Cary Christian nips Northeast

Published 11:00 am Monday, November 8, 2010

CARY – Cary Christian freshman quarterback Dante DiMaggio connected with James Peterson on a 33-yard scoring pass and Elliot Blonshire kicked the all important point in the final 17 seconds as the Knights knocked off Northeast Academy 57-56 in an NCISAA eight-man state semifinal game played Friday afternoon.

With the win Cary Christian advances to their first-ever state championship game Friday night against undefeated Word of God at Ravenscroft’s Ned Gonet Stadium.

Ironically Blonshire’s field goal was the difference in the matchup of the two teams in the regular season in which Cary Christian took a 32-30 win. Another irony was the fact that this was the second time the Eagles have fallen in the semifinal round in the past four seasons as they dropped a 60-54 encounter to Word of God in 2006 on a hook and ladder play in the final six seconds.

The contest, as indicated by the final score, was an offensive shootout with only one punt in the entire tilt. The teams exchanged leads numerous times in the first half with NEA pushing across a score on the final play of the half to take a 36-30 lead to the locker room.

Through three quarters the closest substance of a stop was the red lights on Maynard Road leading into the school.

Both squads scored on each of their possessions in the first half.

Cary Christian drew first blood when Sam Casucci, who had four touchdowns on the night, took a screen pass from DiMaggio and raced down the right sideline for 28 yards for the first score out a little over two minutes into the contest. Blonshire kicked the first of his seven extra point conversions for an early 7-0 lead.

Northeast retaliated a little over a minute later to grab an 8-7 advantage on quarterback Davis Harrell’s 52-yard scamper.

Cary Christian then drove 53 yards in seven plays with Casucci getting all the yardage on the ground including the final five for the score.

The Eagles regained the lead late in the first period on James Pope’s 11-yard run leading by a 16-14 count after one period.

The second quarter saw the lead again see-saw back and forth.

The Knight’s Matt Daum raced in from 14 yards out, but Northeast struck right back on Harrell’s 10-yard run. Casucci’s 22-yard scamper with 55 seconds left in the half gave Cary Christian a 35-30 lead, but the never-say-die Eagles pushed across a score on the last play of the half on Harrell’s 12-yard run to stake themselves a 36-35 halftime advantage.

The third stanza saw lightning strike early.

After receiving the kickoff, Justin Francis was thrown for a four yard loss, but on the next play Harrell handed off to Pope and continued to roll right taking the majority of the Knight defense with him allowing Pope to race virtually untouched 86 yards to paydirt.

After recovering an onside kick off, Northeast again wasted no time.

A holding penalty moved the ball back to the CCS 46, but James Pope found a crease in the right side and raced 56 yards for yet another score increasing the Eagle lead to 50-35 with nine minutes on the clock in the period.

Casucci’s 54-yard run on the first play after the ensuing kickoff cut the lead to 50-43, but the fireworks were far from over.

On the first play following the Blonshire’s kickoff, which sailed into the end zone, Harrell found Pope over the middle and the speedy senior broke a tackle and race 80 yards to score, his third touchdown in three minutes. But on the extra point attempt the Eagles suffered a major blow as center Willie Rose went down with a knee injury and would not return for the game.

The Knight’s retaliated with a Matt Daum run of 13 yards to trim the lead to 56-50 at the 3:38 mark of the quarter.

After Justin Francis ripped off a 19-yard run for NEA on their next possession, they suffered back-to-back losses of 10 and eight yards due to two poor snaps from center.

Pope was stopped for a two-yard gain forcing the Eagles to punt for the only time in the game with CCS taking over at their own 16. The Knights marched downfield eating up huge chunks of the clock and keeping the ball on the ground behind running backs Casucci and Daum.

Driving to the NEA nine, Casucci gained a yard and on the next play fumbled giving Northeast possession on their own two with 4:18 to play.

NEA picked up a pair of first downs and faced a fourth and three at the CCS 33 with 42 seconds to play. Northeast Head Coach Collin Sneed elected to go for it on fourth down and Harrell was stopped for no gain by the Knight’s Casucci turning the ball over.

DiMaggio then threw a pair of incompletions before finding James Peterson in the right side of the endzone to tie the game and Blonshire’s extra point kick was the game winner.

Northeast was able to get off only one play following the kickoff resulting in no gain before the final gun.

Cary Christian, now 9-2, with their best record in school history moves on to the state championship contest next Friday night against 11-0 Word of God who easily dispatched Arendell Parrott 54-7 in the other semifinal. Northeast Academy finishes their season at 8-3.

(By Mike Williams, News-Herald Analyst)