SYRACUSE - With another chance to claim the state Class D championship that eluded them a season ago, the Moriah football team met with more frustration.
Lacking the services of star tailback Ron Schofield in the first half, the Vikings never could recover from his prolonged absence, falling 41-0 to Randolph Nov. 28 in the state title game at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.
Moriah head coach Don Tesar said that Schofield, who rushed for 295 yards in his team's state semifinal win over Eldred on Nov. 20, violated a team rule, leading to his sitting out the first half.
"You can't really replace him," quarterback Nate Gilbo said. "Still, I don't think we were mentally prepared to play."
Indeed, Schofield's absence had a lot to do with Moriah getting just 68 yards in the first half. Even when he returned, though, Schofield had just 19 yards on eight carries - and Randolph was out of reach. For the game, the Vikings had 121 yards of offense, with the Cardinals piling up 440 yards.
Just as in 2008, Moriah was facing an undefeated Section VI (Western New York) opponent. Maple Grove topped the Vikings 55-7 in the title game 12 months ago, and Randolph was just as formidable.
Even though the Cardinals had not thrown a pass in its three previous games, it didn't have to, due to the dominance of its ground game. Randolph piled up 601 yards on the ground in its state semifinal win over Groton, and it stayed with the running game against the Vikings - at least in the early going.
As Schofield waited for his chance to play, Moriah stopped Randolph on its first drive into Viking territory. But late in the first quarter, the Cardinals struck.
Taking a handoff on his own 46-yard line, fullback Alan Lockwood broke or eluded four different tackles running right, then turned left and outran the rest of the Vikings to the end zone on a 54-yard touchdown run.
Down 7-0, Moriah had a chance to answer early in the second quarter, driving to Randolph's 36-yard line, only to get stopped on fourth-and-two when fullback Nick Gilbo got stopped by several Cardinal defenders at the line of scrimmage.
Randolph promptly drove 63 yards, all on the ground, converting a fourth down deep in Viking territory, and scoring on Matt Lundsten's two-yard run to make it 14-0 - a tough situation, but not out of reach, especially with Schofield set to return in the third quarter.
At least, that is, until Randolph stopped Moriah again on fourth down near midfield late in the half. A few plays later, quarterback Mike Maycock did something he hadn't tried in a month - throw the ball.
And it wasn't a small screen pass, either. Maycock threw deep, and found Ryan Beach, a 39-yard strike that set up Maycock's own four-yard TD run 44 seconds before halftime.
Tesar said the passing didn't surprise him. And Randolph, now up 20-0, went back to it again after a sequence of three straight turnovers - an onside kick recovered by the Cardinals, then back-to-back fumbles, one from each side.
Following a roughing-the-passer penalty, Maycock threw a 22-yard pass to Erik Bruder, and two plays later the pair connected again, this time on a 15-yard TD pass three seconds before halftime.
Those two scores, just 41 seconds apart, helped Randolph pull clear, and it added two more TD's in the second half by returning to its trusted ground game. All told, the Cardinals, who won its second state championship (it also took the 2005 title), had 364 rushing yards, with Matt Hettenbaugh (111 yards) leading the way.
Though the Vikings' dream of a state title fell one win short, it still could look back with great pride on another memorable season. The senior class, in particular, stood out throughout their careers, losing just four games and pulling off three undefeated regular-season campaigns.
"Their goal was to get back here (to the Carrier Dome)," Tesar said. "Only the final outcome was disappointing."