WNY High School Football Wrap — Week 6; A Look at Week 7
St. Joe’s tops Lockport in WNY Top 10 public vs. private clash
By Michael Straw
When top teams meet, there is always a high expectation for how the game will play out. Sometimes the hype is met, while other times the game becomes a one-sided affair.
When Western New York No. 2-ranked large school St. Joe’s took on No. 9 Lockport on Saturday (Oct. 6), the teams lived up to the hype, and then some, in a game that featured two of the top running backs in the area in seniors James Chambers of Lockport and Ilo Noble of St. Joe’s.
Celebrating Senior Day before their last home game of the regular season on a breezy, picturesque day in Lockport, the Lions came out roaring with the support of the approximately 2,500 people in the stands. The momentum led them to an 18-7 halftime lead over the Marauders.
The second half was a different story, as St. Joe’s, led by the ground and pound attack of Nolbe and junior Rod Payne, controlled the ball and the game, outscoring Lockport 23-7 on their way to a 30-25 comeback victory.
“They’re kids; you’ve got to settle them down,” said St. Joe’s head coach Dennis Gilbert about his staff’s message at halftime. “We settled them down and we simplified what was going on. A lot of the time we were out of position in the first half and when we were out of position, Chambers made us pay.”
Noble, who finished with 213 yards rushing and a touchdown said that the team didn’t have an answer for Lockport’s running game in the first half.
“We made too many mistakes. Number 23 (Chambers) is a good back, but our run defense should’ve stopped him,” he said.
Payne, who scored the winning touchdown on a 38-yard run halfway through the fourth quarter, said that it was all about halftime adjustments.
“We started out sloppy, but we came out stronger in the second half and gave it a good fight,” he said.
Payne said that his coaches told him during halftime to become “Superman” in order to make the necessary plays to help his team win.
The Marauders did their best to neutralize the running attack of Chambers by keeping him off the field, as they had 15 minutes of time of possession in the second half compared to nine for the Lions. Lockport head coach Greg Bronson called the game a tale of two halves.
“When you come out and say, ‘stop them and get another score to put a little pressure on them,’ and the first play is a 49-yard run, that’s not going to help you,” said Bronson. “The kids then started looking at one another, and they’re not as confident. And then we’re scrambling a little to try and piece together a little bit better approach.”
The one constant for the Lions on Saturday was the play of Chambers, who finished with 221 yards and two touchdowns, including a 48-yard run on the team’s opening drive of the game.
“James is a special talent,” said Bronson. “James is so patient. He’s got such a good burst of speed. His vision is tremendous. And when kids are blocking downfield for him, he sees the seams and accelerates quickly.”
The game didn’t come without a bit of bad news for the Marauders, however. Standout junior Nigel Davis, who was playing in front of his hometown of Lockport for the first time, suffered a shoulder injury in the first half after running for 58 yards and a touchdown. Gilbert said that he was day-to-day.
Keating, Wilkinson lead Iroquois to comeback over Hamburg
By Mike Pidanick
The first 23 minutes couldn’t have gone a whole lot worse for Matt Keating and the Iroquois High School football team against Class A South rival Hamburg.
A year after a rare postseason miss for the proud program, the Chiefs had a chance to clinch a trip back to the postseason with a victory over the Bulldogs. But most of the first half did not go the way of the Chiefs, who fell behind by as many as 19 points and faced a 22-9 halftime deficit. Down, but not out.
“When we were down, I still knew we were going to win,” the senior quarterback said. “I had a good feeling. With all of the hard work in the offseason and stuff, we were ready.”
The Chiefs kept on rolling, Keating returned to all-star form and Iroquois secured a return trip to the postseason with a 29-22 win over the Bulldogs.
“That was probably the worst half of football we’ve played,” Chiefs’ coach Keith Marshall said of the first half performance. “But I give Hamburg a ton of credit. They always are super-physical against us and they were tonight. And you know what? We showed a lot of guts in the second half. We got the job done; that’s what matters in football.”
Keating’s first seven passes fell incomplete. His eighth was intercepted by Griffin Ryan, who returned it 32-yards for a touchdown and that 22-3 Bulldogs’ lead.
“I was pretty disappointed, I knew I had to pick up my game,” he said – and he did. His next seven passes resulted in six completions, including three touchdowns.
