SYRACUSE — “Lowville is playing in the state playoffs” rolls off the tongue so easily now. This time the Red Raiders will compete for a state title on the football field after securing a Section 3 Class C title Saturday at the Carrier Dome, defeating the Cato-Meridian Blue Devils, 41-6.
“It feels a little bit of the same (as last year), we don’t really know anything about who’s out there in the state,” said Chad Bach, who competed with many of the same teammates last winter when Lowville reached the state final in boys basketball. “I think if we just prepare for ourselves and prepare for whoever we’re playing, I think we’ll get it done.”
Lowville will take on defending state champ Susquehanna Valley (10-0 overall) next Saturday at Vestal High School.
Lowville (10-0) has been taking its challenges as they come. Every time the Red Raiders achieve one of their goals, they store it for safe keeping.
“The league championship and undefeated regular season, we deposited it in the bank, no one can take that away from us,” Lowville coach Josh Coffman said. “Beating Skaneateles in the first round, that’s in the bank, Canastota semifinals, sectional championship, first 10-win team in school history. Those are all in the bank, nothing can take those away from us.”
Before Lowville could even think about making another run at the state title, it needed to finish off Cato-Meridian (9-1), the defensive powerhouse that won the first nine games it played this season, smothering opposing offenses in the process.
Lowville, an offensive juggernaut, would be Cato-Meridian’s biggest test and after a scoreless first quarter it wasn’t entirely clear who would win out.
Bach eventually got going and by the time Lowville was lifting up the championship banner, the senior had rushed for 250 yards and three touchdowns. A huge fourth quarter where the Red Raiders put up 21 points inflated the score, which doesn’t fully represent how close the game was.
Through three quarters, the Lowville offense faltered more times than it was accustomed. Bach punted the ball away three times, and entering the final quarter, the Red Raiders were up only 20-6.
However, Cato-Meridian’s luck on offense wasn’t much better. Lowville’s defense proved crucial more than once.
“That was a big part of the pregame talk, we’ve played great defense all year,” Coffman said. “Isaac Lyndaker as a middle linebacker, our interior d-line, d-ends and secondary, those guys have had fantastic years and for some reason we’re considered as just an offensive team. That has been a focus from day one, we’re not just going to try to outscore teams. We’re going to stop teams and make them try to slow us down to stay in the game.”
The Blue Devils moved the ball, particularly early, but were unable to score. With the exception of a 71-yard touchdown pass from Konar Witkowski to Marcus Turo for a touchdown in the third quarter, the Blue Devils failed to approach the goal line.
Lowville’s defense recorded three interceptions, one a 70-yard pick-six by Colton Friedersdorf. Seeing the defense make those big plays fueled Lowville even more.
“That really helps out, it gives us a lot of energy and gets the adrenaline pumping,” lineman Andrew Beyer said. “yeah, it really helps out.”
While the defense held Cato-Meridian at bay, the Red Raiders’ offense constantly looked for ways to get the best of the Blue Devils. Eventually the game plan shifted to the usual: let Bach just run with it.
Bach tried putting the ball in the air, attempting 16 passes and completing five — one of which was for a touchdown, a 19-yard pass to the back of the end zone where Aiden Zehr hauled it in, just getting a foot inbounds. But for the most part, the air attack was ineffective.
But Bach refused to be frustrated.
“He’s just been around sports his whole life, he doesn’t have that mentality of having any type of panic in him,” Coffman said. “Anyone who knows Chad knows that he can be unbelievable. He can run through three people, break tackles — look like a bulldog, throw a man down on defense and get back into the huddle and just be relaxed Chad Bach.”
His performance earned him the MVP for the sectional championship game.
“Chad definitely steps up when we need him, he’s a big-time player and he makes big-time plays,” Zehr said.