Patrick Hackler still can't believe it.
A state championship. The state record for passing touchdowns in a single season. The Skaneateles quarterback still hasn't had time to process it all.
Hackler, The Citizen's Football Player of the Year, led Skaneateles to its first state championship and broke New York state's record for passing touchdowns in a season with 53.
In the state semifinal against Cleveland Hill — the highest-scoring game in state playoff history — Hackler accounted for nine touchdowns.
"It's been pretty crazy," Hackler said. "Just the support from all the teachers, the community, players, little kids, everyone ... it's really been amazing and I think our team is kind of feeling a loss a little bit just because no one really knows what to do anymore now that football is over. It still hasn't set in for me that we're state champions."
Skaneateles' run through the Section III, Class C tournament and New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class C playoffs was guided by Hackler, who threw 53 touchdowns in 13 games to break Greg Paulus' record of 45 set in 2002. He also finished with 3,124 passing yards, the fifth-highest total in New York state high school football history.
Even with all the talent and statistics a player could ask for, Skaneateles coach Joe Sindoni considers Hackler's ability to lead as his best quality.
"He was our vocal leader on the field and kind of got us going," Sindoni said. "We were in some dire situations in those playoff games. From Canastota (in the section semifinals) on, we were losing every game at some point. Pat's just the guy who is like, 'Let's go out and get to work.'"
Hackler attributes plenty of his success to his teammates. He credits his offensive line for giving him great protection and his wide receivers for making plays for him. The Lakers had three receivers — Cross Bianchi, Nate Wellington and Nick Wamp — all reach at least 800 yards and 10 touchdowns. In 287 pass attempts, Skaneateles' offensive line allowed only six sacks.
"From the offensive line, not much more you can ask for. I don't think we allowed a sack for seven weeks. They've done a great job all year and did a great job in the state championship as well," Hackler said. "The receivers, can't say enough about them. They turn a 5-yard hitch into a 60-yard touchdown. It means a lot to have them make plays."
Hackler wasn't only tough on defenses through the air — the junior rushed for over 1,300 yards with 12 touchdowns. In his finest performance, the state semifinal against Cleveland Hill, Hackler rushed for five touchdowns and threw for four more.
"I find myself muttering into the headset, 'I can't believe he did that,' 'I can't believe he escaped' or 'I can't believe he made that play,'" Sindoni said. "What he did in the Cleveland Hill game ... I've never seen one player be that offensively dominant and in a game where the stakes were that high, it was extremely impressive. There was a lot of pressure on us in that game to keep scoring and he just put the team on his back."
Being a quarterback, a lot of responsibility rests on Hackler's shoulders to make the right adjustments at the line of scrimmage. While Hackler recalls some times where he needed to be dialed back, Sindoni says "he gets away with a lot because he's right a lot of the time."
Sindoni continued, "He made up a play, a fake toss bootleg, in the state championship and ran it for 10 yards. It came back for a penalty but it was a great read. I have a level of trust that he knows what he's looking at."
It didn't take long after clinching the state title for Hackler and Sindoni to start thinking about next year. After the final buzzer in the state title game, with the rest of the team celebrating its win over Holy Trinity, the pair shared a moment of reflection.
"What I love about him is that we're standing together at midfield and just won the state championship, and he and I are both furious about how the game went in the fourth quarter," Sindoni said. "All the conversations he and I had were about the things we can get better at next year. He's an impressive kid and so quick to give credit to his teammates. That goes a long way. It promotes the culture we're looking for in our program."