Metro's WNY H.S. Football Roundup: Week 2
Holy Trinity pulls off improbable comeback to beat St. Francis
By Mike Petro
It was the perfect statement to make after a week one blowout loss.
St. Francis had bounced back from a drubbing at the hands of the Section V power Aquinas the week prior by rolling to a 41-14 lead four minutes into the fourth quarter over another fellow state private school Holy Trinity of Long Island. The execution that wasn’t there against Aquinas couldn’t have been better on both sides of the ball to that point in the game.
Alex Misterman was giving one of the finest performances of a running back at any level with almost 300 yards and scoring almost at will during a stretch in the second half. Meanwhile, the Red Raiders defense was stifling highly-toughed Trinity senior quarterback Chris Laviano, intercepting him four times, three of those by junior nickel backer Elliot Buccieri.
But in a blink of an eye, 7:34 to be exact, that statement was quickly erased. Holy Trinity scored 28 unanswered points to make an unbelievable comeback in its 42-41 win at St. Francis on Saturday (Sept. 8). In that time, the Titans not only scored four times, but also forced a fumble, recovered an onsides kick and sent a St. Francis offense, that earlier couldn’t be stopped, three-and-out.
St. Francis head coach Jerry Smith called it a perfect storm against his team. Although he didn’t want to be accused of running up the score and made some changes to get players into what seemed to be a rout, Smith said all of his starters were not subbed out of the game because with only 30 players he doesn’t have a full second team on either side of the ball.
“Anything that could go wrong, went wrong,” Smith said. “Even after everything happened, if we just get one first down (on its final drive), the game is over, but we just couldn’t finish.”
“When you get a team down like that, you have to finish,” he added. “We have to work on depth and guys have to make plays. We let them back into the game. We had offensive, defensive and special teams breakdowns.”
The Titans capped a 14-play, 78-yard drive in the final 1:59 of the game with a one-yard touchdown around the left tackle by senior Joe Ferguson as time expired. Holy Trinity’s Matt Russo connected on his sixth extra point of the game to break a 41-41 tie.
After throwing his fourth interception of the game in the third quarter, Laviano threw four fourth quarter touchdowns, finishing the game with five. Laviano connected with Matt Sheehan on a 60-yard long ball touchdown to cut the lead to 41-21 with 6:10 left, and that’s when the table began to fold for the Red Raiders.
St. Francis fumbled the ball on the second play of its ensuing drive, and after a Laviano to Ryan Alexander 11-yard touchdown, Holy Trinity recovered on onsides kick with five minutes remaining. The Titans enjoyed another quick strike drive as Laviano hit Alexander again, this time from 34 yards out, to cut the lead to 41-35 with 4:35 on the clock. Laviano hit his 6-foot-4 tight end Alexander 12 times for 147 yards and for three scores in the game. Sheehan caught two TDs.
The Red Raiders sent its starting offense back out on the field but it was out of sync and went three-and-out, forcing a punt which put Holy Trinity back to its own 22-yard-line. That didn’t matter. Laviano once again drove his team down the field, hitting 4 of 7 passes for 70 yards. St. Francis made two run stops on first- and second-and-goal, but Laviano was just able to spike the ball with one second to play to set up the fourth down touchdown run.
“That’s probably one of the best comebacks I’ve ever seen in my era,” said Holy Trinity’s veteran coach Tony Mascia, whose team was playing in its season opener. “We just kept getting after them, one thing led to another and the momentum shifted. It’s one of those crazy things that can happen...Otherwise, I really can’t explain it.”
Overshadowed in the loss was a special performance from Misterman, a senior tailback who has stepped into the role vacated by St. Francis graduate Akeel Lynch, who’s now playing for Penn State. Misterman ran for 288 yards and five touchdowns from 1, 29, 28, 45 and 50 yards out.
At one point in the second half, the 5-foot-8 hard-running Misterman ran two straight times for 95 yards and two touchdowns, steam rolling his way to pay dirt nearly untouched. His performance was no surprise to Mascia, who got to see the back play some as a junior in his team’s 55-20 loss to St. Francis last year.
“He was incredible today,” Mascia said. “I knew he was good, seeing him come into the game last year. He is very hard to tackle. He’s a great player.”
Smith credited his young offensive line with stepping up its play coming off a tough game against Aquinas. He said with Holy Trinity challenging his team by sending extra players to the line of scrimmage, some key blocks sprung Misterman into the open field. Junior left tackle Ryan Zulawski hit hard throughout the game and senior fullback Jordan Zakroczemski “laid some lumber” blocking out of the backfield, according to Smith.
