Immaculate Heart Central football coach Paul Alteri had an uneasy feeling before his Cavaliers took the field for Friday nights Section 3 Class C quarterfinal against defending champion Skaneateles.
It took the unbeaten Cavaliers just a quarter to prove that, contrary to their coachs dire thoughts, they were primed to make a postseason statement.
Scoring three touchdowns in the first quarter, and rolling to a 26-point lead, third-seeded IHC dominated the No. 6 Lakers from start to finish en route to a 49-7 victory at IHC.
The Cavaliers (8-0) will play Class C North foe Thousand Islands, a 23-12 upset winner over No. 2 Sherburne-Earlville, in next weekends semifinals at a time and site to be determined.
Alteri figured this to be a physical, tight matchup because of what he had seen of Skaneateles seen on film. They were bigger than us so I thought it would be tough, Alteri said. But I guess I had no idea that my kids were so focused, and so ready to play.
IHC prevailed because of its outstanding offensive talent, especially at receiver. And with the Cavaliers defense holding the Lakers to minus-6 yards rushing and intercepting five of the Lakers 42 passes, including two that were returned for touchdowns.
We just wanted to set the tone and put up some quick points to let them know they werent going to come up here and beat us, said IHC senior Nick Koelmel, who caught a pair of TD passes from Cole Carpenter and returned an interception 57 yards for a third score. I think our athleticism on both sides of the ball surprised them.
Jude Whalen also returned an interception 45 yards for a first-quarter score. Miles Sexton caught a 22-yard TD pass from Carpenter, Mike Marra contributed a 30-yard TD run, and Austyn Frechette scored on an 11-yard run in the third quarter for IHC. Placekicker Luis Janer booted a 29-yard field goal and four extra points for IHC.
Alteri said his pregame thoughts were based on this weeks practices, which were not intense enough for him.
Now I know this team is for real, he said. I loved the way we executed on both sides of the ball tonight.
On the Cavaliers third possession of the game, Marra raced untouched around right end for a 30-yard score.
After holding the Lakers on downs, Carpenter hit Sexton over the middle for a 22-yard score just three minutes later.
Whalen, who earlier had forced and fell on a fumbled punt, then stepped in front of a Devan Callahan pass and raced 45 yards for a score to make it 19-0 with still a minute and a half left in the first quarter.
A Carpenter-to-Koelmel 65-yard connection increased the lead to 26-0 just 10 seconds into the second quarter.
We ran just enough tonight to keep them honest, said Carpenter, who completed 16 of 24 passes for 216 yards. With all of our great receivers, I just pick the one thats open and know that theyll catch it.
I dont think anybody can cover us one-on-one, said Koelmel, who caught seven passes for 136 yards. If they try to double me or someone else, weve got three other guys who can get open.
Skaneateles scored its only touchdown on a pass to Tom Hagen late in the first half. But Koelmels second TD reception and Frechettes burst up the middle from 11 yards out on IHCs first two possessions of the third quarter negated any thoughts of a Lakers comeback.
Frechette, who had a huge game at middle linebacker for IHC, said with Skaneateles all but abandoning the run game, we just went for the quarterback and fell back in coverage. I was blitzing on almost every play because our defensive line was getting such great penetration.
IHC beat Thousand Islands 26-0 in the season opener for both teams. The Cavaliers know that the next meeting will probably be tougher.
Theyve obviously improved a lot, but I think we have, too, Koelmel said. But we feel as if we play our game, nobody can beat us.