WNY High School Footbal Wrap — Week 7; Next up, playoffs
JFK pulls out division title, beating Cleve Hill by one
by Marquel Slaughter
JFK was presented with the option to kick the tying extra point or go for the winning two-point conversion after scoring a touchdown late in the game against a team it has not beaten in six years with the division championship on the line.
What to do? You go for two, of course.
Down 28-27 after completing a 59-yard touchdown drive, John F. Kennedy decided to go for the two-point conversion with their home crowd behind them.
Bears senior quarterback Nick Anderson was immediately met by Golden Eagles senior lineman Sharieff Fareed-Muhammad in the backfield after the snap. Avoiding what could have been a sack, Anderson swept left and found nothing but greenery between him and the paydirt.
He rushed in to convert the two-point try on game-winning play with 47 seconds left, taking down Cleveland Hill at the Bear Cave, 29-28.
“I was so scared. I didn’t know what was going to happen,” Anderson said. “That end came shooting at me. I just got around him, the receivers cleared out and I just took it into the corner.”
“I wanted the ball in Nick’s hands,” said co-head coach Mark Ostempowski. “He made the right decision and he was able to get in. The actual play was a pass play, but I told him, ‘It’s your call. If you can run it in, I want you to run it in.’ And he did.”
JFK finished the season with a 6-1 record and its first outright Class C North championship since 1975 (they shared the title in 2006). Anderson finished the game with three total touchdowns and the biggest two-point conversion of his life.
The drive began at their own 41-yard-line down 28-21 with just over three minutes remaining.
Facing a fourth-and-three at the Cleve Hill’s 18, Anderson was under duress. Weaving through Eagles defenders, he heaved the ball to the back of the endzone. Senior fullback Joey Burkowski was on the other end, leaping over two defenders to come down with the touchdown, cutting the deficit to one before the two-point conversion.
“We have to make a play when it’s crunch time,” said Burkowski. “Fourth down…you can’t get any bigger than that. He threw it up. He had a lot of faith in me and I had to come down with the catch.”
“It was supposed to be a hitch out to the left, but I saw nothing over there,” said Anderson. “So he just ran across the field and I saw him in the middle and I threw it up for him.”
Even with senior David Lebron as the kicker, who made 1 of 2 on the day, Ostempowski admitted that he and co-head coach Jeff Sabatino were thinking about going for two the entire drive.
“In the back of my mind, I knew we were going to go for it,” said Ostempowski. “The decision of the play call took me a while. I probably went through three or four plays. I didn’t want to second guess myself, so I went with the play I was originally thinking.”
On the opposite sideline, Cleveland Hill head coach Glen Graham knew what the JFK coaches were thinking.
“I just had the sense,” said Graham, who’s team dropped to the fourth seed in Class C North and will head to Salamanca for the first round of the playoffs next week. “I’d be the same way. Instead off taking it to overtime, try right there. It’s a great call. It’s a gutsy call.”
The game began as a grudge match, with Anderson and Cleve Hill’s Brandon Thomas trading rushing touchdowns in the second quarter to head into the half, 6-6.
On the second play of the second half, senior quarterback Jacob Radlich found senior fullback Jonathan Thomas wide open up the sideline as he outran the JFK defense 83 yards to put Cleve Hill in front. Radlich connected with junior Aaron Jackson for two to take a 14-6 lead.
The Bears would strike back as senior Zack Walkowski returned the ensuing kickoff 75 yards to paydirt. Anderson converted the two on a QB keeper to tie the game at 14-14 just over a minute into the half.
The Eagles would regain the lead when junior Wayne Jones caused a sack-fumble before Fareed-Muhammad scooped and scored from two yards out. Five minutes later, Radlich tossed his second touchdown to senior tight end Andre Krajewski from 15 yards out. Junior Jared Watkins caught the two-point conversion, giving Cleve Hill a 28-14 lead with 1:33 left in the third.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Anderson got JFK back into the game when he dropped back and rolled right from the six-yard-line before keeping it and diving toward the pylon. Lebron’s PAT cut Cleve Hill’s lead 28-21.
