SYRACUSE – While driving on Route 81 North, there is a point – just outside of Syracuse – when you can see the famed Carrier Dome in the distance.
Monroe-Woodbury’s Cole Gennett has seen the big white dome from this vantage point before. He traveled to watch three of the Crusaders’ four appearances in the Class AA state championship from 2005-08. However, this trip to the Carrier Dome will be much different. That’s because Gennett, a running back/linebacker, will be gearing up to play in the Class AA state championship when he sees the landmark in the distance from the team bus on 81.
The undefeated Crusaders are set to leave at about 10 a.m. on Sunday for their showdown with Aquinas Institute of Rochester. Kickoff is at 6 p.m. at the Carrier Dome.
“It was an amazing place as a fan,” Gennett, a junior, said. “I can only imagine what it will be like to play at the Dome. Just going there means a lot because all of the hard work has paid off and we are doing this as a team. The whole team is excited.”
This marks Monroe-Woodbury’s fifth appearance in the Class AA state championship at the Dome since 2005. This is new territory for this edition of the Crusaders. However, Monroe-Woodbury coach Bernie Connolly has been a part of all five runs, as has offensive coordinator Pat D’Aliso – the head coach during Monroe-Woodbury’s first four trips to the Class AA title game..
Connolly’s charges are ready to go, facing an Aquinas team that has been deemed the favorite by many. However, Connolly has schooled Monroe-Woodbury about what to expect when they step foot onto the turf on Sunday evening.
“It’s probably going to be amazing,” Monroe-Woodbury quarterback Kevin Carr said. “It’s going to be a different atmosphere. It’s going to be real loud. That’s what Coach Connolly told us. It’s been a long week of anticipation, but it just wants you to play more and more.”
Added Monroe-Woodbury defensive back Ricky Giraldo: “Coach Connolly said you are going to spend the first five minutes just looking around amazed.”
Giraldo is so amped for the Aquinas showdown that he seemingly had to catch is breath for a moment, while talking about playing in the state championship. Of course, Giraldo and his teammates can’t wait for Sunday.
“I’m very anxious,” Giraldo said. “I’m not looking forward to the bus ride. There is going to be a lot of anxiety, whew. I’m anxious and nervous, but we’re ready to play. This has been our goal all season and it shows what happens when really good football players work together as a team.”
Soon enough, Giraldo and the Crusaders will see the Carrier Dome in the distance. Game time is almost here.
Check back for much more coverage of Monroe-Woodbury-Aquinas in Sunday’s editions of Varsity845.com and the Times Herald-Record. You can follow me on Twitter @justinrod845 for updates of the game and check out varsity845.com for play-by-play. Have a good night.