Cairns, McQuaid clinch spot in state final

Joe Cairns (No. 7 for McQuaid) completed 11-of-16 passes for 194 pass yards. The junior QB had four TDs – three on the ground and one through the air. (PHOTO: PAUL GOTHAM)

By JOHN LIKANJE

NORTH SYRACUSE, N.Y. – No dramatic comeback was needed.

Instead, Joe Cairns capped a nine-play drive with a three-yard run to give the McQuaid Jesuit Knights a lead they did not surrender with just over a minute remaining in the first half.

“It’s honestly awesome,” the junior quarterback commented after McQuaid’s 42-28 victory over Cicero-North Syracuse in Saturday’s NYS Class AA semifinal.

The touchdown was part of a night in which the junior quarterback accounted for four scores to clinch the program’s first trip to the state final.

“Honestly, everything,” Cairns said about his mindset during the game. “When you start to spread them out, the running becomes easy and the offensive line definitely provided lanes to run through for sure.”

The go-ahead drive started on McQuaid’s own 21-yard line. Senior tailback Andrew Passero started the possession with a 17-yard run. Two plays later, junior tight end Jordan Brongo snagged a 10-yard pass to put the Knights in Cicero-North Syracuse territory.

“You got to have multiple facets of your game plan ready to go,” McQuaid head coach Bobby Bates explained. “You got to settle in and figure out what’s going to work. We just needed some time to do that.”

Cairns continued the drive with a 13-yard run immediately off the snap. Passero’s longest gain from scrimmage on the night – a 22-yard reception – came on the ensuing play. Passero advanced another four yards to set up Cairns’ quarterback keeper to give McQuaid a 21-14 advantage.

“We’ve got a great relationship,” Cairns said about Bates’ trust in him. “He knows that I’m composed and that I’ll make the right play.”

McQuaid took its biggest lead of the night when Cairns connected with Casey Howlett for a 2-yard touchdown pass for a 35-21 lead with 10:42 remaining.

“We were trying to run the ball a little bit and they were shutting it down,” Bates explained. “We had to soften them up a little bit and we were able to do so.”

A week ago, the Jesuit Knights rallied from a 28-14 second-half deficit to defeat Lancaster (VI) in the NYS Far West Regionals. The week prior, they came from behind to beat reigning state champion Aquinas, 30-27, in a game in which they trailed 27-14.

“It’s phenomenal,” Bates said. “What a great accomplishment for these kids and just an outstanding effort. Pretty excited right now.”

Along with his four touchdowns, Cairns completed 11-of-16 passes for 194 yards.

“It was a standard Joe Cairns game,” Bates said about his junior quarterback. “He managed the game well. He did what he was supposed to do. He didn’t put us in any trouble. Just a great effort.”

Passero battled through a hip injury and rushed the ball 36 times for 180 yards. Howlett caught five passes for 99 yards and a touchdown. Brongo snagged four receptions for 66 yards as well.

Zander Rita led the defense with six tackles. James Doerr and Sam Perozzi added four apiece. Will Teresi hauled in an interception late in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.

Cicero-North Syracuse’s JJ Razmovski threw for three touchdowns, including a five-yard pass to Adron Pafford to cut the deficit to 35-28 with 5:44 remaining. Mike Washington’s 64-yard run gave the Northstars a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter.

McQuaid advances to the state final next Sunday at 3 p.m. in the Carrier Dome. The Knights will match up with Section I champion New Rochelle, which defeated Shenendehowa (II) in the other semifinal. New Rochelle is seeking its first state title since 2012. The Huguenots fell to Aquinas in the state final last year.

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