Jackson actually returned the following kickoff 70 yards for a touchdown for the Golden Eagles, but a blocking penalty brought the touchdown back. The teams traded turnovers over the next seven minutes of the game.
“At the coaching level, we haven’t beat them since 2006,” said Ostempowski. “They knew it was for a one seed. They knew it was Cleve Hill. Nothing else needs to be said.”
Going undefeated at home, JFK has won six straight games to win the division after opening the season with a loss at Fredonia.
“The second half of the Fredonia game…we knew if we’d play like that the entire season, we would be unbeatable,” said Anderson. “We continued to play like that throughout the season and took down powerhouse Cleve Hill.”
“We couldn’t ask for any better coaches, honestly,” said Burkowski. “They put tons of faith in us. This is ours, but we have to give a lot of credit to them. They put us in the position to win this game.”
This weekend, Class C North’s top seed JFK will host Cassadaga Valley, the fourth seeded team from C South.
Depew wins rivalry game with Lancaster, 21-13
by Mike Pidanick
In a legendary rivalry like Lancaster-Depew, there’s probably not much that hasn’t happened in the 85 years the game has been play.
But the opening minute on Friday night might have been something new even for this storied series.
Lancaster’s Mike Curran took the opening kickoff back 95 yards for a touchdown; Depew’s Brian Rybak responded with a 75-yard touchdown run on the Wildcats’ second play from scrimmage.
“Eleven minutes left on the clock in the first quarter and it was 7-7, that was pretty crazy,” Depew coach Brian Wilson said.
Alas, that 336-336 tie the teams were on pace for didn’t quite materialize. As most expected, it settled into your typical hard-fought Lancaster-Depew game, this one won by the Wildcats, 21-13.
“It feels amazing,” Depew quarterback Anthony Buono said. “The team did awesome, that was great, there’s nothing like that feeling.”
Curran sent the underdog Redskins on the way early on, taking the kickoff and sprinting down the left sideline untouched for a score that electrified the jammed home side of the field.
Rybak came right back, racing 75 yards down the other sideline for Depew’s first score.
“They scored right away, but I knew we weren’t out of it,” Rybak said. “They had the momentum going but I’m like, ‘You know what? We can take it right down the field right now. That’s exactly what we did and that’s exactly what we needed.”
Lancaster took advantage of a Depew special teams miscue when a low punt went off a Wildcats’ lineman and the Redskins took possession at the Depew 7-yard line. One play later, Kevin Colafranceschi found Matt Szymanski for a score.
The Wildcats took the lead for good at 14-13 on the final play of the half when Buono scored on a two-yard keeper.
Depew’s defense held from there and eventually Rodney Turner pushed the lead to eight with a 21-yard touchdown run late in the fourth.
“Lancaster-Depew, that’s what it’s supposed to be,” Wilson said. “Hard-hitting football both teams playing hard for 48 minutes, that’s what it’s all about. It was a great football game and we were fortunate to come out on top.”
Gioia field goal propels Timon to win over St. Joe’s
by Michael Straw
The scene was set. The contest between Bishop Timon and St. Joseph’s, the biggest game for both teams thus far this season, is tied at 14 late in the third quarter with the Tigers facing a fourth-and-12 from the Marauders’ 22-yard line.
Out from the sidelines comes the 5-foot-9, 255-pound junior kicker Tom Gioia to attempt a 39-yard field goal to give his team their second lead of the night.
“I was a nervous wreck because I missed a kick of that same distance against Williamsville South, but I knew I had to make it this time,” said Gioia.
The ball is snapped, the hold is placed with the laces out and Gioia makes the kick to give the Tigers a 17-14 lead. That field goal ended up being the deciding points as Western New York seventh ranked large school Timon improved to 5-2 and gave No. 2 St. Joseph’s their first loss. St. Joe’s is now 6-1.
It was Timon’s first win over St. Joe’s since 2002.
“This is probably the biggest victory since 2001 when (we) beat St. Francis,” Timon head coach Charlie Comerford said. “It’s great for our kids. We (coaches) told them to have fun and enjoy it, but we need them to come back down to Earth to prepare for Canisius.”