The Keating-to-Nate Wilkinson connection reached its usual unstoppable levels on the Chiefs’ final drive of the first half. The duo hooked up twice for a pair of big gains, including a 32-yard score with 50 seconds left in the second quarter. That seemed to set the tone.
“The first half wasn’t as good as we thought it would be, obviously,” Keating said. “But in the second half, we knew we had to make plays and we did.”
The tandem hooked up two more times for touchdowns of 28 and 14 yards, and Tyler Miller gave the Chiefs the lead for keeps with a 54-yard TD run on the first play from scrimmage in the fourth quarter.
Hamburg didn’t go quietly and drove to the Iroquois 14 in the final two minutes. But four straight passes fell incomplete and the Chiefs were able to line up in victory formation as the seconds ticked away in making their playoff return official.
“We’re going back to the playoffs and we’re very excited about that,” Marshall said. “Last year, we were 0-5 (to start the season) and most of these kids were there. This is great for them.”
Cleve Hill win sets up first-place game with rival JFK
By Marquel Slaughter
With one loss this season, Cleveland Hill came into Homecoming game Saturday (Oct. 6) with a shot at first place after discovering that Fredonia suffered its second loss the night before.
After losing to Fredonia the previous week, the Golden Eagles carried those emotions from that game and laid them on Amherst, locking in defensively for a 38-8 victory.
Senior running back Brandon Thomas scored three touchdowns, while the defense scored twice; returning an interception and a punt block for touchdowns.
Tied for first with John F. Kennedy, Cleve Hill will pay its rival a visit next Saturday (Oct. 13) for sole possession of first place in Class C North.
“If both teams were 0-and-(Whatever), this would still be a huge game,” said Cleveland Hill coach Glen Graham. “It’s Cleveland Hill/JFK. A lot of pride on both sides, so we’re looking forward to it.”
“JFK — crosstown rivals, we don’t want it any other way,” said junior Jared Watkins. “That’s the school we love to beat up on, so we have to be ready.”
As big as next week’s game could be, Cleve Hill knew it should not look beyond handling business at home.
“You can’t underestimate any team,” said senior Brandon Thomas. “A team that’s 1-4 is hungry for a win.”
Cleveland Hill credited their win to the defense, which forced five turnovers, a couple of defensive scores and shut the Tigers out deep into the third quarter.
“We played “Eagle Defense” out there,” said junior linebacker Jonathan Thomas. “Even though we made a couple mistakes here and there, we definitely locked it up when it mattered.”
“We started up front with our defensive line,” said Graham. “Linebackers did a good job and so did our defensive backs. Amherst has had a lot of success offensively, so we were really concerned. But our guys stepped up today.”
Behind senior leadership from players like Ryan Mullin and Sharieff Fareed-Muhammed in the trenches, the Eagles’ line made their mark early and often.
Brandon Thomas earned the first score on a 12-yard run at the end of the first quarter. On the ensuing drive, Watkins picked off Amherst senior quarterback Justin Twarog and took it back 50 yards to give Cleve Hill a 12-0 early in the second quarter.
The next two touchdown were scored by Brandon Thomas from five yards out to extend the lead to 24-0. He credited the line after the game for allowing him to score that touchdown untouched. Watkins set up the score on the previous play, connecting with his quarterback, senior Jacob Radlich, on a 37-yard go route to the five yard line.
“It wasn’t really my route,” said Watkins. “I was supposed to do an out-and-up, but the corner just sat there for a minute, so I just ran right by him.”
Fareed-Muhammad forced a sack and fumble to end the half. Midway through the third, Jonathan Thomas blocked an Amherst punt. The ball bounced right back in between his numbers as he took it home, giving Cleve Hill a 30-point lead.
Brandon Thomas recovered an Amherst fumble on the following drive. He praised the preparation from his coaches.
“What we see in the game is what we see in practice and what we’re coached to do,” he said. “It is about focusing on your key. Everybody was focused and that’s what we did.”
Amherst senior Kasey Brown scored on a 25-yard rush to put the Tigers on the board. Senior Christian Green caught the two-point conversion to make it a 30-8 game.
In the fourth quarter, Cleveland Hill recovered one more fumble before Fareed-Muhammad took an end-around 44 yards to paydirt to cap the scoring.
