Northstars earn playoff win over Henninger
10/24/2016 10:26 AM

Having achieved the first undefeated regular season in program history, the Cicero-North Syracuse football team wanted that success to carry over to a first-ever Section III Class AA title.  The first part of the sectional playoffs didn’t go smoothly, though.  In fact, the Northstars trailed Henninger deep into the second quarter of Friday night’s opening-round game at Bragman Stadium before asserting control and defeating the Black Knights 41-21.  Though Henninger arrived at C-NS sporting a 2-5 record following a fourth-place finish in the Class AA-1 division, it didn’t carry any kind of fear facing the state no. 13-ranked Northstars.  Part of that had to do with the Black Knights knowing quite well the system of its former head coach, Dave Kline. Another part of it was playing C-NS tough in the Sept. 1 season opener, a penalty-filled game the Northstars only won by a 20-15 margin,  Add to it windy, wet conditions and a bit of lethargy from the home team, and Henninger provided an early surprise when Johnny Vigliotti burned the Northstars’ defense by throwing deep and finding Shawn Braxton for an 80-yard touchdown pass.  Despite C-NS getting on the board with Kyle Cody’s three-yard TD run, the Black Knights still led, 13-6, in the second quarter thanks to a scoring drive that Vigliotti capped with a one-yard plunge.  By now, though, the Northstars were fully engaged, and it closed the half with a rush. Conner Hayes took off on a 38-yard dash to the end zone and, right before intermission, found Lucas Merluzzi for a six-yard TD pass.  Not only did C-NS grab a 20-13 halftime lead, it was starting to wear down Henninger’s defense, which led to decisive big plays during a third-quarter run of 21 unanswered points.  Jeremiah Willis got it started by going 46 yards for a TD. Then Willis dazzled with a 65-yard dash to the end zone, those two big plays the key part of an evening where Willis ran for a career-best 237 yards on just 16 carries.  Hayes added 102 rushing yards on eight carries, scoring C-NS’s last touchdown on a one-yard run late in the third quarter, and Erik Pride had 16 carries for 63 yards.  Both of the AA semifinals take place next Friday at Bragman Stadium. In the opener at 5 p.m., C-NS takes on Corcoran, who like Henninger is a side the Northstars beat in September, by a 27-0 margin. The Cougars have gone 5-1 since, including a 14-12 first-round playoff win over Auburn.  The other sectional semifinal pits unbeaten, state Class AA no. 8-ranked CBA against Baldwinsville. The winners go to the Carrier Dome Nov. 5 to play for the sectional championship.


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