WNY High School Football Wrap: Week 3
Ken East’s Smith dedicates performance to grandmother
By Dave Ricci
It was the game of his life. But Preston Smith didn’t just do it for his team, he did it for his grandmother.
In Kenmore East’s 21-0 blanking of Niagara-Wheatfield on Sept.15 at Sparky Adams Field, Smith rushed for 95 yards, scored a TD and helped the Bulldogs to their first home game win since 2008. As he celebrated with his teammates, Smith’s thoughts were with his beloved grandmother, Mary Pasek, who passed away on Sept.1.
“Everything is for her from now on,” Smith said after the game.
Smith, who scored his first varsity touchdown when he bowled his way into the end zone with 28 seconds left to play in the half, said he was also moved that the team remembered his grandmother with a moment of silence during their pregame talk.
Understandably a very difficult stretch of time for Smith, early on he would spend several moments during practice off to the side as the coaches gave him time and space to handle the emotions of his loss.
Sitting alone, Smith tried to come to grips with the situation, as memories of the time he spent with his grandmother, and the future without her, raced through his thoughts.
Teammates and coaches kept asking Smith if he was OK and if he needed anything. But the truth was Smith knew this was something he had to make sense of on his own.
But all the while, Smith quietly assured his Bulldog brothers that come game day against he would be ready. And he was.
The way Smith was able to focus on the game after such a deep, personal loss spoke to his character and touched everyone on the team.
“It’s outstanding, honestly.” Bulldogs quarterback Connor McMahon said. “That’s a huge thing we’d been talking about this week. Coach (Mike) Masters was talking about ‘humility’ saying you need to put the team ahead of yourself-and Preston is a perfect example.”
A play-maker on defense as well, Smith recorded the final tackle of the first half. As he returned to his feet an amped Smith yelled, ‘Let’s go!’
“I have to tell you the truth,” said Bulldogs assistant coach Jeff Martin, “I think it showed his character by motivating him. I think he’s picked up his game since coming back from his family’s (loss) that went on, over the past couple weeks. He’s shown terrific character. He’s shown it to the coaches and his teammates.”
Though Mrs. Pasek wasn’t able to get out as much in recent years to watch her grandson play, Smith said that he knew she was always rooting him on. And, in that regard, he believes nothing has changed.
“Me and her did everything together when I was little,” Smith said. “We would always be together. It hurt a lot when I lost her but everything from now on is for her.”
As Preston Smith walked off the field, clutching his first varsity Player of the Game award, he couldn’t help but smile. And, deep inside, he knew his grandmother was somewhere smiling even more.
Frontier pulls off road upset of Red Devils, who lose QB
By Mike Pidanick
At the time, it seemed like a little more than a window-dressing play when Frontier’s Ben Koch punched in a four-yard touchdown run with nine seconds left in the first half in Friday night’s (Sept. 14) game at Clarence. Instead, it was a play that may have drastically altered the Class AA playoff picture.
The Falcons still trailed 17-6 at halftime, but the Falcons did much more than just get on the board. They seized momentum and never gave it back in a surprising 27-24 win on the road.
“We told our kids that we put ourselves in a hole,” Frontier coach Tim Myslinski said. “We told the kids, ‘You can’t worry about the last play. After one play’s done, it’s on to the next play. It’s like Marv Levy said, ‘what’s in the past is history. What’s in the future is a mystery.’”
And the future held opportunity for Frontier, which seized it against the perceived favorite in Clarence. Cameron Coon broke a 66-yard run for another touchdown and all of a sudden, Frontier was down just five.
“I think that touchdown got us going,” Koch said. “Then we got the ball back (to start the second half) and scored again. That definitely got us going.”
Koch and his teammates kept on coming and the senior quarterback picked up two more touchdown runs in the second half. Clarence got back to within three on a short run by Joe Wesolowski and had a chance to tie but a 35-yard field goal was barely wide, giving the Falcons the opportunity to run out the clock.
“They made some good plays,” Clarence coach Mark Layer said. “We contained them for a while, but they stayed with what they’re good at and ended up breaking off some long ones. That’s to their credit.”
Falling to the Falcons wasn’t even the biggest loss of the evening for Clarence. Senior quarterback Mark Armstrong suffered an apparent shoulder injury on Clarence’s second offensive series. According to reports, he will be lost for the season. Junior Lex Oakes will step behind center for the Red Devils.
