Sweet Home had won its share of battles in the trenches all season with its beefy offensive line. On Friday night it met its match against Aquinas in the Class A Far West Regional.
Aquinas amassed 319 yards on the ground behind an O-line with three 300-pounders, to beat the Panthers, 28-7, before an estimated 1,200 at Paetec Park in downtown Rochester. The game was played in a light drizzle in temperatures in the mid-30s.
Aquinas (11-0), the No. 1-ranked team in the state, advanced to the New York State semifinals back at Paetec Park next Friday at 8 p.m. They'll meet III-Carthage (11-0), a winner Friday night over IV-Corning East.
"They pushed us around a little tonight," said Sweet Home coach John Faller. "We didn't get our running game going. They took it to us tonight. They were the better team, there's no question about it. It's very disappointing, but you know, you gotta come out and play."
The game was only 56 seconds old when Aquinas scored. Senior running back Anthony Fitts burst through the Sweet Home line on the second play of the game and took it 76 yards. Fitts finished with 147 yards in the first half. It got worse for Sweet Home before it got better. Forced to punt from deep in its own end, kicker Nathaniel Moore fumbled the snap and was tackled. Aquinas took over at the Sweet Home 5-yard line and four plays later scored on a 1-yard keeper by Ben Bostick.
Trailing by 14-0, Sweet Home put together an impressive drive. Starting at its own 15, junior quarterback Casey Kacz engineered a 17-play drive, nicely mixing the pass with the run. Sweet Home scored on a 5-yard shuffle pass from Kacz to Anthony Johnson.
"We made some good plays, but the coverage they were in they were dropping back pretty far and we couldn't get any deep passes," sad Kacz. "We did have a chance when it was 14-7, but things just went wrong for us and we couldn't come back."
Aquinas had a chance to add to its lead right before the half when Sweet Home chose to go for it on fourth-and-one from its own 31. Sweet Home turned the ball over on downs, but Aquinas went three-and-out after getting the ball.
Aquinas grabbed the momentum, scoring on its first possession of the third quarter. Running back Cedrick Barber did the honors on a 11-yard run capping a 12-play drive. Barber added his second TD of the game on a 4-yard run with 1:29 left in the third quarter.
Sweet Home was making just its second appearance in the Far West Regional round of the state playoffs.
Fitts finished with 185 yards and was named the game's MVP in a postgame ceremony.
Sweet Home ends the season 10-1.