Section III's Class C football championship provides clashing styles that could determine if defense really does win championships.
Cato-Meridian is hoping it does, and with a win the Blue Devils can capture their first section title in 26 years.
No unit has been as dominant as Cato-Meridian's defense. In their nine games so far this season, the Blue Devils have held opponents to one touchdown or less seven times.
That includes three shutouts.
Cato-Meridian's last defensive dandy came a week ago in the Class C semifinals against Herkimer, a 16-0 victory that sent the Blue Devils to their first section title game since 2010.
“We’re aggressive and we hit hard,” defensive lineman Trevor Lunkenheimer said after the game. “We have a lot of heart. That’s what we preach. We go hard in practice and we go hard here. You practice how you play.”
That sentiment was echoed by coach CJ Hannon, who recognized the ball-hawking, nature of his defense, as well as the physicality of his line and linebackers.
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“Our defensive line is where it starts, and then our linebackers are flying everywhere and our secondary is covering people,” Hannon said. “We’re real happy with where we are.”
Lowville's offense will provide the biggest test Cato-Meridian has faced this season. Like Cato-Meridian, Lowville is undefeated and one of the top-ranked teams in the state by the New York State Sportswriters Association, but the Red Raiders' path to this point has been accomplished in completely different fashion.
Lowville has eclipsed 50 points in six games this season, and the Red Raiders' season low for points in a game is still an impressive 41, which came in a win over Fowler in September.
Cato-Meridian's offense has been no slouch either, but the Blue Devils haven't scored points at the same rate so far this postseason as they did during the regular season. In seven regular season games, Cato-Meridian averaged nearly 44 points, but in two postseason games so far, the Blue Devils have been held to 14 and 16 points.
So far, with how dominant the defense has been, it hasn't mattered, and Cato-Meridian hopes that defense will carry the program to its first title since 1993.
The Blue Devils last appeared in the section title game in 2010, and in that appearance the defense couldn't hold its end of the bargain as Cato-Meridian was beaten by top-seeded General Brown 66-36. Like this year, the Blue Devils entered that Class C championship a perfect 9-0.
This time around, Cato-Meridian is the top seed, and this time it might be the Blue Devils' year.