“Our biggest problem has been consistency,” said Amherst head coach Jason Beckman. “We know they have a good football team. The effort is there; we just haven’t been able to put a whole game together.”
After losing a game that would have put them at the top of Class C North last week, the Golden Eagles were able to redeem themselves and get one more shot at home field advantage against JFK.
“Fredonia was definitely a heartbreaker, but I feel like we got better from that loss,” said Jonathan Thomas. “We definitely woke up and we’re not looking back. This was a big week because [Amherst is] a cross-town rival and it’s the first time we get to play them in a while. But playing another cross-town rival in JFK for the division…it doesn’t get better than that.”
St. Mary’s lands historic win over St. Francis
By Mike Petro
After watching his junior tailback run for 250 yards and four touchdowns, St. Mary’s head coach Dave Hersey didn’t hesitate to use two simple words when asked afterward to sum up the game. They were — Nick Vallone.
The same player that Hersey felt was ignored come time for postseason honors last year made sure that he and his St. Mary’s teammates were taken notice of when they met the defending Monsignor Martin champions.
Vallone led a Lancers’ barrage that accounted for 34 unanswered points after St. Francis scored the opening touchdown in their 34-7 victory on Saturday (Oct. 6). Not only did Vallone shine, but so did his team, which beat its first Monsignor Martin large school since deciding to play a full league schedule this season.
“Nick does a heck of a job making it look easy but he knows that his teammates help him get where he is,” Hersey said. “He’s probably one of the best backs in Western New York but a lot of people don’t know that because we keep it quiet. To put up 250 points against this defense of St. Francis, which is one of the great programs around and a bigger school, I think there’s got to be some guys that believe in us now.”
After playing an independent schedule last season because the league decided to go to a one division format instead of dividing large and small schools as was done in the past, St. Mary’s proved they can not only play with schools such as St. Francis but they could beat them, as well.
“It’s another ball game for us this year, but I’ve got to tell you we marked this one (on the calendar),” Hersey said. “The kids worked a little extra hard this week and we knew we’d have to do that to hang with these guys and beat these guys.
St. Mary’s nearly pulled off a similar feat in games against MMAA large schools Canisius and Timon-St. Jude, but lost by one score or less in each of those two.
“I think Canisius and Timon changed their tune about us when they played us and I think obviously St. Francis had no choice but to change their tune after today,” Hersey noted.
Hersey said it stuck with him that Vallone and St. Mary’s weren’t given much respect last season when Vallone was left off the All-Catholic First and Second Teams, while both of St. Francis backs were chosen.
In leading St. Mary’s to a historic first win over St. Francis, Vallone ran for touchdowns of 30, 24 and 84 yards. St. Mary’s outscored St. Francis 20-0 in the second quarter and 14-0 in the fourth. Sophomore Justin Hersey scored a second quarter touchdown on a three-yard quarterback sneak and later in the game, hit Vallone on a 20-yard touchdown pass.
“We came here ready to win,” Vallone said. “We never beat them before and it just feels great to have done it. It’s really special. We’re working hard this year to be our best.”
After St. Francis opened the game with a seven-play, 65-yard scoring drive, St. Mary’s scored 33 unanswered, starting nearly four minutes into the second quarter. Alex Misterman ran for a 16-yard touchdown and 55 of his 86 yards came on that opening drive.
Hersey credited linebacker Nate Keith for swallowing up the runs up the middle, in addition to Robert Desiderio for being in on many of the stops and Milton Ziegler, who successfully moved from linebacker to secure a spot on the defensive line.
“We had a little bit of a tough time on the first drive but as you can see, our defense buckled down and shut them down from there. It’s a great team win. I think Misterman is a heck of a back but we shut him down after that first drive.”
Though St. Mary’s may not have the most veteran of offensive lines, coach Hersey was impressed with the way his two seniors, two juniors and sophomore opened up holes for Vallone and company.
He credited sophomore Dahlen Jones and junior Trevor Wrona for leading many successful counter plays as a pulling lineman. Junior Paul Battaglia has also been key to the line’s success, while seniors Andrew Hoffman and Desiderio have provided leadership to the young unit.
“We have great lineman and they make great holes,” Vallone noted. “They make it easy to get right through them.”
Ken East’s McMahon leads comeback over Starpoint
By Dave Ricci
The moment loomed so large, Connor McMahon almost didn’t believe it truly happened. The junior quarterback broke a seven-yard run to score what turned out to be the winning touchdown as time ran out to lead Kenmore East to a 20-19 win over Starpoint on Oct.6.