“They were gambling, putting 11 guys in the box,” Smith said. “Our O-line really came of age. We dominated them up to a certain point.”
St. Francis senior Brian Melisz threw a 62-yard touchdown pass to junior Julyan Coleman and Misterman followed with a successful two-point run late in the third quarter to extend the St. Francis lead to 27-7. The Red Raiders had led 19-7 at halftime.
Right before halftime, Buccieri came up with his third interception of the game, ending a Holy Cross drive which had reached the St. Francis 26. Melisz picked off Laviano on the Titans’ first drive of the second half. Holy Trinity would come up empty on its first three drives of the second half.
“I told my QB that he couldn’t get that back now, so just do your thing and make some plays,” said Mascia of Laviano who finished 21 of 35 for 319 yards. “I’m proud of the way he and the whole team responded.”
Zakroczemski also led St. Francis with nine tackles, seven of which the linebacker made solo. Also for St. Francis, Mike Miller had nine tackles and Manny Williams added six. Scott Webber, Adam Vanlenti and Misterman all notched sacks.
Next up for the Red Raiders is a much different St. Joe’s opponent than the one they beat in last year’s MMAA championship game. With Chad Kelly having graduated and now at Clemson, the Marauders will be less of a passing, finesse team, having gone back to smash-mouth football. They’ve found success early with it at 2-0.
“They’ll be more well-balanced and the defense really runs to the ball,” Smith said of St. Joe’s. “It will be more of a typical St. Joe’s team that we saw before Chad was there. They’re 2-0 and have all the momentum but we have to realize the world is not lost (after Saturday’s loss). This is only our first league game. We’ll take each game as it comes and hopefully at the end of the year be back at The Stadium.”
Jackson leads Cheektowaga to come-from-behind OT win
By Marquel Slaughter
You could find Marquel Jackson and Joshua Jones still amped right before they left All High Stadium, slapping each other up and sharing in the excitement and disbelief of how they just ended the game.
“I told you,” Jackson exclaimed, jumping up and down, smacking pads with his teammate.
Cheektowaga Central found itself in a 14-0 hole to Burgard early in the fourth quarter before Jackson accounted for 14 of their 20 unanswered points as the Warriors snatched the win in overtime 20-14.
“I had no doubt in my team,” said Jackson. “I knew we were going to get back in the game and overcome. That’s what we do.”
An All-Western New York candidate at running back, Jackson’s performance at three other positions is what propelled Cheektowaga to victory.
At linebacker, Jackson picked up two sacks, while Burgard tried to run the clock out up 14-8 with 2:29 left. On the first, he failed to pry the ball loose, but he ripped it out of quarterback Daquan Walker’s hands on the very next play and bolted for six to tie the game at 14.
“I was just so into the game,” said Jackson. “I just thought, ‘Let’s get this ball. Let’s get this touchdown and let’s get back in this game.’”
At wide receiver, Cheektowaga faced a fourth-and-20 when Jackson lined up at the numbers, sprung over the Bulldogs backfield and snatched the ball out of the thin air for the 30-yard, game-winning score.
“We couldn’t afford to let them get the ball back and score on us in overtime,” Jackson said. “I just put my heart into it, jumped up, got the ball - game over.”
Jackson also lined up at quarterback, where he completed a pass for a two-point conversion earlier in the game.
“We came out of the half with the right attitude,” said Warriors’ head coach Mike Fatta. “No matter how much time was left on the clock, we had a chance to pack it in and we kept making plays.”
With Cheektowaga and Burgard scoring 53 and 42 points, respectively, last week, both squads put an emphasis on defense heading into their Sept. 8 match up.
Walker connected with Jamar Holmes for a 26-yard touchdown on Burgard’s opening drive and took that 8-0 lead into the 4th quarter. On the first play of the fourth, Sean Marshall scored on a direct snap to stretch the lead to 14.
Cheektowaga finally got on the board with under eight minutes left in regulation. Quarterback Tim Whelan threw to Preston Summers when Holmes, who had an interception earlier, tipped the ball, only for it to fall into Summers’ hands behind him for the 29-yard touchdown.
For the two-point conversion, Jackson lined up at quarterback in the shotgun, while most of his team was away from the ball on the left side of the field. Jackson rolled right and found Louis Hyatt for the two, cutting their deficit to six.
It seemed like the game was over after Burgard’s Rodderick Morrow sacked Whelan on fourth down with 2:29 to go, but Jackson was taking a sack and fumble into the endzone for the game-tying score 30 seconds later.
The Bulldogs got the first crack at it in overtime, but they lost control of the snap on fourth-and-goal at the one.
