SYRACUSE — While the final score indicates plenty of drama, the Lakers controlled the game and the clock to finish their climb to the top.
Skaneateles football topped Holy Trinity 28-25 to capture its first New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class C title Friday at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. Prior to this season, the Lakers had never advanced past the NYSPHSAA regional, but Skaneateles survived in the state regional and semifinal games against Newark Valley and Cleveland Hill to secure its shot at a title.
Once the Lakers got there, it was about closing the deal.
“It came down to little things,” Skaneateles coach Joe Sindoni said. “It came down to making extra points and stuff that we do every day, and I’m just really happy for the kids. I’m numb right now and still in a little bit of disbelief. At the same time I see these smiling faces of these kids and these parents and that makes me happy.”
Skaneateles was well in control for most of the game and led by 16 points entering the fourth quarter, but the Pride charged late and nearly pulled off a devastating comeback with 13 points over the final five minutes.
“They have some amazing athletes so we just had to take it play by play,” Lakers quarterback Patrick Hackler said. “They threw that (late) touchdown pass and it was heartbreaking. We definitely made some mistakes, so it really came down to playing as a team, playing as a unit and not turning on each other. It shows our hard work throughout everything.”
Hackler finished 11-for-21 with 187 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. Running back Areh Boni racked up 176 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries and added two receptions for 24 yards, and receiver Nick Wamp hauled in four catches for 86 yards and two touchdowns. Tommy Scherrer finished with one reception, an 18-yard touchdown.
Hackler added 140 rushing yards on 25 carries, along with an interception on defense.
T.J. Greenfield led the Lakers defensively with two sacks and 4 1/2 tackles, while Jimmy Liberatore recorded one sack to go with two tackles.
Quarterback Joe Tortello and receiver Nacier Hundley gave the Skaneateles defense fits. The duo hooked up for the opening score less than three minutes into the contest to give the Pride an early 6-0. The extra-point attempt failed.
The Lakers countered with a 14-play, 80-yard drive completed by a 18-yard catch and throw from Hackler to Scherrer to nab Skaneateles a 7-6 lead. Hackler tacked on another touchdown pass on Skaneateles’ third possession, finding Wamp down the right sideline for a 26-yard score with 8:03 remaining in the first half.
Skaneateles had a chance to go ahead by two scores heading into halftime, but an errant Hackler pass intended for Wamp was picked off by Holy Trinity’s Nelon Priest. The next play, Tortello and Hundley connected on a 67-yard strike to cut Skaneateles’ lead to 14-12. Again, the Pride missed the extra point.
Instead of seizing momentum to end the first half, the Lakers did so to start the second. Skaneateles started the second half with consecutive scoring drives capped off by a 6-yard rushing score from Boni and a 44-yard touchdown by Wamp to take a commanding 28-12 lead over the Pride.
Needing to kill time instead of adding points, Skaneateles submitted a seven-minute, 30-second drive that extended past the midway point of the fourth quarter. The Lakers didn’t score on the drive — a fourth-down pass from Hackler intended for Nate Wellington fell incomplete — but the possession soaked up precious time away from desperate Holy Trinity.
Needing 16 points with less than five minutes remaining, the Pride cut Skaneateles’ lead to 28-18 but were unsuccessful on the ensuing onside-kick attempt. With a chance to clinch the state title with a score the Lakers took the clock down to 1:20 left, but a fourth-down pass from Hackler sailed into a Holy Trinity defender’s arms.
The next play, Tortello threw a 65-yard touchdown pass to Noah Forster.
“As someone who wants to pride yourself in game management, it was just terrible game management,” Sindoni said. “We had a lead and we almost gave it back, but to our kids’ credit they did enough. They did the little things along the way.”
The Pride’s chance at a miraculous comeback ended there. Holy Trinity attempted a squib kick that bounced down to Skaneateles’ 20-yard line that allowed Wellington to jump on the loose ball to seal Class C title.
For many of the Lakers including Sindoni, the most satisfying part of finishing off the season with the state title was to have the community there to see it. Sindoni joked that back home the town was likely empty during the game because of how full Skaneateles’ cheering section was.
“This community is so terrific,” Sindoni said. “We filled the entire section and they made noise and I think it’s great for the kids. It just makes everything better with that kind of support. I couldn’t be happier.”
Skaneateles becomes the first Section III team to win a Class C title since Bishop Ludden did so in 2007. The last Section III team to win a state title in any class was Cazenovia in 2015.
“Section III football is something that we always want to promote and support,” Sindoni said. “I felt a lot of that this week. I had coaches from other teams and other divisions reaching out to me and wishing me luck. It was unbelievable the amount of support I got from my peers in Section III. I’m happy that we were able to get one for them.”
For Hackler, finishing off a dream season means the world.
“It’s what we’ve looked forward to, it’s what we’ve worked hard toward for years and years,” Hackler said. “Especially going into this offseason, we knew we could do something special.”
Gallery: Skaneateles wins first NYSPHSAA Class C football crown
Skaneateles football topped Holy Trinity 28-25 to capture its first New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class C title Friday at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.