“It changes a little bit,” Layer noted. “Lex has played some quarterback, he was the starter on the JV and he works during the week. Losing Mark is obviously a big situation for us, but that’s something all football teams face.”
Oakes, a standout lacrosse player for the powerful Clarence team, is certainly capable of handling the position. But the loss of Armstrong, one of the top leaders in the school’s athletic program, completely deflated the Red Devils against Frontier.
With Armstrong at quarterback, the Red Devils easily marched down the field and scored on a 10-yard pass to Ben Reinhardt just two minutes into the contest. Frontier’s first drive went nowhere and Clarence’s dynamic senior Amaure Williams returned a punt 75 yards for another score.
O’Neill steps up in St. Mary’s win over rival O’Hara
By Mike Straw
In a rivalry game, there is an inevitable strong feelings of school pride leading up to and during the contest. For the St. Mary’s Lancers, Saturday’s (Sept. 15) game against Monsignor Martin rival Cardinal O’Hara gave them that little bit of extra incentive.
Coming off a heartbreaking loss to Canisius that saw St. Mary’s give up a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, the Lancers came out running early and often on their way to a 40-18 win over the Hawks. But it wasn’t running back Nick Vallone that continued to dominate as he had in St. Mary’s first two games.
The Lancers somewhat surprised its rival, serving up a heavy dose of fullback Bryan O’Neill. O’Hara came into the game well prepared for Vallone, but with the exception of a 15-yard touchdown run, the Hawks held him to just 48 yards on the ground. However, stopping Vallone gave Lancers head coach Dave Hersey a chance to unleash a new beast.
“Early on, they were all over Vallone,” Hersey said. “They were keying on him, sending four or five guys after him. So, we decided to run our fullback, and he’s a heck of a runner too. He showed that he can get up and down the field. I don’t think they expected that coming.”
To be fair to O’Hara, not many in the stands saw it coming either. O’Neill powered and finessed his way through the Hawks defense all afternoon long, and it started early.
On his first rushing attempt of the game, O’Neill took a pitch to the outside and after making a nifty cut up field, he ran 85 yards to the end zone to give St. Mary’s an early 7-0 lead. On his next run, O’Neill surpassed the 100-yard mark, taking the ball 39 yards to the end zone to give the Lancers a 14-0 lead.
On what was his finest run of the game, O’Neill ran up the middle for about 10 yards before side stepping a defender and coasting between two converging defenders 35 yards to the end zone to give the Lancers a commanding 21-0 lead late in the first quarter. He finished with 180 yards on six carries and all of his scores came on his first three carries.
“The offensive line was exceptional,” O’Neill said. “The holes were perfect every time. There was so much running room, and we were just making plays. Their defense was good, but we were doing an exceptional job holding our own.”
Hersey said that he didn’t expect anyone outside of the team to know about O’Neill’s talent.
“Do I know that the kid’s got it in him? Do his teammates know? Absolutely,” said Hersey. “Did anyone else know? I doubt it. And that’s all right, we’ll keep that a secret.”
St. Mary’s improved to 2-1, while Cardinal O’Hara fell to 0-3.
Bronson, Chambers team to upend Hutch Tech
By David Gaygen
The fluid teamwork of junior quarterback Dan Bronson and senior running back James Chambers led the Lockport Lions to dominating 38-8 win over Hutch-Tech on Saturday (Sept. 15) at Max D. Lederer Field in Lockport.
Chambers rushed six times for 84 yards and added three catches for 88 yards, scoring four touchdowns in the game, while Bronson completed 14 out of 19 passes for 204 yards and three touchdowns. The two fed off each other’s performances and even hooked up twice on touchdowns through the air.
“A lot of their coverages gave us what we were looking for, and a lot of our route combinations worked well against what they were giving us,” said the junior quarterback, whose team improved to 2-1 on the season. “James ran the ball really well. The line was absolutely amazing. Nobody touched me the entire game. It’s easy to throw the ball when nobody’s near you.”
Early in the first quarter, Bronson was able to find R.D. Hillman open for a 37-yard touchdown pass play. In the second quarter he passed to Chambers for a 40-yard score, the first of two hook-ups for scores between the two. A fumble recovery by senior Tyler Dimsey set Chambers up for another touchdown from 14 yards out.
