Quakers beat the Lions, 33-16, in AA semifinal mudbath
By John D'Onofrio Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
The only high school football miracle that occurred this time around at Max D. Lederer Field was that nobody was seriously injured on an almost unplayable muddy, soupy field.
Other than that, things on Saturday afternoon went about as well as the odds said they would.
Defending-state AA champion Orchard Park will make its 11th Ralph Wilson Stadium title game appearance in the last 12 years this weekend after bouncing back to beat Lockport, 33-16, in their sectional semifinal.
Coach Greg Bronson’s Lions (6-3) dominated throughout the first two quarters and led by 10, 16-6, but the Quakers (8-1) rallied around a halftime speech by senior lineman Chris Sanfilippo (2 tackles for a loss) to score four touchdowns without an answer.
“Chris is the heart of this team,” said OP senior quarterback Ben Holmes (15 carries, 150 yards, 2 TDs). “He said, ‘Seniors. This could be your last game. You don’t want to go out on the bottom.’ Then he said, ‘Juniors, you gotta play like this is your last game, too.’ I love my team.”
Coach Gene Tundo’s Quakers, the No. 2 seed from AA South, advance to play the only team that beat them, Jamestown, the top seed in AA South in the class title game at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Ralph.
For head coach Greg Bronson’s Lions, the loss put an end to an exciting division-championship season that included last week’s record-setting AA quarterfinal comeback victory over visiting Clarence, 42-35, in a game Lockport trailed 27-0.
“We came out and played well in the first half,” said Lions senior Seth Anderson, who recovered a fumble for the second straight game and was in on a safety. “Then we came out flat in the second half. We just didn’t get it done.”
Lions senior James Chambers, a Connolly Cup nominee, was the lone spark offensively for Lockport, completing his exceptional season with 29 carries for 185 yards and two touchdowns. He opened the scoring just over a minute-and-a-half into the game, running 83 yards down the right sideline for a TD. Senior Kyle Few’s PAT gave the hosts a 7-0 lead.
The Quakers responded about six minutes later as senior Mitchell Wilson (27 carries, 248 yards, 3 TDs) burst up the middle and out-sprinted everyone 41 yards to pay dirt. OP tried for two, but Wilson was stuffed at the line of scrimmage and the Lions still led 7-6.
After a Few punt pinned the Quakers down to their own 1 midway through the second quarter, Anderson and Chambers tackled Wilson in the endzone for a two-point safety, upping their lead to 9-6 and getting the ball right back.
The Lions promptly marched 53 yards on six plays, capped by Chambers’ 9-yard run to the left side. Few’s PAT gave the hosts a promising 16-6 lead at halftime.
After work crews tried dumping dozens of bags of Quickdry to try and get the field in a more playable condition, the second half was all Quakers.
On their first play from scrimmage in the third quarter, Holmes burst up the middle and raced 77 yards for a score. Senior Tim Wagner’s extra point kick cut the Lions’ lead to 16-13.
Just four minutes later, the Quakers went up for good, marching 80 yards on 13 plays, capped by Holmes’ 2-yard dive into the endzone. Lions junior Malik Harden, playing inspired ball throughout 2012, blocked the PAT, but OP led for the first time, 19-16.
The Quakers closed the show with Wilson’s second TD of the game, a 7-yard run, and Wilson’s third score, a 20-yard run, in the fourth quarter.
Tundo praised his offensive line after the game. “You guys dominated. You were the X-factor,” he said. “I think the turning point was what Chris had to say at halftime.”
Offensive and defensive stalwart Tom Furlong spoke on behalf of all the Lockport seniors who played their final game. “Every day was fun and a challenge. At practices, games, or just hanging out with the lineman — I’ll never forget it.”