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Cicero-North Syracuse made the most of its opportunity to play after its 2020 fall season was pushed to the spring.
Amid COVID-19 protocols, the season was shortened to four games, but the Northstars still averaged 36 points per game and only allowed six the whole season. Head coach Dave Kline said C-NS’ strong spring slate was a step in the right direction, something the team especially needed since they had a large number of starters graduating, including the team’s starting quarterback.
“We felt like we played very good football in the small sample size we had, but we knew we were going to be losing key seniors,” Kline said.
Still, after an unorthodox 2020-21 season, C-NS finished 9-3 overall in 2021-22, losing just one conference game. The Northstars captured their fourth straight sectional and regional championships before eventually falling short in the state playoffs.
The spring season success allowed C-NS to challenge itself against a Clifton (New Jersey) High School team it hadn’t faced before. Despite the four-hour road trip to central New York, the Mustangs defeated the Northstars 32-13. C-NS senior Anthony Testa wasn’t surprised about the result, saying the Northstars weren’t prepared to face a team as challenging as Clifton in its opener.
“We didn’t come into that game prepared at all,” Testa said. “We understand that they were definitely a great team, but I think if we played them again later in the season we would’ve competed closer to our standards.”
C-NS bounced back to win three straight games against local high schools Nottingham, Baldwinsville and Proctor, outscoring its opponents 110-21. But the smooth run through September was halted after a COVID-19 outbreak postponed its homecoming game against Henninger High School.
The Northstars were cleared to play within a week and traveled to play their rival, Liverpool. In its toughest game since playing Clifton, and missing several coaches due to COVID-19 protocols — affecting the team’s pregame focus — C-NS lost by a touchdown.
“We just didn’t come into that game with the correct mindset,” senior Mason Ellis said. “We thought we could just roll in there and beat them.”
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But the Northstars bounced back with two consecutive wins, beating Corcoran and Rome Free Academy by a combined score of 75-7 right before the sectional playoffs. C-NS, which entered the sectional playoff with three straight championship titles, opened its postseason schedule against the Nottingham Bulldogs in the sectional quarterfinals. C-NS dominated like it did in the second week of the season, holding Nottingham to just one touchdown, and advanced to the semifinals, where it faced Liverpool in a rematch.
Kline said that being able to host Liverpool allowed for a completely different atmosphere. And along with having its full coaching staff for the semifinals, the Northstars picked up a 17-0 shutout victory, qualifying for their fourth consecutive state championship game in the Carrier Dome.
“Everyone knew what that game meant — it wasn’t revenge; it was redemption,” Testa said.
“Going up to the Dome and playing in front of a bigger crowd than usual is always a good feeling.”
C-NS was set to face a Baldwinsville team it defeated 40-7 at the beginning of the season. Unlike that first meeting, the Bees kept it close into halftime, where the game was tied at 14. But C-NS broke away in the second half and again hoisted the sectional trophy, prevailing 35-21. Kline attributed the win to strong fourth-quarter play after a tight game at the half.
A week later, the Northstars traveled to New York’s Southern Tier to take on Corning-Painted Post in the regional championship game. The game got off to a “crazy” start, Kline said, with C-NS’ starting quarterback, Jaxon Razmovski, leaving the field with a concussion. Midway through the game, the team lost its offensive coordinator due to a health issue, too. Corning held a 16-13 lead entering the second quarter but with Razmovski down, Testa filled in at quarterback and scored on a 4-yard rushing touchdown to give C-NS a four-point lead that it maintained the rest of the game .
“No one expected us to win. They were heavily favored, but we made the plays at the end to come out on top,” Testa said.
That win advanced C-NS to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association west semifinals against Buffalo-based Bennett High School where the Northstars were shutout 38-0, preventing them from winning the program’s first state title.
“That was a tough pill to swallow, especially for us seniors, to go through all the stuff we’ve been through and to get shut out like that was disappointing,” Ellis said.
Still, C-NS’ season saw seven players make the All-State team, including Testa and Ellis, who made the first and third teams, respectively.
“I’m not sure if we’ve had that many selections before,” Kline said. “These guys are great players, and I was glad they were recognized for it.”
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