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There was the snow, stiff wind and the Elmira Express.
None of that was enough Saturday night to keep the Aquinas Little Irish from the place that high school football fans around New York State predicted they would end up.
The Little Irish will not have to deal with any of those things during the Class AA state championship inside the Carrier Dome at Syracuse University next Sunday.
Aquinas handled the chilly conditions and Section IV champion Elmira to win the state tournament semifinal at Sahlen's Stadium, 19-6. The Little Irish face either Monroe-Woodbury or White Plains, who played the East state semifinal on Saturday night.
"Going into this year we just wanted a chance to play in the dome,'' Aquinas senior linebacker Charlie Rist said. "That was one of our three goals.
"We wanted to go undefeated. We did that. Get through sectionals. We did that. Get a chance to play in the dome, and we're here now. We're very excited.''
Aquinas senior running back Luch Pietropaolo helped send the Little Irish (12-0) on the way when he ran for two touchdowns against Elmira (10-1). Pietropaolo carried the ball 26 times for 99 yards. Aquinas never trailed after Pietropaolo's 27-yard touchdown run up the middle early in the first quarter.
Given the weather conditions, there was little chance that Aquinas sophomore Jake Zembiec would pass for 300 yards or more, as he did during the Little Irish's regional round win over Jamestown. Pietropaolo would be asked to push forward and pick up yards, even if the fast Elmira (10-1) defense knew when and what to expect.
"We have players all over the field," Pietropaolo said. "When our offensive line gets a push, we are pretty good at running the ball. I knew that was going to be our gameplan, but we weren't really one-dimensional.''
Zembiec was named the most valuable offensive player of the game for Aquinas after he completed 12 of 20 passes for 152 yards. The Little Irish were in command, ahead by 13 points against a team that rarely passed the ball, after Zembiec's 14-yard touchdown throw to Marcus Conner in the third quarter.
Rist, the most valuable Aquinas defensive player, was in on a game-high 15 tackles. Eight of Rist's stops were solo against an Elmira offense that hammered away with runs between its tackles. The Express attempted just four passes.
Elmira responded to Pietropaolo's first touchdown with a 13-play, 76-yard drive. The Express moved downfield with hand-off after hand-off and were in the end zone after an 11-yard run by Jerry McPeak. Elmira's conversion run attempt was stopped, so Aquinas remained ahead 7-6.
Aquinas added to its lead with 4:31 remaining in the first half. A 3-yard run by Pietropaolo capped an 11-play, 79-yard drive to put the Little Irish lead at 13-6.