Leading by seven late in the second quarter with the ball inside the Marauders’ 10, Comerford decided to go for it on fourth and two instead of kicking the field goal and going up 10 at the half.
Comerford said the decision had nothing to do with lack of faith in his kicker.
“We actually go for on the field anywhere if it’s fourth and less than two,” he said. “It was a bad call on my part, we probably should’ve took the points, but I have supreme confidence in my team that if we got fourth or third and short our line would get a good push and get it.”
Gioia said that he was just happy that his coach showed enough faith in his abilities. He knew he’d get the chance if the opportunity arose to kick.
“It ended up paying off,” he said. “When we were in the locker room (at halftime), he told me that if it comes down to it, we’ll let you kick it. Then, yeah, he let me kick.”
Comerford said that he should give Gioia more chances.
“I think we hold Tommy back a little with sort of our gambling style,” he said. “We have confidence that Tommy can do it from anywhere on the field, and we’d probably have a lot more field goals if we kicked more often.”
Junior running back Adam DiMillo ran for 171 yards on 22 carries for the Tigers. St. Joe’s was led by junior Rod Payne, who ran for 94 yards and both touchdowns.
Cheektowaga stays unbeaten, outlasts Maryvale in OT
by Marquel Slaughter
Rivalry week. Senior Night. Undefeated season on the line. There could not be a bigger stage set for Cheektowaga to defend its home turf against the Maryvale.
It was a scoreless game until midway through the fourth quarter. After heading into overtime, junior running back Robert Pulley scored his second touchdown of the night as Cheektowaga was able to hold on in overtime 16-8.
“We talked before the game and they wanted to compete as a team,” said head coach Mike Fatta. “Today was a total team effort. I heard some guys coming off of the field saying this was the most fun they’ve ever had in a game.”
Cheektowaga finished the season Class B West champions, going 7-0 and earning a home game for the first round of the playoffs next weekend. Maryvale dropped to 3-4, with a 3-3 division record.
Having only drove a few minutes down Union Road for the road game, Maryvale waited until the very end of regulation before driving down the field in the closing seconds to take the game into overtime at 8-8.
The Warriors defense was able to regroup after giving up a score in the final seconds. After Pulley’s go-ahead touchdown in overtime, Preston Summers sealed the victory when he intercepted a pass intended for Flyers’ wide receiver Tyler Graham on the ensuing Maryvale drive.
“Coach told me to get on him,” said Summers, a junior defensive back. “He’s been eating us up all game. I just sunk in and went and got it.”
After what seemed to be the game-winning interception by Cheektowaga junior linebacker Louis Hyatt with 2:15 to play in regulation, the Flyers received one more chance with 1:09 left and no time outs.
Junior quarterback John Hewitt, who replaced senior Mike Wawrzyniak after the starter suffered an injury on the team’ first drive, connected with Graham multiple times on that 55-yard drive.
One of them included a fourth-and-three at Cheektowaga’s 37, where Graham caught a 19-yard jump ball at the 17-yard-line.
The next catch was for a touchdown, as Hewitt struck a triple-covered Graham in the numbers to cut the lead to 8-6. On the two-point conversion, Hewitt rolled left and hit a leaning Graham, falling over the pylon while keeping control of the ball to tie Cheektowaga 8-8 with nine seconds left.
“We just had to pick our heads up and go for it in the next round,” said senior lineman James Hanners about his defense after they could not close the game in regulation.
With feature players Marquel Jackson and Joshua Jones unable to play, Pulley got the start at running back and rushed for 147 yards.
“The line did a great job,” said Pulley. “That’s what they do. We all played really hard. We just wanted this win really bad.”
The first of his two scores came with 6:04 in the game to break the scoreless tie.
Cheektowaga gained momentum after converting a fourth-and-three from its own 27. As the team’s punter, Pulley usually rushes outside of the pocket to kick the ball. But instead of kicking this time, he kept the ball and gained seven yards to move the chains.