“When you’ve got that type of effort, from the type of athlete we have, it’s going to result in some very positive plays,” said head coach Greg Bronson, whose son, Dan, and Chambers have been playing together since the junior varsity and are able to communicate well on the field.
Hutch-Tech got on the board early in the fourth quarter when junior running back Rayshawn MacMillon completed a 16-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Zach Filipski. Junior running back Roman West added the two-point run. But Lockport responded on its next possession as Chambers bulleted up the field for a 40-yard touchdown run to cap the scoring.
“(James and Dan) are familiar with the pass concepts that we’re using so they know where they are supposed to be,” he added. “That familiarity allows them to both focus on where the defense is lined up. They know some slight adjustments to take advantage of where the defense is aligned on the long touchdown...Our offense executed very efficiently.” He added, “We had time to throw the football and we were getting nice creases on running plays.”
While Bronson and Chambers may be the spark that ignites the team, kicker Kyle Few is a tremendous weapon, as well, consistently sailing the ball into the end zone on kickoffs and providing Lockport with the potential to hang three points on the team from long range.
In the middle of the third quarter, Few tied the school record when he kicked a 47-yard field goal. Few did this once before when he was a sophomore. The record is also held by Charles Shellman.
“I kind of joked with my son that they should have started one yard back so Kyle could set the new record.” Bronson laughed. “I am going to give him opportunities when I can because he works as hard as anybody. That’s what’s going to get him noticed and that’s what we owe to him for what he’s done for our team.”
His coach is hoping Few can be a secret to success next week during Lockport’s homecoming game against Niagara Falls High School on Sept. 22 at 2 p.m.
“We had a tremendous week in practice and I think that really showed here,” said the head coach, who noted that his team has a tough game ahead against a speedy Niagara Falls team. “Niagara Falls excels in open space. When you have someone who can put in the end zone (on kickoffs), you take away a very important part of their athleticism. So they start on the 20 without a chance to put the ball in those speed guys hands.”
JFK thumps newer program from Rochester
By Marquel Slaughter
The start of the 2012 season has not been easy for John F. Kennedy, but the Bears put on a performance last weekend (Sept. 15) that gave them much needed momentum for a tough schedule ahead.
Behind performances by senior quarterback Nick Anderson and senior running back Zack Walkowski, the Bears (2-1) won their second straight game in a 33-6 victory over Rochester’s University Prep High School (0-3).
“We’ve had an up and down season,” Anderson said. “Fredonia was a tough game (in a loss). We could’ve beat Wilson by a lot more, but we made dumb mistakes. But this week we did what we were supposed to.”
“They were great on both sides of the ball,” said co-head coach Mark Ostempowski. “Nick controlled the offense like he normally does. They played pretty much mistake free on offense. Defensively, we were solid all the way around. You have to give it up to them for shutting them out for that long.”
By forcing a handful of fumbles, interceptions and sacks, JFK’s defense was two minutes away from recording their first shutout of the season.
“I saw that we actually got to the quarterback,” said Walkowski. “We usually don’t have that, but it was really good this week. We were just overpowering them.”
UPREP is a Rochester school in it‘s third year as a program. Headed by Raheem Miller, this is the team’s first year with a varsity football program. Launching the football program at the modified level just three years ago, the sophomores are the oldest players on the varsity squad.
“We have a lot of talent on this team,” said Miller. “We just make too many young mistakes. Obviously, the scoreboard doesn’t reflect it, but there are moments where we do dominate. We just have to put those flashes together throughout a whole game.”
“They’re a very young team,” said co-head coach Jeff Sabatino. “Nobody’s going to want to play them in two years.”
Walkowski opened the game up with the first two scores of the afternoon. A 30-yard keeper by Anderson set up Walkowski’s 14 yard scamper for six.
“Zack’s one of our best players,” said Anderson. “He runs hard every play and jukes out people whenever he touches the ball.”
Walkowski scooped up a botched punt and fled up the border for an easy score to take a 14-0 lead. A Tyler Gabrielli fumble recovery gave the Bears the ball in the Griffins territory before Joey Burkowski punched it in from the goal line for a 20-0 lead.
