead went to 15 points, 30-15, after a 35-yard run by Barnes early in the second half.
The Eagles struck back seven seconds later, as it was Walker’s turn to get behind Indian River’s coverage for his 66-yard touchdown reception with 11:15 remaining in the third quarter.
Ruckman and Barnes caught the Eagles looking for something else again, and connected for a 38-yard pass play. That sent the Warriors off to an 8-yard touchdown run by Barnes, his last, and 2-point conversion run by Washington midway through the third quarter.
The Eagles made it back to the Indian River 36, before Conor Brown intercepted a short pass he returned to the Irondequoit 37. Brown scored seven plays later, on a three-yard run with 10:29 remaining.