They celebrated Homecoming this weekend at Cazenovia High School, and the football Lakers did its part to make the festivities even more festive.
In the renewal of a once-dormant neighborhood rivalry, the Lakers ripped Chittenango, 48-7, Saturday at Buckley-Volo Field and, in the process, clinched the Class B East division regular-season championship.
Cazenovia, undefeated (6-0) and no. 5 in the state Class B rankings, had just gone through two weeks of heavy drama, from the 51-45, double-overtime epic with Vernon-Verona-Sherrill on Sept. 25 to the fourth-quarter comeback needed to beat Oneida 18-8 six days later.
Thus, the Lakers were eager to put someone away - especially the Bears, who entered this game at 2-1 in league play and still had a shot at the B East title with a win here.
But on the game's third play, Chittenango botched a handoff, the ball fell to the turf and Cazenovia's Tom Toole recovered. Less than three minutes later, John Greacen made a nifty spin move and scored on a nine-yard run. Nick Christakos added the extra point and the Lakers led, 7-0.
Just before the period ended, Jose Wells picked off Devin Christopher's pass. The second Bears' turnover turned into the second Lakers TD as, early in the second quarter, Jeff Hopsicker rolled out and found Doyle Judge in the end zone on a 19-yard scoring strike.
Judge, who had sat out the Oneida game with a concussion, made a clear impact with his mere presence on the field. With 6:34 left in the half, Hopsicker, on the Bears' nine-yard line, faked to his right, freezing the defensive back - and leaving Doyle wide-open for an easy touchdown that made it 20-0.
Trying to get back in it, Chittenango did not get helped when Christopher's 52-yard TD pass to Brendan Galek got called back due to a holding penalty. Minutes later, it was 27-0, Hopsicker using long completions to Judge and Wells to set up his own five-yard TD run.
Christopher, after a hard hit, left the game before halftime, just as Cazenovia was putting the bow on its 27-point outburst with Hopsicker again hitting Judge for a touchdown, this time from 20 yards out.
The Bears did break up the shutout in the third quarter as Christopher's replacement, Greg Jasek, hit Cavanaugh Chiares from 17 yards out. That came in between the Lakers' final two TDs, gained when Hopsicker threw a 19-yard scoring pass to Tanner Whiteman and Greacen scored on a 10-yard run.
Hopsicker finished with 76 yards on nine carries, while Greacen contributed 64 yards on 15 carries. Noah Shepard led on the defensive side with 17 tackles as Wells added 12 tackles to go with his interception.
As Cazenovia was hammering Chittenango, VVS was celebrating the return of senior quarterback Tyler Mautner to the lineup by gaining a crucial 35-21 victory over Holland Patent.
Mautner, who injured his ankle at the end of regulation in the Cazenovia game, had missed all but one series his team's subsequent loss to Chittenango. But he came back full-time to face the Golden Knights, knowing his team had to win, or its post-season hopes would be in danger.
Red Devils fans remained nervous throughout the first half, though, as VVS was kept off the board. HP seized a 7-0 lead in the second quarter when Andy Hurteau threw a 16-yard TD pass to Lucas Bardo.
But one play was all it took to fire up the Red Devils. Early in the third quater, working at the Golden Knights' 45, Mautner threw deep - and found Eli Cleveland for the touchdown.
That, plus Cole Barbano's PAT, tied the game 7-7, and the entire team seemed to respond, the defense shutting down HP the rest of the period and the offense twice converting, both on runs - Dylan Guider going 32 yards, Colin Way scoring on a two-yard plunge.
Way converted again from two yards out early in the fourth quarter to make it 28-7, but the Golden Knights weren't done.
Hurteau threw two more TD passes - 22 yards to Bardo, 12 yards to John Iselo - and suddenly it was 28-21, with time left. But VVS put it away with another big play from its ground game as Robb Nash took off on a 45-yard touchdown run.
In the final Saturday of the regular season, Cazenovia hosts South Jefferson, while Chittenango visits HP in a game that will determine both team's playoff fates.
Meanwhile, archrivals VVS and Oneida will collide on the Red Devils' home turf at 2 p.m., and the winner could get a first-round home playoff game, something Cazenovia can already look forward to.