SYRACUSE — Cato-Meridian football's defense had been a staunch unit, arguably the best in the section, all season.
Against Lowville, the Blue Devils' defense had no answers.
Playing in its first section title game since 2010, Cato-Meridian was eliminated by Lowville, 41-6, in the Section III Class C championship, Saturday at the Carrier Dome.
The loss ends what was a perfect season for Cato-Meridian.
At the start, the Blue Devils' defense was too much for Lowville's offense, not allowing the Red Raiders to advance past midfield the entire first quarter.
That changed in the second. Lowville started lining up quarterback Chad Bach in shotgun and used him as the primary ball carrier. Cato-Meridian was unable to stop the revised attack, as Bach accounted for four total touchdowns (three running, one passing).
"We played our hearts out, and our defense was playing their hearts out, and it's real tough when you're playing a team as good as that," Cato-Meridian coach CJ Hannon said. "(Bach) kinda wore us down a little bit and we were fighting to just stay in it, but he was really good."
On offense, the Blue Devils could never fully find their groove. In each of its first three possessions, Cato-Meridian advanced to Lowville territory, but the Red Raiders stood firm to prevent points from going on the board.
"We were trying to keep them off balance and early on we were able to do that," Hannon said. "Their defense doesn't get the credit it deserves because of how great the offense is. Every one of their players is a great player and we missed too many blocks. It was a struggle on offense today."
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Lowville opened the scoring with 6:39 to go in the first half when Bach rumbled 35 yards on a keeper for a 6-0 lead. It looked as though Cato-Meridian would head to the locker room down only a score after Kobey Noeller knocked down a Bach pass in the end zone with 12 seconds left.
But Cato-Meridian couldn't prevent the score — on third-and-15 from the 19, Bach found Aiden Zehr in the back of the end zone. Lowville marched right down the field on its first possession of the second half to take a 20-0 lead on another Bach touchdown.
The Blue Devils finally scored their first touchdown on the ensuing possession when quarterback Konar Witkowski hit Marcus Toro in stride down the right sideline for a 77-yard score. Cato-Meridian's defense followed with a stop, but any hopes of a one-score game were denied when Witkowski was intercepted late in the third.
Lowville scored the next 21 points to close out the game and clinch the title.
"We were thinking we had a chance as we were coming back," Hannon said. "We just weren't able to capitalize on that momentum when we needed to."
Cato-Meridian has 12 seniors, but should have another veteran-heavy team next year with 11 incoming seniors. Before looking ahead to next season, however, Hannon will appreciate the journey that occurred in 2019 as the Blue Devils fell short of their first section title since 1993.
"I'll remember how great we were throughout the whole year," Hannon said. "This is a great group of kids, I love coaching them, and I'm so proud of them to make it here."