SYRACUSE – A handful of big offensive plays and whole lot of stingy defense put Clymer/Sherman/Panama in a position to achieve the perfect ending to its dream season Friday afternoon.
But the one play that swung momentum permanently in the direction of the Wolfpack was a biggie that not only got a rise out of fans, but also helped provide CSP with the finishing kick it needed to make history in without-a-doubt fashion.
The Wolfpack (13-0) captured their first New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association championship by defeating Section VII champion Moriah, 26-6, before a crowd of more than 2,000 at the Carrier Dome.
CSP used a 19-6 fourth quarter to pull away from a physical Vikings crew to achieve the main objective of the program when Clymer, Sherman and Panama joined forces in the sport four years ago.
Win it all.
They did just that.
“This is surreal,” triumphant coach Ty Harper said. “To go from newly merged program four years ago to walking off this field at the Carrier Dome as state champion, you couldn’t write this story. I guess you can now.”
“This is crazy,” junior quarterback Gerrit Hinsdale said. “This is nuts. It hasn’t sunk in yet but we’re 2018 state champs.”
With a championship hanging in the balance, the Wolfpack did what winners do in that situation: they seized it. They did it by not only going for it on fourth-and-19 from their opponent’s 30 but did it by calling a hook-and-lateral play no one saw coming.
A play that had been in the works the past three weeks in practice but hadn’t been pulled off to no one’s liking until Hinsdale, Cam Barmore and John Swabik delivered the highlight-reel touchdown early in the fourth quarter that not only made it 13-0 Wolfpack but also proved to be an energy draining punch to the Vikings.
“In my opinion, that’s the play of the game,” said Hinsdale, who battled through a tough first half to finish 14-for-26 with 240 yards passing, two touchdowns and two interceptions. “If we don’t get that fourth down they have the momentum. That was a big play by Cameron and John Swabik. It was a great play all around.”
Hinsdale dropped back and completed a pass to Barmore who in one motion caught and guided it to Swabik, who was running at full speed.
“Right when it got in my hands, I saw John, just flipped it up to him,” said Barmore, who caught two passes for 58 yards and a touchdown. “That was the first time we completed it. ... It was a great play call. We got it done.”
CSP won just two games its first season but put in the work to continue getting better.
The Wolfpack, the top-ranked team in the state, first served notice in Week Two this could be their year by drubbing two-time defending Section VI champion and two-time defending state runner-up Maple Grove.
Then came the Far West Regional win over then state No. 2 Alexander, a game in which CSP came within the game’s final play of posting a shutout against one of the highest scoring teams in the state.
On Friday, despite CSP’s offense struggling for a half (three turnovers), the defense refused to let Moriah (9-3) get anything going – holding the Vikings to 68 yards during the opening 24 minutes. The Wolfpack took a 7-0 lead into halftime on Barmore’s 32-yard touchdown catch early in the second quarter.
“Chris Payne does an outstanding job as my defensive coordinator,” Harper said. “I don’t think we could’ve had a worse half offensively. They really kept us in the game. They’ve worked hard so season. There was a four-week span where we had given up like seven points in four games. I’m happy for that unit.”
The CSP ‘D’ kept it a 7-0 advantage until the hook-and-lateral that opened up the flood gates. Robert Overton scored on a 3-yard run four minutes later. After a pass in the end zone ricocheted off CSP defender into the hands of Jerin Sargent to make it 19-6, Michael Beatman returned an interception 14 yards for the Wolfpack’s final TD.
The title is the first in this classification by a Section VI champion since Randolph won in 2014.
“It’s surreal and it’s probably not going to sink in for a couple days,” Harper said. “We knew we had a special team coming in. ... The past four months have been so enjoyable. I’m going to miss the seniors. ... What a ride we had.”