Bears survive Cortland scare, go to 7-0

Chittenango wins second striaght one-point decision

True, the Chittenango football team is still unbeaten, still no. 3 in the state Class B rankings and a starring role as defending champions heading into the Section III playoffs.

But the Bears' status is a bit more shaky following a pair of one-point victories, the latest of them a 14-13, come-from-behind effort at Cortland last Friday night.

Having just survived a 27-26 battle with East Syracuse-Minoa a week earlier, Chittenango went to Cortland intent on completing an undefeated regular season and a 5-0 run through the Class B West division.

However, the Purple Tigers were unimpressed by the Bears' high standing and delighted the home fans by jumping to a 13-0 lead in the first quarter.

Brian Hughes stepped in front of a Devin Phelps pass and returned the interception 28 yards for a touchdown. Then, after the Bears were stopped again, Cortland got the ball back and moved to Chittenango's eight-yard line, from where Caden Giroux threw a scoring pass to Josh Dutchess.

Absorbing all this, the Bears got on the board late in the first quarter, moving to Cortland's 17-yard line before Phelps found Joe Gilona in the end zone. Steve Billington's extra point made it 13-7.

In an otherwise quiet second quarter, the Bears tied the game when Kyle Zimmer scored on a two-yard run. More importantly, Billington made the PAT a second time, and Chittenango was in front.

To its credit, Cortland's defense shut down Phelps, Zimmer and the rest of Chittenango's potent running attack through the entire second half, giving the hosts a chance at the upset. But the Bears were just as stingy, and maintained that slim margin the rest of the way.

Chittenango is back home Friday night for the opening round of the Class B playoffs against Vernon-Verona-Sherrill, needing two more wins to return to the Carrier Dome for a shot to repeat as sectional champs.

Should the Bears get past VVS, it will face someone familiar in the semifinals - either Cortland for the second time in three weeks, or Oneida, Chittenango having beaten the Indians 35-14 last fall in the sectional final at the Dome.

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