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Cleveland Hill falls just short in Class C state football semifinal

ENDICOTT — Another trip to Union-Endicott High School’s Ty Cobb Stadium resulted in Cleveland Hill football players walking off the field in tears.

The Golden Eagles’ comeback bid in the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association Class C semifinal fell just a little short, as the Section VI champions’ season came to an end against Section IV’s Susquehanna Valley, 21-20, Saturday afternoon.

In a drive that either would’ve ended with a game-winning touchdown or bust — the Golden Eagles late fourth-quarter possession ended after senior Aaron Wahler went airborne to get a first down on a fourth-and-two play. He had the yardage for the first down but on the way down to the turf got stripped of the football. Zach Green recovered for the unbeaten Sabers (12-0) with 96 seconds left near midfield.

Cleveland Hill (10-2), which suffered a season-ending loss here last year to eventual state champion Skaneateles 63-56, trailed at halftime 21-6 as SV had the answers to negate the Golden Eagles’ speed.

Cleve Hill still trimmed the deficit to 21-12 on its first drive of the third quarter as the 6 minute and 39-second drive ended with Wahler scoring on an 8-yard run — his second TD run of the game.

Javon Thomas’ 76-yard touchdown run with 7:32 left, followed by a two-point conversion run by Wahler pulled Cleveland Hill within one.

The Golden Eagles forced a punt with 3:38 left to get their final possession.

SV needed just a minute and change to score the game’s first touchdown, as Jarred Freije scored on a 9-yard run.

Cleve Hill responded on its first drive, tying it as Wahler scored from the 1 to cap a possession that ate 9:59 of clock.

The Sabers went ahead for good with 4:36 left on Dan Matthews’ 1-yard run. Freije ran in the conversion to make it 14-6. Sethan King’s 2-yard TD run with 50 seconds left enabled SV to go into halftime up 21-6.

Cleveland Hill is now 0-3 in state semifinals, losing in 2017 to eventual state champion Skaneateles, 63-56, and in 2013 to Chenango Forks, 22-0. Susquehanna Valley is making its first appearance.

Susquehanna Valley (12-0) advances to the state final Friday at the Carrier Dome. It plays  Section I's Dobb's Ferry.

Cleve Hill's loss means the only Section VI champions who will play for state titles are West Seneca East (Class A) and Clymer/Sherman/Panama (Class D).

Here is how Cleveland Hill's comeback played out as it happened:

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