SYRACUSE — On Friday morning, fire trucks and police guards escorted a coach bus carrying the Carthage football team out of Carthage as they made the trip down to Syracuse for the Class A state championship game.
Many of the people who cheered and clapped on the side of the street as the convoy drove by also made the trip down to Syracuse for the school’s first appearance in a state football title game.
Sections 113 through 119, directly behind the Carthage sideline, were filled with people in red and white. Most wore white shirts with the red Comets logo on the front and the words “BACK HOME IN THE DOME!!!” written in red on the back.
The Comets (11-2) couldn’t bring home a state championship plaque — that went to Cornwall (12-0) for the second consecutive year as it defeated Carthage 30-27.
But Carthage did bring unprecedented excitement with 12 weeks of phenomenal football that produced 11 wins, a section title and memorable first berth in the state championship.
The Comets were obviously disappointed, but they were still proud.
“Being the first team in Carthage history to make it this far, (the community) is very proud of us and we can tell by leaving here, we got sent off by the whole town,” running back Fombo Azah said. “They’re still proud that we made it this far. Obviously, every team wants to win and we didn’t do that (Friday) so that’s going to sit with us for a while.”
Azah put together one of the best seasons Carthage has had at the running back position. His 116 rushing yards in Friday’s game put him at 2,607 total rushing yards on the season. He also finished with 37 rushing touchdowns.
For Azah and 25 other seniors on Carthage, their game against Cornwall was their last in a Carthage football uniform, and possibly their last playing football.
“This loss, it hurts all of us,” Azah said. “After today, we’re going to build character from this loss, how we react to it in our everyday lives. This will do some good for a lot of us.”
It has been said again and again how close this team is. It’s one of their defining qualities and is believed to have led to success. That alone made a game in the Carrier Dome special.
“I would love to win, but I’m proud of just being here,” lineman Bubba Null said. “I would love to win but I’m proud just to be here, be here with my team, be here with a bunch of kids from nowhere, playing in the state finals means everything.”
The 30 points Carthage gave up to Cornwall were the most the Comets have allowed all year — twice this season they allowed 28, once to Maine-Endwell, then to Whitesboro.
In total, Carthage scored 540 points this season which averages to 45 points per game. The most they scored came against Central Square in week four when Carthage put up 63.
The loss caps off Jason Coffman’s first season as the Carthage head football coach.
“When I was in the locker room, I gave them the same message that the other coaches did,” coach Jason Coffman said. “No matter what they ever needed, we’ll be there for them. I know there are going to be some tears and they’re going to put their head down, but it can’t last. They have so much to be proud of, they got further than any team in Carthage history, they did everything we asked them to do and played their butts off. Unfortunately, we came up three points short. A couple mistakes here or there, a couple of penalties here or there and it’s a different game.”