The Lockport Lions kept their finger in the Orchard Park offensive dam for almost three quarters Saturday, but the levee inevitably broke wide open and the visiting Quakers walked away with a convincing 42-21 victory over the Lions in the Section VI Class AA opener for both schools.
Several thousand high school football fans attended the see-saw, mistake-filled opener at Max D. Lederer Field — the Quakers’ first official contest since capturing the state AA title a year ago.
Head coach Gene Tundo’s team was their own worst enemy throughout with interceptions and fumbles. The Lions capitalized and even held a brief lead, but in the end, OP quarterback Benjamin Holmes (8-for-12 passing, 190 yards, 2 TDs) and running back Mitchell Wilson (21 carries, 217 yards, 2 TDs) were too much for head coach Greg Bronson’s Lions.
“Our offensive line manhandled theirs and our backs ran through some big holes,” said Holmes, as his team finished with 356 rushing yards on 40 carries (8.9 yards pc). “Mitchell and Jett (Modkins, 5 rushes, 35 yards, 2 TDs) did a good job of moving the ball.”
The Quakers wasted little time asserting themselves, marching 80 yards in just three plays. Holmes did it all, running twice for 16 yards, then on first and 10 at the OP 36, danced around in the pocket, rolled right, then found sophomore tight end Jake Cullen wide open for a 64 yard touchdown pass. Tim Wagner booted the PAT and before Betty Newton started serving the hotdogs in the concession stand, the visitors led, 7-0.
Later in the first quarter, OP senior wide receiver Raphael Pagliei took a second down handoff from Holmes at the LHS 37 and ran it down to the Lockport 5-yard-line. Wilson rumbled in on the next play and with 2:10 left in the first, OP led, 13-0.
Lockport bounced right back on their next possession. On third and two at their own 45, Chambers took a handoff right, bounced way outside, then took it up the right sideline 55 yards for a touchdown. Senior Kyle Few added the PAT and it was now 13-7 Quakers.
Then came one of the most unusual plays you’ll ever see on any football field. Wilson took a handoff up the middle on OP’s next offensive play from his own 20 and was gone — I mean gone — splitting the LHS defense and racing to the end zone. But suddenly, with no one left to stop him, Wilson dropped the ball. Lions junior Josiah Chandler recovered and the Lions, along with their faithful fans, breathed a temporary sigh of relief.
On the first play of the second quarter, Chambers (15 rushes 180 yards, 2 TDs) took a handoff from junior quarterback Dan Bronson (6-for-9 passing, 76 yards; 20 yards rushing) and cut right, racing 65 yards for a TD. Few’s kick was perfect and the Lions led 14-13.
Maintaining the momentum, Lockport’s defense stiffened. LHS senior defensive back Will Diebel delivered a well-timed crushing hit on OP wide receiver Austin Goltz, jarring the pass incomplete to help stop that drive.
However, the Lions punted the ball away and nearly averted another Quakers score when Modkins fumbled the ball out of the end zone.
But after Chambers fumbled and the Quakers recovered deep in Lockport territory, OP’s Goltz fumbled and LHS senior Mitchell Evans recovered.
The Quakers held the Lions on downs and with just 17 seconds left in the half, Holmes tossed a 20-yard TD pass to Goltz. Goltz added a two-point conversion run and the half, OP led, 21-14.
Junior Jason Doice intercepted Bronson to open the second half and four plays later, Modkins ran it in from four yards out. Wagner’s PAT made it 28-14.
Refusing to quit, the gritty Lions cut the OP lead to 7 again, 28-21, marching 62 yards on a 10-plays, capped by junior Moziah Townsend’s 1-yard plunge.
That’s as close as the Lions would get however, as Wilson scored on a 34-yard TD run and Modkins added a 10-yard TD run. Two additional Wagner’s PATs rounded out the scoring.
“We can live with it,” coach Bronson said after the game. “We knew going in that in order to be competitive we would need to play close to perfect and show efficiency for a full game and obviously we didn’t do that. Our efficiency was there when everything was going well, but it dwindled a little when we were challenged.”
Lions senior wide receiver R.D. Hillman enjoyed a good day with five catches for 61 yards. Senior Tom Furlong added two sacks.
OP won the junior varsity contest, 56-6 ... LCTV broadcast the game live with announcers Danny Sheehan and West End favorite John Lombardi ... veteran Norm Palmer and his trusty sidekick Becky Palmer broadcast the game live on 1340 AM WLVL Radio ... The referee was Bruce Hoffman, umpire was George Reeser, linesman was Corey Brachmann and the line judge was Joe Jastrzemski.