Following some close calls in earlier post-season games, Aquinas Institute’s football team dominated the state-championship contest to earn its seventh state crown in the past 18 seasons.
The Little Irish rolled out to a 44-0 lead and routed Saratoga Springs, 44-19, in the Class AA title game Nov. 29 at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. Aquinas ended its storybook 2015 season with a perfect 13-0 record.
Little was in doubt about the outcome after the first quarter, which saw Earnest Edwards score three touchdowns to stake AQ to a 21-0 lead. He and quarterback Jake Zembiec combined on pass plays of 75 and 60 yards, and Edwards also recovered a Saratoga Springs fumble in the end zone.
Edwards added a fourth TD on a 53-yard pass play with Zembiec in the second quarter, making the score 34-0 at halftime. He totaled 286 receiving yards on just five receptions, and also had an interception in earning game Most Valuable Player honors.
Other Aquinas touchdowns came from T.J. Scanlon, on a one-yard run in the second period, and Tyler Olbrich, on a nine-yard reception from Zembiec in the third quarter. Collin Cup added a 26-yard field goal later in the third, closing out the Irish scoring against Saratoga Springs, a Section 2 school. The previously undefeated Blue Streaks didn’t get on the board until the fourth quarter when substitutions had begun.
Zembiec, who has earned a full football scholarship to Penn State University, ended his high-school career in style by completing 18 of 23 attempts for 462 yards and four touchdowns.
Aquinas had a much easier time in the state title game than in its semifinal Nov. 21, which saw the Little Irish slide by Liverpool of Section 3, 17-16. The Little Irish began state play with a 42-7 win over Orchard Park of Section 6 Nov. 15.
In the Section 5 Class AA playoffs, the top-seeded Irish won 35-14 over No. 8 Fairport in quarterfinal play Oct. 24, then came from behind in the second half to win 21-14 over No. 4 Hilton in the semifinals Nov. 1 before gutting out a 17-14 victory over No. 6 Rush-Henrietta in the title game Nov. 8.
Aquinas’ state crown enabled the 2015 squad to take its place alongside other Little Irish state-championship winners in 1998, 2001, 2002, 2007, 2010 and 2013.