For Aquinas Institute, a third straight sectional football crown marks business as usual. For Elmira Notre Dame, the Crusaders are basking in a return to the top after a decade’s absence.
Aquinas outscored Victor, 38-28, in the Section 5 Class A title game played Nov. 7. The Little Irish now move on to the state Class A playoffs, where they are defending champions. They have a 10-0 record and will face Buffalo Sweet Home of Section 6, also 10-0, in quarterfinal play. That game is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 14, at 8 p.m. at the University of Buffalo.
In the Southern Tier, Notre Dame scored a 14-6 win over Greene in the Section 4 Class C final on Nov. 8. This marks the Crusaders’ first sectional crown since 1998, when they were state finalists. Notre Dame, with a record of 8-2, now goes up against Section 3’s Westmoreland (10-0) in a state quarterfinal matchup. It will take place Saturday, Nov. 15, at noon at Cicero-North Syracuse High School.
Aquinas 38, Victor 28
Big — no, make that gigantic — plays by both the offense and defense spurred the Little Irish to victory in their sectional final.
Aquinas took a 24-21 halftime lead with three big first-quarter touchdown runs: Casey Vogl from 54 and 77 yards out, and Dan Young from 66 yards. Brandon Lockerby added a 32-yard field goal in the second quarter. AQ quarterback Ben Bostick then made it 31-21 on a 59-yard scoring run in the third quarter.
The Blue Devils hung tough, closing to within 31-28 and then embarking on a long drive late in the fourth quarter that brought them inside Aquinas’ 10-yard line. But with less than 20 seconds remaining, Chris Bostick made an interception and returned it some 92 yards for a touchdown to put the game on ice in scintillating style. His interception was the fourth for AQ that night.
Aquinas had reached the Class A final by winning 16-3 over No. 4 Greece Athena on Oct. 31 as Vogl and Young scored touchdowns and Lockerby had a 26-yard field goal. One weekend earlier, the Little Irish won 41-14 over Newark in quarterfinal play on Oct. 24.
The Little Irish, ranked No. 1 in the state Class A poll, now move on to face Buffalo Sweet Home, ranked fifth. Aquinas also met Sweet Home in last year’s quarterfinal round, downing the Panthers 28-7. With three more wins AQ will duplicate its success of 2007, when it won the state Class A title with a 13-0 record.
Notre Dame 14, Greene 6
The Crusaders faced a 6-0 second-quarter deficit in their Section 4 final, but rallied to take the lead before halftime as Joe Thurber scored on a one-yard touchdown run and then threw to Dave Norton for a two-point conversion.
Notre Dame’s defense held up exceptionally well against the normally high-scoring Trojans, who came into the championship game with a 9-0 record. The Crusaders added the game’s final points on a four-yard touchdown pass from Thurber to Sam Karam in the fourth quarter.
Thurber also came up big in the sectional semifinal game on Nov. 1, throwing three touchdown passes as the Crusaders defeated Sidney 44-27. Notre Dame took advantage of some key Warrior turnovers in the third quarter, scoring 28 points to erase a 14-8 halftime deficit and go up 36-21 heading into the final period.
In its upcoming state-quarterfinal contest with Westmoreland, Notre Dame will take on the underdog role against the undefeated Bulldogs, who hold the No. 7 spot in the state Class C rankings. The Crusaders are unranked.