SKANEATELES — From the perfect conditions of the Carrier Dome to the brisk fall air that is surely to greet them Saturday, the Lakers have a chance to go where no team in program history has gone before.
Following a 66-27 romp over General Brown in the Section III, Class C championship, the Skaneateles football team will face Newark Valley in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association regional game at 11 a.m. Saturday at Union-Endicott High School.
It's the Lakers first trip to the state tournament since 2012 and second appearance overall. Skaneateles can advance to the program's first state semifinal with a victory.
Skaneateles coach Joe Sindoni isn't focused on his team making history in preparation for the Cardinals. He was glad to return to practice for another week after the Lakers thrashed General Brown and continues to reinforce the team's mantra this season of "No regrets."
"What we've tried really hard to do is keep the kids' focus on just playing a football game," Sindoni said. "We start each week talking about regret. What we don't want is to come out of a week and say we didn't prepare enough or we didn't apply ourselves or we didn't watch enough film. Whatever happens when we get to gameday, we just want there to be no regrets."
Aside from being New York state's top-ranked team, Newark Valley is the defending Class C state champions. The Cardinals have won 23 games in a row with a grueling ground-and-pound running attack.
"They play a system that we really haven't seen yet," Sindoni said. "There are some adjustments we need to make. On top of that they're very physical so we've got to make sure we're up for the intensity and physicality that they're going to bring."
For most of the season, Skaneateles has thrived on throwing the ball past teams that couldn't keep up with the Lakers' athleticism at wide receiver. With frigid weather conditions expected, a potent passing attack may be hard to come by.
"I think our system is a little more weather sensitive than a running team," Sindoni said. "That's the double-edged sword. You play in upstate New York, so even in the fall you can get some seriously questionable weather that makes things hard to do."
If the situation calls for it, Skaneateles can turn to tailback Areh Boni to move the chains. Boni ran for over 150 yards and two touchdowns in the Lakers' last game, and he's confident that the offensive line will provide enough room to maneuver if the passing game isn't working.
"(Newark Valley) has a tremendous box ... their defensive line and linebackers are really good, but I've got the big men blocking for me," Boni said. "I'm ready to roll."
The weather won't be the only concern. If Skaneateles can't get stops on defense, Newark Valley will be content with killing the clock and limiting the amount of times the Lakers have the ball. Winning the turnover battle could decide who wins.
"They try to pound it down your throat and get three or four yards at a time," lineman Scott Ochsner said. "They want to keep the ball, keep the clock moving and get first downs. We're going to have to make stops in key situations, maybe force a fumble and drive down the field and score."
Sindoni was pleased with the week of practice heading into the toughest test of the year. He hopes to remind his team, "No regrets," in preparation for a state semifinal matchup next week.
"We put in a week of work that we feel good about. That's really at the end of the day all you can do," Sindoni said. "We'll live with whatever the result is and so far they've been pretty good."