SYRACUSE — The General Brown football team could not convert on fourth down to end its first two possessions and never recovered Saturday afternoon.
Skaneateles quarterback James Musso and running back Grayson Brunelle each contributed to three touchdowns to help top-seeded Skaneateles beat No. 2 General Brown, 35-14, in the Section 3 Class C football championship game in the Carrier Dome.
The Lions, playing in their first sectional final since 2018, ended their season with a 9-1 overall record. The Lakers (9-0) advanced to a state regional final to face the Section 4 champion at noon next Saturday at Vestal High School.
“I couldn’t ask any more out of our kids,” General Brown coach Doug Black said. “This team has come a long way, we didn’t have that lofty of goals at the start of the season, but they kept getting better each week, and with the senior leadership of guys like Eli Rawleigh, Nick Rogers, and Brandon Jewett, they were able to guide this team to the Dome.”
General Brown drove into Skaneateles territory on its first two drives but was ultimately stopped trying to extend on fourth down, including an incomplete pass on 4th-and-7 inside the red zone to end a promising drive that lasted more than seven minutes.
The Lions finished with 18 first downs overall but were still held scoreless until the fourth quarter. They converted on 5 of 10 plays on third down and just 1-for-4 on fourth downs.
“We would put some good plays together and whenever we would get around that 30-yard range and needed a first down or a big play, we just really couldn’t put it together,” said General Brown senior quarterback Elijah Rawleigh. “I think it was maybe the nerves, the awe of just being here.”
After forcing the first turnover on downs, Skaneateles got the scoring started when Musso found Cooper Purdy for a 33-yard touchdown pass with three minutes, four seconds left in the first quarter.
The Lakers then halted the lengthy possession by the Lions in their red zone, and on the ensuing possession, drove 83 yards until Musso connected with Brunelle for a nine-yard TD pass to extend their advantage to 14-0 following the extra point with 56 seconds left in the first half.
“Defensively we had some breakdowns, and it seemed like every time we had a breakdown, they took advantage of it,” Black said. “From an offensive standpoint, just not being consistent, we’d have a couple good plays and get some first downs, then we’d get behind the chains and with our style of offense, that’s hard to overcome.”
General Brown lost a fumble on the opening possession of the second half and Brunelle scored a nine-yard TD run on the ensuing possession to extend the Skaneateles edge to 21-0 with 7:35 left in the third quarter.
Musso found Nate Shattuck for a 35-yard touchdown pass later in the third to push the advantage to 28-0 for the Lakers.
“That was a great team we just faced,” Rawleigh said. “We played a good game, and it was just mistakes that can’t happen against a good team that lost it there for us.”
The General Brown offense came to life late and scored on its final two possessions. Rawleigh threw a four-yard TD pass to Darien Salter with 9:17 left to cut their deficit to 28-7, and Rawleigh later punched in a three-yard scoring run to make it 35-14 in the closing minutes.
Rawleigh finished with 90 rushing yards on 22 attempts while Sheamus Devine added 14 carries for 73 yards.
Brunelle took 25 carries for 134 yards to lead Skaneateles while Musso went 11-for-14 for 153 yards passing.
“I think it was a great season,” said General Brown senior fullback and linebacker Nick Rogers. “We do have a lot of young kids on the team and they fought hard, worked hard throughout the whole season, and it was good to get here.”
Rawleigh added: “Everybody put in a lot of hard work to be where we are now, win or lose, I’m super proud of this group of guys that I’m playing with, and I couldn’t ask for a better team to go out with.”