By John D'Onofrio
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — LOCKPORT — With 10:06 left in the second quarter, the Lockport football Lions trailed Clarence 27-0 in their Class AA quarterfinal contest.
Head coach Mark Layer's Red Devils were nearly perfect, scoring four straight touchdowns — three in the first quarter —before a stunned and nearly silent Max D. Lederer Field crowd now thinking more about chicken wings than the double wing formation that was slicing mammoth holes through their shell-shocked defense.
But the large Lockport crowd that stuck around in the wet, cold rain waiting for the sun to break through the clouds finally got their wish — and in more ways than one.
Saturday afternoon's “Miracle at the Max” will go down as much more than a 42-35 Lions overtime victory over Clarence, but as the greatest comeback — playoff or otherwise — in Lions grid history.
Head coach Greg Bronson's Lions (6-2, 4-0 AA North) chipped away at Clarence's seemingly insurmountable lead with two touchdowns before halftime, then scored two straight times to open the fourth quarter to take a 28-27 lead.
The teams traded scores and went into overtime tied 35-35, before James Chambers scored his fourth touchdown of the game and the Lions defense held, advancing to host Orchard Park at 2 p.m. this Saturday in a AA semifinal.
“I can't say anything to you that speaks more than what just happened on this football field,” an emotional head coach Greg Bronson told his players after the game. “It doesn't get any better than this. Enjoy this.”
Senior back Ben Reinhardt (14 caries, 94 yards, 2 TDs) opened the scoring for the AA South's fourth seed (4-4, 2-3 AA South), running two yards for a touchdown. Senior Austin Zymroz's extra point made it 7-0 just 114 seconds into the game.
It was 14-0 five minutes later when Red Devils' junior back Emaure Williams (23 carries, 238 yards, 3 TDs) sprinted 70 yards to pay dirt, then 21-0 when Reinhardt plowed in from four yards out.
The AA North's top seed was moving the ball, but Clarence's defense stiffened yet again. The Red Devils opened the second quarter with a dominating four-play, 75-yard drive that was capped by Williams' 15-yard run around the left side.
Zymroz missed the point after, which seemed to give the Lions a little life. Junior quarterback Dan Bronson (13-23 passing, 214 yards, 2 TDs) promptly marched Lockport to its first score, tossing a 31-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver RD Hillman.
After senior Seth Anderson recovered a Red Devils fumble, Bronson marched the Lions 18 yards on three plays, capped by a one-yard dive on a direct snap by the electrifying Chambers (34 carries, 136 yards, 4 TDs). Senior Kyle Few's second straight PAT cut the Clarence lead to 27-14 at halftime.
“We made some adjustments, but basically I think we just all started stepping up and started playing more aggressively,” said Lions junior middle linebacker Moziah Townsend.
After a scoreless third quarter, the Lions brought the large crowd to its feet with an early fourth quarter touchdown, driving 80 yards on 21 plays, as Chambers ran left for a 4-yard score. Few's PAT cut the Clarence lead to just 27-21.
Once gain the Lions D came up big and forced a punt and that's when the Connolly Cup favorite Chambers picked the ball up at his own 10, cut left and followed great blocking 90 yards for a touchdown. Few's PAT gave the Lions their first lead, 28-27, with just 5:45 remaining.
Clarence got new life and responded with a five-play, 73-yard drive capped by Williams' 43 touchdown run. Junior QB Lex Oakes tossed a two-point conversion pass to senior Cristian Schuster and the Red Devils regained the lead, 35-28.
Lockport responded by driving 73-yards on seven plays. On 2nd and 10 at the Red Devils' 37, Bronson threw a pass to senior Tevye Maslowski on the right side. With the sun finally peaking through the dark clouds, Maslowski went up high to make a great catch, then high-stepped down the right sideline and into the endzone as Few's PAT tied the game, 35-35, with just under two minutes to go.
“I couldn't see the ball. The sun was right in my eyes,” Maslowski said. “I saw it at the very last second, caught it and ran as fast as I could to the endzone.”
Few had a chance to win the game, as the Lions defense forced a punt and Bronson drove them down to the Clarence 20. Few's 37-yard field goal in the mud with two seconds left in the game sailed wide right and the game went into overtime.
Lockport had first possession and Chambers burst in from a yard out to give them the lead. Clarence drove as far as the Lions' 15, but Oakes' fourth down pass fell incomplete and the Lions and their fans celebrated the win.
“It was a great high school football game,” Layer said. “We got out to a big lead, but Lockport's quarterback played outstanding. I thought our kids put up a good fight.”