Early scores the difference in defensive battle at the Max.
By John D'Onofrio Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Three Frontier touchdowns and a safety in the game’s first 13-and-a-half minutes was all the visiting Falcons needed Saturday to beat Lockport, 23-0, in a Section VI Class AA showdown at waterlogged Max D. Lederer Field.
The biggest large-school football game in Western New York this weekend was a dominating one for head coach Tim Myslinski’s Falcons, who improved to 3-0 in AA and are 3-0 overall. Head coach Greg Bronson’s Lions dropped to 1-1 in AA and are 2-1 overall.
“Our defensive coordinator did a great job of getting these guys ready to play a very good offense,” Myslinski said. “There were a couple of times where I watched (senior linebacker) A.J. Licata in the backfield and I thought he was in their huddle on the play. It’s a testament to our coaching staff. To put that goose egg up — granted it was a sloppy game — but a great job by my defensive coaches.”
Last week’s upset win at Orchard Park seemed like an eternity ago for the Lions, as they needed a full quarter and a half to get their offense on track, finally getting their initial first down with just five minutes to go before halftime.
By then, Frontier had already scored all the points it would need in the game. Under a steady rain, the visitors took a 2-0 lead less than four minutes in when Lions junior running back Nick Hamilton (14 carries, 46 yards) was tackled in the endzone for a safety by Falcons senior defensive back Brandon Wilczewski.
Moments later, after Lockport fumbled the ball away, Frontier senior quarterback Tyler Gaglia (5 of 12 passing, 63 yards, TD) snuck in from a yard out and the first of three Adrian Cannon extra points made it 9-0 visitors with 4:04 left in the first quarter. A well-executed 26-yard screen pass from Gaglia to senior Kenny Kahler on third and 24 from the Lions’ 27 set up that score.
“Coming off our win last week against Niagara Falls, we didn’t want to get our heads too big,” Gaglia said. “We came in and faced a very good Lockport team today and really took it to them. Kenny was absolutely stellar taking on their big linebackers. He lowered his shoulder and did a great job for us.”
A second straight Lockport turnover resulted in another Frontier score. Six plays after senior safety Kevin Hamilton intercepted Lions junior quarterback Tyler Fraass (2 of 18 passing, 22 yards, 2 INTs), Falcons junior running back Paul Brinkel (6 carries, 23 yards, TD) rumbled in from the 2 and with 26.2 seconds left in the first quarter, Frontier led 16-0.
Backed up inside their 10, the Lions went three-and-out. A subsequent punt by Fraass from his endzone was blocked on the first play of the second quarter and three plays later, Gaglia hit a wide open senior tight end Alex Licata in the endzone with a 1-yard pass to make it 23-0 to round out the scoring with a huge chunk of change (10:36) left in the second quarter.
“One of the things we talked about at practice this week was ‘Should we get a punt team?’ then we said, ‘Okay, we’re not going to punt’ and we didn’t,” Bronson said. “I think we punted one time. That’s the way they’re going to learn. We’ve got a style of football we want to play and you don’t run scared when things are going bad.
“We struggled a lot offensively. We weren’t handling their pressure well and we had a few opportunities to make plays and we didn’t,” Bronson said.
“Tyler’s trying to do the best he can. He sort of has the weight of the world on his shoulders. After you perform how he did the week before, then you come out and it doesn’t go as well, it’s just a natural tendency to get down and I think that happened to the entire team. We played so well last week and it’s difficult to maintain that. We were sky high and we talked about being one week wonders and we were. We weren’t consistent enough in how we prepared and how we executed.”
For the remainder of the first half and throughout the second half, the game turned into a defensive battle with neither team able to find the endzone. The Lockport field turned to soup as well, as it does even after a minor rainfall, which contributed to the remaining see-saw possession game.
“I thought that defensively, we answered the call,” said Lions senior lineman Marshall Taylor. “The score didn’t match how our defense played. It should have only been around 9-0, but we were stuck in some tough spots at times.”
Added Lions’ sophomore linebacker D’Andre Jenkins, “We didn’t play as well in the first half as we did in the second half, but as the game went on we got more aggressive and did a good job defensively.”
Next up, the Lions return to AA action with a game at Niagara Falls at 2 p.m. Saturday, while Frontier plays at West Seneca West in its fourth straight AA contest.
Tonawanda 17, Newfane 7
NEWFANE — Two storied local football programs with identical divisional and overall records slugged it out in a persistent rain.
The Tonawanda Warriors held the Newfane Panthers to just six rushing yards in first half and 68 for the whole game, earning a 17-7 Section VI Class C North victory on Saturday afternoon.
With the win, head coach Rob Gross’ Warriors improved to 2-1 in C North and are 2-1 overall. Head coach Chuck Nagel’s Panthers fell to 1-2 in C North and are 1-2 overall.
Tonawanda’s defense caused five turnovers in the contest (3 interceptions, 2 fumbles). Connor Pumm, Corbin Snyder and Jordan Cifarelli had the picks and Tim Barnard had the fumble recoveries.
“It was a great team win today. Our defense dominated and our offense controlled the clock in the second half. We caused five turnovers and we didn’t have any,” Gross said.
“We have a swarming defense and a team mentality. We’re getting multiple helmets to the ball. If the opposing offense has success, guys don’t hang their heads, they make a play on the next down. I’m extremely happy with our defensive attitude. We’re playing 11-man defense.”
The visiting Warriors opened the contest with a 27-yard field goal from Pumm on a slick field. Pumm wasn’t through yet in the first quarter, intercepting a Josh Kneeland pass moments later and returning it 23 yards to pay dirt. Pumm’s extra point gave the Warriors a 10-0 lead after one quarter — a lead that held up to halftime.
Tonawanda upped its lead to 17-0 in the third quarter when Cifarelli hauled in a 26-yard TD pass from quarterback Chris Mara (7 for 10 passing, 91 yards, TD), who was making his first varsity start.
“We’re improving every week and getting better in all phases of the game,” Gross said. “I’m excited, too. We have to have a short memory and get even better this week. I’m proud of the way we’ve played. We have been physical and they’ve been great teammates. It’s fun to be the coach of this team.”
The Panthers avoided the shutout when junior running back Kyle Burdick (9 carries, 30 yards, TD) scored on a four-yard run. Panthers junior Kyle Guerriera’s extra pont rounded out the scoring.
“The weather neutralized us today,” Nagel said. “We had balls sliding all over the place and slipping out of our receivers’ hands. But we’ll be okay.”
Tim Barnard topped the Warriors with 106 yards on 28 carries. Defensively for Tonawanda, Paul Palladino recorded 9 tackles and Will Galley added 6 tackles, including 2 sacks.
For Newfane, their senior QB Kneeland finished 8-for-24 passing for 121 yards and 3 INTs. Kneeland also carried the ball nine times for 25 yards. Defensively, senior Nathan Auernhamer had 7 tackles, including a sack, while super sophomore Jake Kubala added 6 stops for the Panthers.