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No consolation in Holy Trinity loss

Holy Trinity at the Dome

No consolation in Holy Trinity loss

Pride made for a compelling story, but in the end, it was all about a championship run that fell short
No consolation in Holy Trinity loss
Nelon Priest, left, and the rest of the Holy Trinity team at the awards ceremony Friday at the Carrier Dome.
Photographer: Mike MacAdam/Gazette Sportswriter

SYRACUSE -- It was an inconsolable Nelon Priest, pacing back and forth by himself behind a line of his teammates during the awards announcements, tears streaming down his face.

"Oh, I don't want to look at this. Oh, I don't want to look at this ..."

It was Nacier Hundley, kneeling with his head down at midfield, gently beating a small plaque onto the giant orange "S" of Syracuse University.

He got an award for his defensive back play in the game, and he may proudly look at it on his shelf someday. But for now, it was just a piece of wood to hammer out his grief.

It was also senior Liam Maloney, taking the long view of what he called a milestone season for the Holy Trinity Pride football team in the wake of a tantalizingly close 28-25 loss to Skaneateles in the New York State Class C championship game on Friday.

He and senior Cam Kiser said on Wednesday that, despite all the circumstances and pressure and expectation of a championship game in an iconic arena, they had to treat this like just another football game.

That's not just a line, it's a proper mindset to give yourself the best chance to win, by performing the way you know how while removing what's at stake from the equation.

You got the sense, though, that it was, in fact, a little bit more than just a championship game for these players, at least afterward.

By now, everyone paying attention to high school football in Section II and beyond knows the Holy Trinity story.

How their fieldhouse, lockers and equipment were destroyed in an intentionally set fire a year ago.

This ground has been covered.

In the end, though, the game wasn't there to satisfy outsiders' hunger for a storybook ending, it was for championship-caliber players to finish what they started.

When that didn't happen, the reaction was pretty gripping.

The image of Priest, in particular, will stick with me.

I walked alongside him for a few yards as the team left the field to gauge the possibility of an interview and decided against. Let the kid go.

"That's him," head coach John Barber said. "He and Ja-Del [Whitfield], Nacier ... they take every defeat very personally and very hard.

"And actually, we have to watch them because they take it so hard. The Mechanicville game two years ago, took it very hard. That's Nelon, his personality and his desire to win."

The loss was even more gut-wrenching for Priest because he got hurt midway through the third quarter and had to leave the game. He managed to get back on the field by the end.

The Holy Trinity program, currently a combination of players from Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons High School and Catholic Central, is only five years old, so reaching a state championship game is pretty heady stuff.

It takes some guts to say your goal is to win one of these, but the Pride knew what they had and nearly pulled it off.

"It hits us pretty hard," Maloney said. "But honestly, to come back from what we had last year and the seasons we've had before, winning only three games, it's kind of a milestone in itself. Would've rather it turned out a different way, but you can't be mad at what we did this year."

Hundley's post-game reaction was in stark contrast to the joy he brought to this game.

He scored the Pride's first touchdown, then tied Lakers defensive back Cross Bianchi in about five knots on one play to bring Holy Trinity within 14-12 in the first half.

Hundley bobbled Joe Tortello's bomb at the 40, slipped one tackle, planted his left foot for a right cut at the 15, spun Bianchi back around with a cut to the left at the 10, then ducked under one last grab to score.

I have it on my phone and it's staying there.

Skaneateles held Holy Trinity at bay all night, though.

Even when the Pride scored late to get within 28-25, the Lakers were ready for victory formation.

I ran into Kiser on the field, and he answered questions in his usual professional and thoughtful manner.

The smeared purple eyeblack on his cheeks told the other part. When would this loss hit?

"It's already hit me. Yeah," he said.

"Yeah."

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 518395-3148 or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.

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