Anderson caught his first of two interceptions on the following drive, capping the series with a touchdown run for a 26-0 lead. His second pick ended the half as UPREP’s freshman quarterback Majeen Weech threw the football up in desperation to get on the board before intermission.
Anderson led JFK on their final touchdown drive of the day to start the half. Anderson rolled left and found David Lebron in the deep corner of the end zone from five yards out to stretch the lead to 33. Lebron also was 3 of 5 on extra points.
“He makes the right decisions,” Walkowski said. “He has a good arm and he’s very accurate.”
Sophomore Jordan Marshall, replacing Weech at quarterback, rushed into the end zone with under two minutes remaining for the Griffin’s lone score.
“We weren’t underplaying this team at all,” said Ostempowski. “We knew coming in that they did have some talented guys at the skill positions. We were confident. We just tried to keep our kids from being over-confident.”
As well as the Bears executed last week, they’re confidence has taken boost, but they understand the influx of talent that’s ahead.
“We came into this game knowing we should win,” said Anderson. “We understood that this team is not like anything we’ll see next week. But this type of performance should help us in the long run.”
St. Francis’ comeback falls short at St. Joe’s
By Mike Petro
Ilo Noble ran up and down the field, sideline-to sideline, with mere ease in the opening quarter and into the beginning of the second, leading St. Joe’s to a three-touchdown lead over Monsignor Martin rival St. Francis.
But when the Marauders’ senior tailback was frustrated by a comeback-driven St. Francis and hampered by cramps over the final two-and-a-half quarters, Noble turned to his defensive skills to put the game away for host St. Joe’s.
Noble’s interception at his team’s four-yard-line with 1:37 left in the game helped St. Joe’s ward off a scare from St. Francis in a 28-21 victory Saturday (Sept. 15) in a rematch of last year’s Monsignor Martin championship game won by the Red Raiders. St. Joe’s improved to 3-0, while St. Francis fell to 0-3.
“When all is said and done at the end, Ilo’s the guy with the great coverage that makes the pick to save the game,” St. Joe’s head coach Dennis Gilbert said. “I say it to these guys all the time, ‘It’s not the mistakes that you make; it’s how you answer them.’ Again, the kids answered today.”
In just the first 14 minutes of the game, Noble ran for 152 of his 163 yards and put together touchdowns of 25, 39 and 32 yards. His big offensive line carved open huge holes on the first two runs and then on the third, Noble fumbled the ball in the air as he swept around to the left side, before recovering and with nothing there, switched fields, then went up the middle while making tacklers miss in the open field.
“I saw them throwing the ball there and I felt like I needed to make a big play for my team,” Noble said of his interception. “Our offensive line was man handling them (in the first half), so I was just following my blocks and was able to get loose and score some...We had a score to settle (from last year) and that’s what we did today.”
St. Francis was in St. Joe’s territory four times in the second half, including taking the ball down to the six-yard-line on its opening drive of the third quarter then starting on the Marauders’ 21 with 2:24 left in the game after a shanked punt. However, the game all but ended two plays later as Noble hauled in St. Joe’s sixth interception of the game. St. Francis also fumbled twice.
“You can’t turn the ball over like that, and we still had a shot,” said Jerry Smith, who had a few players in and out of the game with injuries, which hurts even more during a season of lower player numbers than usual.
“We’ve got to make due with what we got,” he added. “I think the kids played a heck of a game. It wasn’t a matter of not trying. The effort was there. We just have to coach them up a little bit more and get everyone on the same page.”
St. Joe’s had its biggest lead of the game at 28-7 when it capped a five-play drive after recovering a fumble with a Nigel Davis to Tyler Hill 11-yard touchdown. Hill, who started the first two games at quarterback, went to wide receiver in a switch that landed Davis, a junior, as the starting signal caller.
“When coach told me Monday, I just went home and visualized myself coming out here and taking snaps,” said Davis, who was told he’d help the offense by being more of a threat to run. He finished with 64 yards rushing and 50 passing. “I feel like I had an OK game. I threw the ball pretty well but I still have to work on my steps.”
The Red Raiders scored twice in the final 41 seconds of the first half to come within a touchdown of St. Joe’s and then controlled the field position and time of possession over the final two quarters but could not punch another one into the end zone.
