Who: Cleveland Hill Golden Eagles (10-1) vs. Skaneateles Lakers (10-1)
When: 11 a.m. Saturday
Where: Ty Cobb Stadium at Union-Endicott High School
Web cast: myspectrumsports.com
Rankings: Cleveland Hill is ranked No. 3 in the News Small Schools Poll and No. 1 in the New York State Sportswriters Poll. Skaneateles is ranked third in the state poll.
At NYSPHSAA semifinals: Cleveland Hill is 0-1, losing in 2013 to Chenango Forks (22-0). Skaneateles is making its first appearance.
Coaching records: Cleveland Hill’s Glen Graham, 14th season (103-35); Skaneateles, Joe Sindoni, fourth season (29-9).
Cleveland Hill key players and statistics: Jr. RB/LB Aaron Wahler (172-1592-23 TDs; 56 tackles, 2 INT), Sr. LB/RB Ryan Majerowski (85 tackles, 3 INT; 62-651, 6 TDs), Jr. RB Javon Thomas (42-867-7 TDs), Jr. DB/RB D'Mario Grant (53 tackles, 1 INT, 4 passes defensed; 46-225-2 TDs), So. LB Chris Diem (57 tackles, 3.0 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 INT).
Skaneateles key players and statistics: Jr. QB Patrick Hackler (130-238-2626-46 TDs passing; 89-837-7 TDs rushing), Jr. RB/LB Areh Boni (128-1259-12 TDs; 96 tackles), So. WR Nick Wamp (36-869-15 TDs), Sr. WR Cross Bianchi (44-681-15 TDs), Jr. WR Nathan Wellington (32-781-11 TDs), Sr. LB Jake Nesbit (113 tackles).
How they got here: Cleveland Hill rallied to defeat Section V champion Caledonia-Mumford/Byron-Bergen, 38-20, as Wahler rushed 16 times for 212 yards and three touchdowns and Thomas ran 10 times for 142 yards and two scores. Wahler scored on runs of 59 and 91 yards during a 22-point fourth quarter by the Golden Eagles.
Skaneateles ended Newark Valley's 23-game winning streak and reign as state champions with a 42-41 victory. Hackler threw five touchdown passes, breaking the state record for TD throws in a single season held by former Christian Brothers Academy and Syracuse quarterback Greg Paulus.
Pre-snap read: Cleveland Hill has passed for a total of 272 yards this season. The Golden Eagles face a foe that has thrown for nearly 10 times that total.
Yes, polar opposites clash with Cleve Hill hoping its ground and pound offense produces an 11th straight win and a trip to the Carrier Dome. While the Golden Eagles' ball-control offense would help their defense out immensely it should be noted that their offense is explosive even though they don't take to the air. They have three fast and tough primary running backs that are threats to take it to the house in Wahler, Thomas and Majerowski.
Controlling the ball would help the defense. Also minimizing the Lakers' possessions could potentially prevent them from finding an offensive flow or force them into uncharacteristic mistakes.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Hackler, a Yale lacrosse commit, picked apart Newark Valley's zone defense in the state quarters. He also has also succeeded against man-to-man defense and is a threat to run.
Cleve Hill used a bend- but-do-not-break approach and forced a couple key turnovers when it beat Southwestern – a team with a potential Division I or II quarterback and sound passing game – in the sectional final. A similar approach might work again, but regardless of the scheme the Eagles' defensive backs must have a solid day in coverage.
What’s next: The winner advances to the state championship game where it will face either II-Holy Trinity or IX-Burke Catholic at 6 p.m. Nov. 24 at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.