On the next possession, the Warriors gained little to no yards on first and second downs before Whelan got tackled in the backfield to place Cheektowaga at Burgard’s 30, creating a fourth-and-20.
The junior quarterback then stepped back in the pocket and let the football fly. Jackson was on the other end, catching the ball at its highest point in the left-corner of the endzone for the game-winner.
“I knew it was going to be a defensive battle,” said Burgard head coach Jason Kolb. “We just gave up three plays to them. Marquel Jackson had a huge game for them. He’s a difference maker.”
“This win was very important,” said Jackson. “We knew we were the two teams to beat in the division. We just wanted to come out here and let them know who’s number one.”
Iroquois wins wild game to start season 2-0
By Mike Pidanick
September of 2011 was probably a month the Iroquois High School football team would have liked to forget all about. The Chiefs dropped all five of their games in the month and were out of the Class A playoff race before picking up their first win of the season.
But Iroquois hasn’t forgotten about that month. And all offseason, they worked hard to get the program back to the top. A year later, that’s exactly what has happened. The Chiefs are off to a 2-0 start and have their eyes set on big things in 2012.
“They learned a lot last year,” second-year coach Keith Marshall said. “A lot of people wrote them off and they’ve worked hard the last 10 months. They deserve this.”
The Chiefs picked up their second win on Friday, posting a wild 40-26 win over South Park in front of an enthusiastic home crowd.
“It feels great,” said Iroquois senior Nate Wilkinson, who scored three touchdowns in the win. “All the hard work we put in all offseason, it’s starting to pay off for us.”
With 23 players back from last year and 16 positions filled by a returning player, the Chiefs have plenty of experience. Iroquois remembers what it felt like a year ago and the Chiefs have worked hard to turn things around.
“They’re a lot of the same kids,” Marshall said. “We lost some good seniors, certainly. But these are guys that are experienced and we all learned lessons together last year,” Marshall said. “It’s nice to see it pay some dividends.”
Wilkinson set the tone for the up-tempo game, stepping in front of a Maurice Howie pass and returning it 29 yards for a score on the game’s second play from scrimmage. He later caught a pair of touchdown passes from Matt Keating, who finished with four TD tosses in the game.
Brad Achman contributed a rushing and receiving touchdown and Tyler Miller scored his second touchdown of the season, hauling in a 39-yard pass from Keating.
South Park had its fair share if big plays as well. Howie was worth the price of admission alone. He finished with 271 yards passing and three touchdowns and also ran for a 19-yard score.
“It was a wild game,” Marshall said. “South Park played great and our kids really came through. It was a wild night; it was a lot of fun.”
St. Joseph’s showing off new-found physicality
By Michael Straw
When the 2012 season began, head coach Dennis Gilbert preached physicality as the new way for his team to win games going forward.
Through two games on the season, it seems as though the Marauder players have fully bought into Gilbert’s new system. It started with a 56-34 victory over Wilson Magnet on Sept. 1, and continued Friday (Sept. 7) as the Marauders hit hard and showed their physical dominance as they took care of the Bennett Tigers 43-14 at Robert E. Rich All-High Stadium in Buffalo.
“We can sit around as coaches and tell them you have got to lift, you have got to get stronger, you have got to be more physical,” said Gilbert. “Now they see why. They’ve started to see some success with it. They’re way more comfortable on the field when they’re playing.
“I love the fact we’ve been playing really physical, and that’s just because the kids are stronger,” he added. “They’re more confident, and we’re delivering force instead of catching force which is the key to the whole thing.”
One of those players who has stepped up in the physical department is senior defensive end Dylan Hall.
Hall finished with nine tackles for St. Joseph’s, four of which were sacks. Gilbert said that Hall is a prime example of what happens when players work on their strength.
“He was a kid who didn’t lift before,” Gilbert said. “This past year, in the offseason, he finally did, and now he’s seeing the fruits of it. It’s nice to see because he’s setting the table for the kids behind him.”
Hall said that he was just taking advantage of the mismatches the Bennett offense presented him.
“Their tackles were slow,” said Hall. “I was just taking what they gave me, but it wasn’t just me. Everybody up front did a great job.”
Hall also sang the praises of the team’s middle linebacker and running back, Rod Payne.
“He leads the defense and gets everybody pumped up,” said Hall. “We just all come out and execute after (he talks to us).”
Payne scored two touchdowns running the ball, and forced and returned a fumble 21 yards for a touchdown that put the Marauder’s up 24-6 late in the second quarter.