St. Francis also made a switch at quarterback. Senior Brian Melisz started the game and threw a 48-yard touchdown on a leaping grab by a well-defended Kerrick Woyshner to tie the game 7-7 with 4:56 left in the first quarter. After throwing interceptions on consecutive drives, Jake Dolegala replaced Melisz, who stayed in at linebacker and made several impact plays despite nursing a sore knee.
“Jake came in and did a good job,” Smith noted of Dolegala, who also shared snaps last week with Melisz.
After Elliot Buccieri picked up a backwards lateral and returned it 65 yards for a touchdown to cut St. Joe’s lead to 28-13 with under a minute left before halftime. Robert Choboy recovered the ensuing squib kick by St. Francis. Dolegala then hit Julyan Coleman for 20 yards to move his team to the St. Joe’s 21. Two plays later, he connected with older brother, Jarrett Dolegala, on a tipped ball that ended up in the hands of the senior in the end zone as time expired in the half. The brothers connected again on a two-point pass. Coleman finished the game catching six balls for 93 yards.
Jake Dolegala would hit on 6 of 11 passes for 98 yards in the second half but was intercepted three times and at the end of one of those big pass plays in the fourth, Coleman fumbled the ball over to St. Joe’s. St. Francis attempted to establish Alex Misterman, who ran for 289 yards and five touchdowns last week, but St. Joe’s was difficult to run on. He ran 26 times for 80 yards as the defense focused on stopping him, according to Davis.
“We’re going after it; we’ve got a lot of kids who are nasty,” Gilbert said, crediting many of his player’s offseason work in getting stronger. “They’re a lot more confident in what they’re doing and they’re packing a punch when they hit.”
Not only did the Red Raiders move the ball in the second half, but their smaller defensive unit held St. Joe’s to just 70 yards in that time. St. Joe’s had the ball on the St. Francis’ 7 after Davis’ second interception and a 40-yard return, but only went backwards due to a holding penalty and sack by Jarrett Dolegala, before missing a 37-yard field goal.
“They made some good adjustments,” Gilbert said of St. Francis. “We saw some match-ups that we thought we could exploit and it worked, but then we had some mistakes. When you’re playing a good team, you can’t mistakes. Our guys learned a lesson from it. It’s a good experience.”
Frank Spina, one of the offensive line leaders, received a nomination for Trench Trophy for his performance Saturday. Also for St. Joe’s, Jack Barnesi, Rodrick Payne and Tyshawn Stepney all added interceptions. Also for St. Francis, Adam Valenti and John Sorgi recorded sacks and Jordan Zakroczemski made a number of stops for losses.
Looking Forward to Week 4
Friday, September 21
(7:30 p.m. start unless noted)
Gr. Island @ Hutch Tech (AH) 7pm
W. Seneca West @ Jamestown 7pm
Clarence @ Lancaster
OrchardPark @ Frontier
Lake Shore @ Iroquois 7pm
Will. South @ W. Seneca East 7pm
Ken. East @ N. Tonawanda 7pm
Sweet Home @ McKinley (RF) 7pm
East Aurora @ Springville
Eden @ Dunkirk
Medina/Lyn. @ Depew
Amherst @ Cheektowaga 7pm
Burgard @ Maryvale 7pm
Tonawanda @ Lackawanna 7:30pm
Albion @ Batavia
Falconer @ Westfield/Brocton
JFK @ Akron 7pm
Gowanda @ Fredonia
Portville @ Silver Creek
Frewsburg @ Catt/Little Valley
Maple Grove @Chaut. Lake
Franklinville @ PineValley
Nichols @ Boliver/Rich.
Saturday, September 22
(2 p.m. start unless noted)
NiagaraFalls @ Lockport
Hamburg@ Bennett @AH
Starpoint @ Niagara-Wheatfield
Will. East @ Will. North
Lew-Port @ South Park (RF)
Pioneer @ Olean 7:30pm
Alden @ East @ JBW noon
Barker/RH @ Newfane
All-Lime. @ Cass. Valley 1:30pm
Ellicot./W. Valley @ St. Mary’s 1pm
Canisius @ Walsh/Jesuit 1pm
St. Joe’s @ Cardinal O’Hara
Cath. Prep @ St. Francis 7pm
Timon @ Wilson Magnet 1pm
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