North County 11/30/94
YORKTOWN STILL UNCONQUERED AND UNBEATEN
“My head is bloody, but unbowed… I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.”
– from the poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley
When Mr. Henley sat down to write his poem on the strength of an individual against all adversity, it was hardly the turn of the century, and chances are old Willie never saw an American football game; but if he could have made it to the Syracuse Carrier Dome last Saturday night, he would have witnessed his words come to life in the form of the young men that make up the 1994 Yorktown Cornhuskers.
For four quarters, the defending Class B state champs put a perfect season, a 20-game win streak and another title on the line. All night the line was precariously thin. It was not a blowout like last year. In fact their biggest lead of the evening was eight points. The smallest lead was all of one point three different times. It was the first time all year the strength of the team’s soul was tested, and there’s a plaque sitting somewhere at the High School that says the Yorktown soul passed with flying colors.
The final was Yorktown 25, William South 24, and at crucial times during the contest it felt even closer. The Section 6 champs brought their own soul on the arm of a terrific quarterback named Mike Lester, who kept coming at the brick-hard Huskers defense like some wild-eyed Gunga Din in a helmet. When the evening was done he would accumulate some gaudy passing stats (10 of 17 for 190 yards and three touchdowns), including a wild third-and-27 heave that put an apple into the throat of everyone waving a green pom pom.
It was the first time all year the strength of the team’s soul was tested, and there’s a plaque sitting somewhere at the High School that says the Yorktown soul passed with flying colors.
But the black and silver blur with a #13 on his back nullified these considerable feats time and time again. Don Weese, the game’s MVP-with-the-ball would unveil the Yorktown soul before anyone had both cheeks planted into a Dome seat. His opening kickoff return made short work of 85 yards, and the team that had not trailed a single football game for 44 quarters had a 7-0 lead. Every touchdown the boy wonder QB from Williamsville South could muster, Weese had some answer; a 15-yard pass reception for a score followed by a 20-yard touchdown run.
All season long the vaunted Yorktown defense (number one in the league with six shutouts) did not allow a team to force a deficit on them, and the only team to so much as manage a tie-game into the fourth quarter, the Somers Tuskers, never scored at all. But throughout the game both offenses seemed locked in a trance-like dance of death, running up and down the field with reckless abandon.
However, Williamsville South was unable to attach the extra point to any of their four touchdowns. The Cornhuskers missed the kick on their second. In fact, with all the yards amassed by both teams (350 for South and 240 for ‘Town) the defining moments of the game were played within ten feet of the Yorktown goal line.
It was 13-12 Cornhuskers with one minute left in the first half, and the only thing standing between Williamsville South and the lead were four downs, four yards, and the Yorktown defense. They ran four plays, gained three yards, and went into the locker room down by one. Forty-six quarters without trailing.
The second half featured more of the same. Yorktown would score and back came the other guys, neither team able to buy the point-after. A football version of Ali-Frqazier in Manilla hitting and taking hits and standing for the next round. The winner would earn it, the loser would be disappointed, but proud to have played.
With less than 40 seconds remaining in the game, and faced with their last down from the Yorktown 16, the Williamsville South offense stepped to the line of scrimmage. The Huskers dug deep on defense. A fired up Adam Lodewick, who would earn Defensive Player of the Game honors for his relentless pursuit of anything that moved in this game, screamed to his teammates to make a stand.
Lester faded back from center and tossed the ball out to the left about two yards deep in the end zone to his receiver, Doug Goeckil, who would beat out his quarterback for Offensive Player of the Game. Touchdown. Williamsville South would go for two points. Two points they could not get three times before. Yorktown’s perfect season of leading all the way was three yards from becoming a one point deficit with 15 seconds left.
The fans stood on both sides of the field and cheered wildly. Both coaches bellowed instructions. Ten feet for the championship.
Once again Lester pulled out from center, rolled right, looked at the front line of the Huskers breaking through the wall, cocked his arm, and threw into the corner of the end zone. It was there the ball found the thrusting arm of Pete Cariello and fell to the ground.
The 1994 Yorktown Cornhuskers, state champs again. Twelve games played, twelve wins. Unconquered. Invictus. Amen.
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