Cam Cacciotti has been in the right place at the right time the past two weeks for West Seneca East.
The junior lineman has recovered two fumbles early in the third quarter of each of the Trojans’ last two playoff wins. Both have led to momentum-turning touchdowns by East.
The secret to Cacciotti’s success?
He’s just doing his one-eleventh.
It’s a message the Trojans’ coaching staff has preached since the team’s first practice on Aug. 13. If each player takes care of his job on the field during a play, good things should happen for the unit as a whole. Should each Trojan player heed that message one more time, West Seneca East could earn the ultimate golden memory as a reward during its 50th anniversary season.
The Trojans (11-1) are one win away from winning their first New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association championship. They face Section IX champion Cornwall Central (11-0) for the state’s Class A crown at 3 p.m. Friday at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.
West Seneca East is one of three Western New York football teams playing for state championships this weekend. Clymer/Sherman/Panama squares off against VII-Moriah at noon Friday in the NYSPHSAA Class D final at the Carrier Dome.
On Saturday, Monsignor Martin High School Athletic Association champion St. Francis takes on defending champion Archbishop Stepinac for the New York State Catholic High Schools Athletic Association title at Stepinac’s home field in White Plains.
These are the final football games of the season for area teams. At least one Western New York team has won a state championship each year since 2011. That includes the Catholic tourney, which formed its state final in 2014. At least one area team has won a title in nine of the past 10 years.
East looks to keep the Class A title in West Seneca. The Trojans reached this point by rallying to win three of their past four playoff games, including a comeback win over rival West Seneca West in the Section VI final that ended West’s reign as state champion and avenged the Trojans’ only defeat during the season.
Each comeback win needs a catalyst. Cacciotti has had a hand in the past two.
In the Trojans’ 15-8 win over Section V champion Irondequoit in the Far West Regional/state quarterfinal, Cacciotti pounced on a loose ball at the Eagles’ 6 after Shaun Dolac stopped a runner and forced a fumble during Irondequoit's first series of the second half. Devare Mathis scored on the next play to break an 8-8 tie.
In last week’s wild 50-42 win over Section III champion Indian River, Cacciotti rushed in from the defensive end spot, scooped up a fumble and took off with nothing but daylight between him and the end zone. His 26-yard touchdown erased a 22-14 halftime deficit, setting up a thrilling final 21-plus minutes in which both teams combined for 48 points.
“They just fumbled it right to me, and I just took it to the house,” said Cacciotti, who also starts on the offensive line. “I was going as hard as I could. I wanted to (cross) the goal line.”
“His contributions have been great,” WSE coach Jim Maurino said of Cacciotti. “He’s just starting to read the game a little bit better (on defense). His flexibility is a nice bonus for us, but he’s getting a nose for the ball, he’s hustling and putting himself in the right spot. He’s there when the ball bounces and to strip it.”
West Seneca East forced four turnovers, recovered a late onside kick and beat Indian River players to a squib kick in an open area on the final kickoff of the game to pull out the stunning victory last Friday at Union-Endicott. Conversely, the Trojans did not turn over the ball.
West Seneca East players have been putting in the work and cashing in on breaks when they’ve developed to reach this point.
If the formula works again, look out.
“It’s even bigger stakes than ever, we’re definitely trying hard and have been working harder in practice,” Cacciotti said. “Hopefully, we’ll come out with the win.”