“Rod Payne is a banger,” said St. Joseph’s running back Ilo Noble. “When we need tough runs he gives us those.”
“Rod is a load,” said Gilbert. “He’s 200 pounds, and he stops on a dime. When he hits you, you know it.”
However, Payne was quick to say that if it wasn’t for Noble’s play early on, he’s not sure if they would’ve been able to rebound after an early fumble that led to a Bennett touchdown and a quick 6-0 deficit.
Noble rushed for 119 yards on 10 carries, and added two touchdowns for the Marauders before suffering an ankle injury early in the third quarter. The injury isn’t expected to keep him out of next week’s game against St. Francis in their league opener.
“(Noble) has that barn-burner, breakaway speed,” said Gilbert. “He has the ability to change games in an instant. He did that for us.”
Gilbert continued to say that he’s blessed to have the players that he does.
“We’re fortunate we got a lot of strong skill guys that can go. Not one of them is selfish,” he said. “They’re just, ‘boom, boom’”
Chambers runs for big game to overtake Starpoint
By David Gaygen
One of Lockport’s biggest challenges this season is to maximize the ability of James Chambers. When the talented senior running back is on and running for positive yardage, the Lions at their best.
Chambers was doing just that Saturday (Sept. 8) against Starpoint, running for 150 yards and scoring twice in a 31-6 win. A rainy afternoon could not slow down Chambers, who ran for a 57-yard touchdown in the third quarter and caught a 46-yard score that would put Lockport in the lead 10-6 late in the first quarter. The Lions did not surrender the lead the rest of the way.
“James has tremendous ability. His biggest challenge is to remain consistent,” Lockport head coach Greg Bronson said. “He will have minus plays, but then have long runs.”
“We’ve got to make sure we are staying on our blocks every play because even if it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen for (James), he can turn it into a big play if we don’t give up,” he added.
After a 37-yard field goal by kicker Kyle Few put Lockport up 3-0, Evan Majewski responded with an 80-yard touchdown, but they were the only points Starpoint would put on the board in the game.
LHS middle linebacker, Moziah Townsend started off the second quarter by intercepting Spartans quarterback Andrew Rainkie, who later left the game with a concussion. Chambers gained 18-yards on the third-and-long, and Lockport QB Dan Bronson followed by running the ball into the end zone. With Few’s extra point, Lockport led 17-6.
In the fourth quarter, Lockport’s Will Diebel intercepted the ball, stopping Starpoint’s drive at midfield. The Lions pushed down the field in seven plays with Marshall Evan’s scoring a 1-yard touchdown run.
With eight minutes left on the clock, the thunder and lightning appeared in the distance, with the rain following close behind, forcing referees to postpone the game for the state required 30 minutes. The wind picked up and the rain turned to hail but it was all over within a few minutes and the football game resumed, minus a few hundred fans in the stands.
Next week the Lions will host their game against Hutchinson-Central Tech at 2p.m. on Saturday, then celebrate its Homecoming weekend game against Niagara Falls.
Ken West takes first step toward league title defense
By Dave Ricci
Kenmore West may be young but the Blue Devils are not ready to yield the Class AA North title they’ve held the past two seasons.
Alex Price rushed for 119 yards and a touchdown as Kenmore West topped Hutch-Tech 21-14 in Section VI Class AA North action Saturday (Sept. 8) at All-High Stadium.
“It’s great start for these guys,” West coach Rich Harris said. “We’re a young football team. They’ve got a lot of pride in the fact we won the league that last two years, and they want to try and win it again.”
Price’s 26-yard touchdown run came in the fourth quarter and extended the Blue Devils lead to 21-8. Quarterback Adam Fron ran for a 12-yard TD and opened the scoring with a 24-yard TD pass to Trent White in the second quarter. Fron finished the game with 47 yards on the ground. Fron’s TD run gave the Blue Devils a 14-point lead at halftime.
Roman West was outstanding for the Engineers as he hauled in a 32-yard touchdown pass for Hutch-Tech. Quarterback Lenny Dowell ran for a six-yard touchdown on the final play of the game.
West also made the two-point run to follow up his first touchdown. Defensively, the Blue Devils got nine big tackles from Laquan Saltar, who also had an interception and fumble recovery in the first quarter.
Terrell Ford added a pick off, while Greg Howell notched four tackles and two sacks and Joe Taylor had eight tackles for Ken West. Imran Ahmadi was a perfect 3-for-3 on PATs.
The Blue Devils lost senior/captain Joe Fumerelle in the second half when he suffered a knee injury. The Blue Devils (1-1) will host Sweet Home on Sept.15 at Crosby Field in their home opener.