Pulley’s number continued to be called for the remainder of the drive before finally punching it in at the 1-yard line to give Cheektowaga the 8-0 lead.
“We just told them to keep the faith,” said Fatta. “We went into our jumbo formation and told them we’re going to run two plays. We’re going to run right up the middle all the way down the field. I think they enjoyed the physicality of that and they gutted it out at the end.”
“Our mentality was to punch it down their throat,” said Hanners. “If we wanted it more, we could get it in.”
The Cheektowaga Warriors, the No. 2 seed in Class, will open up the playoffs at home against the seventh seed, Lewiston-Porter, whom they defeated 52-6 in Youngstown in Week 6.
Despite Price injury, West wins Battle of Kenmore
By Dave Ricci
Alex Price was in the thick of the plot in more ways than one. Price, a junior, rushed for 160-yards and scored two touchdowns as his MVP performance led Kenmore West to a hard fought 13-10 win over Kenmore East in the Battle of Kenmore football game that took place at "Sparky" Adams Field on Oct.13.
But it's what happened to Price during the final minute of the game that had everyone buzzing and social media lit up. With 36 seconds left in the game, Price took a hand-off from West QB Adam Fron and hit the line hard looking for a hole to break through. But all Price found was a wall of humanity as he ran head-first into a scrum that had no give, and he crumbled to the grass.
Price may have gotten his face mask grabbed as well.
“It was awful," said East junior Preston Smith who had a clear view of the play. “Immediately right when he got hit, you knew he was gone. He dropped the ball, fumbled. It was an awful moment for both sides."
“It was scary. Real scary," said West senior lineman Greg Howell. “He's a big part of our offense and I wish him the best because he's a good kid."
West coach Rich Harris agreed, saying they are all part of the Ken-Ton family and care about each other. East coach Matt Chimera echoed Harris' words and wished Price nothing but the best.
"I think it affects both teams really," Harris explained. "We're all from the same village, Kenmore. We're all right here together so I think it affected both teams equally."
Trainers tended to Price while he lay on the grass as players, coaches and fans looked on hoping to see some sign of movement in Price's extremities. Price, fearing the worst, was actually trying to remain as still as possible until he was told otherwise. An ambulance arrived and paramedics immobilized Price's neck before placing him on a backboard then wheeling him off of the field to a round of applause from everyone.
"I let a little tear out because he's like a brother to me," said Price's best friend, LaQuan Salter. "I hope the best for him. I had to keep trying and I had to use it as adrenaline, basically and keep my motivation up."
Price reportedly suffered a chipped bone in his fifth vertebra. As of the day after the game on Sunday, he was resting comfortably at home and was expected to see a neurosurgeon on Monday for additional tests.
The Bulldogs actually recovered the ball after Price fumbled, which meant Ken-East had time for one more drive. A drive that was tough for both sides to focus on after the sobering sight of Price being wheeled off.
"It was pretty tough," Howell said. “I'm glad our defense just held it together and they really stepped up."
Early on, Ken-East was in good position to beat West for the first time since 2007 as they built a 10-0 lead.
East QB Connor McMahon, who was named his team's Offensive MVP, scored on a 5-yard bootleg with 6:38 left in the first quarter. The play was very similar to McMahon's game-winning TD against Starpoint a week earlier.
Preston Smith, who rushed for 102 yards, pounded the ball on the ground for the Bulldogs who
also got great work on the line from senior captain Jared Dolan (Defensive MVP). Troy Batts also came up with huge back-to-back tackles midway through the second quarter to stop a West drive.
Nick Juriewicsz’ 25-yard field goal made the score 10-0 and gave the Bulldogs all the momentum.
But with 1:47 remaining in the third, and the Bulldogs deep in their zone, McMahon handed off to Smith who was unable to maintain control after the transfer of the ball. West's Gary Halt, who shared the West Defensive MVP award with Howell, fell on the loose ball. Two plays later Price ran it in from the two-yard line, trimming the score to 10-7.
"It's always my understanding that the better team usually takes over in football in the second half," Harris said. "I said to everybody in the locker room, ‘let's calm down and play Kenmore West football in the second half and win the battle in the trenches.’"