“It was amazing. Honestly, it was surreal,” McMahon said. “I was in the huddle before the play and I said, ‘guys, this is something we’ve all dreamed about, to score that (winning) touchdown. It’s just a huge relief and a great feeling. Something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
Notching their second Class A North win of the season, McMahon, who also connected with Brandon Mack on a 35 yard scoring pass, felt that this win not only gives the Bulldogs increased confidence as they prepare to meet the Blue Devils in the Battle of Kenmore on Oct.13, it’s also a symbol of how hard the team has been working all year.
“Even the games that we’ve lost this year ‑ McKinley and Sweet Home, we’ve been fighting, but just been coming up short,” McMahon said. “We just kind of had to learn to win and this game kind of showed us hey, we do have the talent and we can find a way to win, which we did. It should help us in the East-West game.”
In his second season as the Bulldogs starting quarterback, McMahon has progressed each week and evolved into the take-charge, reliable field general that his team needs. But while he certainly feels more comfortable in the role of starting QB in 2012, McMahon said the groundwork was laid last season.
“I think my experience last year, getting brought up to varsity, I took my bumps and bruises, but I think it really helped me mature this year,” he said. “just knowing the game and knowing what to do and how the game is played, it honestly helped me tremendously.”
Interestingly enough, McMahon said it wasn’t a win that served as his watershed moment, but rather the way he performed in a 31-28 loss to North Tonawanda on Sept.21.
“It was probably one of the best athletic performances I ever had in my life,” McMahon said. “I just said to myself, ‘hey, I know I can do it now. I can rally the guys around me.’ Since then everyone has played great.
“That Starpoint game was a great team victory,” he added. “I think we’ve started to put the pieces of the puzzle together. If we do that, I like our chances.”
McMahon is just proud to be one part of the puzzle among a group of players that has restored pride and a winning mentality to Kenmore East football.
“Honestly, it started off with the coaches in the offseason,” McMahon said. “They sat us down and said, ‘we need to change this.’ We’ve got the talent; we just need to make it happen. Our motto for the team is ‘Win Today’ and don’t worry about the past, don’t worry about the future; if you work hard everyday results will come.”
McMahon is indeed working hard every day, and the results are coming.
Week 7 Games
Friday, October 12
(7:30 p.m. start unless noted)
Frontier @ Hamburg 7pm
W. Seneca West @ W.S. East 7pm
Lockport @ Riverside (RF) 7pm
Hutch Tech @ Pioneer 7pm
Niagara Falls @ Orchard Park 7pm
Depew @ Lancaster
N. Tonawanda @Tonawanda 6pm
Lake Shore @ Will. South 7pm
Iroquois @ Bennett (AH) 7pm
Albion @ Medina/Lyn.
Newfane @ Alden 7pm
Maryvale @ Cheektowaga 7pm
Lackawanna @ Lew-Port 7pm
Burgard @ Amherst 6pm
East Aurora @ Wilson (NL) 7pm
Dunkirk @ Fredonia (NL)
Hutch Tech @ Pioneer (NL) 7pm
All-Limestone @ Falconer
Akron @ Gowanda
Chaut. Lake @ Silver Creek
Frewsburg @Maple Grove
Catt/Liitle Valley @Randolph
Franklinville @ Ellicotville/W.V.
St. Joe’s @ Timon-St. Jude 7pm
Saturday, October 13
(2 p.m. start unless noted)
Kenmore West @ Kenmore East
Jamestown @ Clarence
Grand Island @ McKinley (RF) 4pm
South Park @ Williamsville East
Will. North @ Niag-Wheatfield
Sweet Home @ Starpoint
Springville @ Olean 6:30pm
East @ Barker/Roy Hart 1:30pm
Southwestern @ Eden
Cleve-Hill @ JFK 1:30pm
Cassadaga Valley @ Clymer 1:30pm
Portville @ IPrep (AH) 4pm
CassadagaValley @ Clymer
Cardinal O’Hara @ Canisius 1pm
St. Francis @ St. Ignatius 7pm
Batavia @ St. Mary’s 1pm
Nichols @ Finney 4pm
AH-All High Stadium
(JBW)- Johnnie B. Wiley