CLAYTON. The last time General Brown football made it this far into the state playoffs, current head coach Doug Black was an assistant coach on the team.
Black was in his third year coaching under the late Steve Fisher, and in that 2010 season, the Lions went all the way to a state title game.
“It was great,” Black recalled. “The great thing about it is that I always preach to the kids, ‘make memories’ and I see young people on that team that I see to this day and when we cross paths we are still talking about that 2010 season and we remember the things that happened during this season.
“That’s why we’re preaching to these kids that they create memories – because all these things that happen during these two weeks, these kids will remember for the rest of their lives.”
General Brown (10-1) will take on Section 6 champion Lacawanna (12-0) in the Class C semi-finals on Saturday at noon at Union Endicott High School.
“It’s a great feeling to have my family right here with me,” Caleb Natalie, a Lions senior, said as he pointed to his teammates during Tuesday’s practice at Thousand Island High School. “We’ve been through a lot, from doubles (workouts) to the entire regular season, and now it’s just great.”
Black sees many parallels between 2010 and 2022.
“I see a lot of similarities with this year’s team,” Black said. “This team was very selfless, they were like each other, with a business mentality, and they didn’t care who scored, who got yards and all that, as long as they won. And that’s kind of an identity that this team has adopted, there’s really no ‘I’ in this team, it’s all about the team, and it’s really kind of ironic that there are such similar personalities between the 2010 team and this year’s team. ”
General Brown continues to build its own legacy.
“We came together as a family and we just got closer,” said Lions senior Seamus Devine. “We all play for each other and we want the best for everyone else, so I think that helps us as a team.”
The Lions opened a close game in the second half en route to a 29-14 victory over Waverley, then the state’s top team, and won the state quarterfinals last Saturday night, played at Cicero-North Syracuse.
Running back Natalie and Gabe Malcolm, defenseman Devine and quarterback Aiden McManaman rushed for a touchdown, with McManaman scoring positive in the third quarter and Devine adding his touchdown in the final quarter.
“We did a good job on offense, clinging to the ball,” Black said. “In terms of possession time, I think we held the ball for over 34 minutes. I think we did 78 draws compared to their 33.”
“Saturday was very good,” Natalie said. “It was great, we’re one of the few General Brown teams to have success here, so it’s great that we’re still playing.”
Gen. Brown, who finished 6th in the state in Class C, is enjoying the state playoff game, though he maintains a businesslike attitude.
“I’m just amazed by these kids, how no moment is too important to them,” Black said. “You can preach enough, they just go out and play. And they don’t really think about it being a regional game and they don’t really think about who their opponent was or where they were ranked.”
“We’re just trying to stay where we can,” Malcolm said earlier in the postseason. “I think we are at our best when we play that way.”
Natalie, who has 1,205 yards and 17 touchdowns this season, and Malcolm (1,035 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns) led the game on the ground with Devine (894 yards, 11 touchdowns).
McManaman rushed for 530 yards and threw for five touchdowns, throwing for 755 yards and scoring seven runs.
“It’s the same as the whole year,” Black said. “Both Gabe and Caleb are running over 1,000 yards and Sheamus is right behind them, he will probably hit 1,000 yards this week. I can’t say enough about all these guys, they’re just selfless and they each have their big games and last week it was time for Seamus to really shine and he went a lot of yards between tackles.”
“We want to get everyone involved, and everyone needs to be involved,” Devine said. “So one person can play and if he falls, someone else will help him and carry the load, and that is how we have been successful.”
General Brown, who had lost just two touchdowns to Waverley, now allowed 120 points in 11 games.
“They were a great team,” Lions senior lineman Armondo Orchesi said of Waverley. “It was a good feeling for the team, all the work we have done is starting to pay off. Now we know we have to play even better this week.”
The Lions have won six games in a row since losing 30-27 in the Adirondacks on October 7.
“I guess they always say the team takes on the identity of their coach,” Black said. “And I’ve never been a reckless guy, I’m just a business-like person and I think our kids have done that. They don’t really get too high or too low during the game, they just come out and perform, which is great.”
Natalie said that what this team lacks in physical strength, they make up for it with heart and determination.
“Of course, we are probably not the biggest team that has ever worked at General Brown,” he said. “Probably, we are one of the smallest. But we work well together and that’s all we need.”
The Lions didn’t know their state semi-final opponent until Lakawanna defeated Section 5’s Attica 14–6 in the state quarter-finals played in Batavia on Tuesday night.
“We’ve really been focused on what we’re doing,” Black said. “We looked at our record of the game against Waverley and just tried to fix the mistakes we made and just try to keep getting better by one percent every day.”
Black came to watch the game as well as Waverley’s Section 4 championship win.
“Lackawanna I can be compared to Holland Patent, they will throw the ball, they will control the ball, they will do a little bit of everything,” Black said.
Entering Tuesday, William Gochell, Sr., has passed for 1,296 yards and 25 touchdowns this season as he aims for two points.
The Steelers’ top two receivers, Shiheim Smalls and Ashlyn Alexander, both older generations, threw nine and seven touchdown passes, respectively.
Meanwhile, senior Antwan III, with 950 ground yards, and sophomore Amir Douglas (418 rushing yards) both each had four touchdowns this season before their last game.
“It’s amazing, we just have to do what we do,” Orchesi said of his team’s approach to defense. “We can’t let the pressure get in the way, if we just do what we do, everything should work out.”
General Brown was lucky enough to practice on the Thousand Island turf, which is now vacant, as his own field was covered in a blizzard last weekend.
“Our coach really knows how to put us in difficult situations (during training) throughout the season and helps us to feel more uncomfortable, and this helps throughout the season,” Devine said.
The Lions also had to practice for a week to prepare for Saturday’s semi-final opponent.
“It’s about teamwork and family, that’s all we are,” Natalie added.
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