With 7:04 to play, Price, on his fifth straight carry of the series, broke a 20-yard run to give Ken-West a lead they would hang on to. The win gives the Blue Devils a 35-17-2 edge in the series with the Bulldogs.
"Everyone's always aiming to win this one," Howell said. “So it's a big deal."
Warriors fall just short in final T-NT game at Small Stadium
By Dave Ricci
This rivalry game was supposed to be different. It was supposed to be Tonawanda’s year. The Warriors were playing in the last game at Clint H. Small Stadium, they believed they had the horses and NT was on its heels. This was the year they thought the losing streak to their rival would end.
however, fate once again stuck a dagger through the heart of the maroon and white as the Lumberjacks squeaked out a 17-14 win in the 103rd T-NT Classic that was played on Friday, Oct.12.
It was the final T-NT game to be played at Clinton H. Small Stadium before the historic venue moves to Tonawanda High School as part of a new complex that is slated to open next year.
Led by seniors Clayton Hess, Steven Warthling, Connor Pumm, Tyler Hughes and sophomore Tristian Boling, the Warriors, who hadn't won T-NT since a 24-21 victory in 2000, felt that this was their year. The Jacks were young and struggling to find their way. But it wasn't to be.
"It hurt but it was still a very good game. We were in it down to the last play," said Warthling, the standout lineman. "It could have went either way, any play of the game. We were right there, it's a building (block) for next year and years to come."
At quarterback, Hess, who perhaps more than anyone else wore his heart on his sleeve when it came to wanting to win this game, played as if his life were on the line. He completed 13 of 17 passes for 204 yards and two TD passes. He was a general on the defensive side of the ball as well at free safety.
Hess connected on the first of his two touchdown strikes when he found breakout rookie receiver Tristian Boling who made a juggling grab before falling out of bounds to give Tonawanda a 7-3 lead in the first quarter.
Christian Mahoe caught a screen pass from Chris Woodard and ran 37 yards to set up the first of Nehemiah Stone's two touchdown runs for NT.
Tonawanda retook the lead when tight end Connor Pumm caught two key passes on a scoring drive that included a six-yard TD from Hess. The Warriors went into the locker room with a 14-10 lead and momentum in its favor.
But Stone had T-NT dreams of his own as he would score the winning TD on a 16-yard pass from Woodard early in the third quarter.
The Warriors were threatening to regain the lead when they saw their drive stall after Luke Topolski picked off a Hess pass targeted to standout running back Hughes. A case could have been made that Topolski interfered with Hughes on the play.
Tonawanda's defense stood tall and tough when they stopped a Jacks drive early in the fourth. But even though the hard work from that defensive stand got the capacity crowd back in the game, the Warriors offense was unable to feed off of it.
Time ran out on the Warriors during their final possession and that was it – no celebration, no storming the field.
Though the Warriors didn't accomplish their ultimate goal of defeating NT, they can take pride in the fact they played in one of the tightest T-NT games ever. Just three seasons ago, NT had had come off consecutive 61-point wins over Tonawanda.
"It's a peculiar feeling because I'm miserable and depressed, but at the same time I'm so proud of our guys, proud to be their coach," said Warriors head coach Rob Gross. "The way they played, that's what T-NT is supposed to be – a game that goes down to the last play. And it's hard to have perspective one day or five days of distance, but if you look at the (T-NT) results of the recent past, it's progress. It doesn't feel any better; it doesn't make it any easier, but hopefully we can look back and say, ‘hey, this was progress.’ Obviously nothing can replace a win but we're holding up our end of the T-NT tradition and that's important."
Tonawanda proved they can compete with NT, which is especially important these days with all the talk of dissolving the T-NT game. This game was proof that the game and event should never be stopped. As well as the game, it was also about pride week with parades and bonfires.
It had all the makings of a Hollywood ending, but the game proved life isn't a movie. There isn't a writer there to pen the script. The game must be played out in between the lines. And in this case the Warriors left with broken hearts. However, they should never lose sight of the Warrior Pride that this program is built on.