Two weeks into the season, the Christian Brothers Academy football team looked nothing like a playoff-caliber team after being blown out by Shenendehowa and Saratoga.
Now, the Brothers (3-4) are in class AA playoffs courtesy of a 21-16 Empire Division victory over Bethlehem and Albany's 35-34 win against Saratoga last weekend.
The secret to CBA's turnaround has been the quick maturation of such young stars as quarterback Andrew Vivian, tailback Jack Reilly and fullback Nick Signore. The trio who had not started a varsity game until this year has gotten the Brothers' offense on track. In Friday's victory over Bethlehem, Signore rushed for 100 yards; Reilly contributed 143 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns; and Vivian passed for 115 yards and two touchdowns.
"Putting Jack Reilly in at tailback together with Nick Signore, who has turned into one of the area's best fullbacks, has really been the key," said CBA coach Matt Gormley.
Vivian has been as much of a factor as Reilly and Signore. His ability to throw the deep pass has loosened up opposing defenses, which has allowed Reilly and Signore to run wild.
"We're a team that looks to throw first," said Gormley. "Andrew's got a good rhythm going, and our receivers are doing a good job of catching the ball. We know if we can throw the ball, then we'll eventually be able to run the ball."
The strategy worked well for CBA against Bethlehem. Vivian got the Brothers on the scoreboard early in the second quarter with a well-timed pass to Jafar Johnson down the right sideline. Johnson hauled in the pass and eased into the end zone for a 32-yard touchdown reception to make the score 7-0.
Bethlehem (2-5) responded with a long drive of its own, capped by Sean Murphy's 5-yard touchdown run. Sam Smith's extra point tied the game at 7.