SYRACUSE Pressure was on General Browns mind Sunday.
It was mainly in the form of getting to Immaculate Heart Central quarterback Cole Carpenter and either forcing him to throw the ball quickly, or making him scramble out of the pocket.
That strategy worked to perfection as the Lions forced a couple of big turnovers, sacked Carpenter five times and forced 23 incompletions as they rolled to a 34-7 victory over the Cavaliers for the Section 3 Class C football championship at the Carrier Dome.
General Brown (9-1), earning its sixth Class C title since 2003, takes on Section 4 champion Chenango Forks in the state Class C quarterfinals at noon Saturday at Union-Endicott High School.
Junior running back Zech Pitre scored two touchdowns and rushed for 110 yards on 22 carries as General Brown avenged its only defeat, a 28-26 loss to IHC on Oct. 18.
Senior Matt Haley also returned an interception 30 yards for a key score in the third quarter for General Brown.
We arent the most talented team, Pitre said. But we probably work harder than some of the others. The young kids have stepped up and filled some important roles, and the seniors have provided great leadership.
General Brown coach Steve Fisher, who returned to the Lions sidelines this year after three years away, echoed Pitres words.
This group has really progressed because we really didnt know what we had early in the season, said Fisher, who lost 18 of 22 starters off last years 7-1 club. I can honestly say this is the hardest working team Ive had in my 46 years of coaching.
Carpenter, who had thrown for 1,374 yards and 16 touchdowns heading into the game, was harassed constantly by the General Brown defense. He threw a season-high 38 times, completing 15 for 193 yards with two interceptions and a lone touchdown.
General Brown had a great game plan defensively, said Carpenter, who passed for 256 yards and three scores in the first meeting. They came with pressure from the outside, and it was tough to see down field. I had to force too many throws, and their pass defense was really aggressive.
General Brown senior defensive end Derek Webb said the coaches really prepared us for this game. We widened out a little bit more to get a better angle to the quarterback. And our linebackers did a tremendous job covering all their short passes.
The Cavaliers were limited offensively, playing without leading receiver Nick Koelmel, who underwent an appendectomy on Thursday. They also lost wideout Jude Whalen for much of the first half with an injury, and a couple of other Cavaliers were also helped off the field.
That was tough to handle, IHC coach Paul Alteri said. I dont know what was going on out there. We had somewhat adjusted to being without Nick the last couple of days. But I could feel the air coming out of our lungs a little bit after each guy went down today.
The Lions took advantage of the initial IHC turnover to score first.
Jacob Wojasinski sacked Carpenter deep in Cavalier territory, forcing a fumble on the IHC 9. Three plays later, Pitre swept right end for a 6-yard score, and Wojasinski booted the PAT to make it 7-0.
IHCs best possession of the opening half, a five-play, 77-yard drive, resulted in its only score, a 20-yard pass from Carpenter to Haden Baker. Luis Janers PAT tied it at 7-7 with 2:45 left in the first quarter.
Pitre then capped off a 13-play, 70-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run for General Brown with 9:18 left in the first half. The Cavaliers, however, blocked the PAT and went into halftime down just 13-7.
The real turning point came after IHC had stopped Pitre on a fourth and 1 from the IHC 24 in the third quarter. On IHCs first play after gaining possession, Carpenter was hurried, overthrew his receiver and Haley picked off the pass and sprinted 30 yards for the touchdown. Another Wojasinski PAT made it 20-7.
IHCs offensive frustrations really showed when the Cavaleirs reeled off a 19-play drive at the end of the third quarter, but came up empty.
Joe Pitre and Jared Christopher tacked on 1-yard TD runs for General Brown in the final period.
I feel bad that they werent at full strength, Fisher said. Koelmel may be the best player in our area, and the Whalen kid is also tough to defend. But I thought our kids really tackled a lot better today, and our special teams were excellent.
Asked what it was like to only watch, Koelmel said, It was probably the worst experience of my life. I played the whole season to get here. This is the big stage. I finally get here and I get told I cant play.
n The Carthage vs. Union-Endicott Class A quarterfinal game scheduled for Friday has had a site and time change.
It will be played at 7 p.m. at Vestal High School because Union-Endicott cannot play at home in the state tournament.