Wolverines win first of year over Lockport at the Sal
By John D'Onofrio Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
NIAGARA FALLS —
A dismal Niagara Falls start to Saturday’s Class AA football contest made way to a hard-fought, deserving Wolverines comeback victory on Homecoming.
Senior defensive back Daquire Simmons intercepted a Tyler Fraass pass and raced 55 yards to pay dirt on the first play of the fourth quarter, lifting Niagara Falls over the visiting Lions, 22-16, at sunny, fan-friendly Sal Maglie Stadium.
With the band playing and fans stomping their feet in the stands, Simmons’ TD capped a 10-point, second-half comeback for head coach Don Bass’ Wolverines, who entered the game 0-3 both in the division and overall and found themselves trailing the Lions (1-2 AA North, 2-2 overall) throughout the first three quarters.
“We wanted to give our fans something to cheer about today,” Bass said. “We made some early mistakes, but they realized what they did and settled down. We just played football. We thought going in that we were evenly matched. We just needed to stop turning the ball over.”
A high snap over Wolverines junior quarterback Daveon Cook’s head just three plays into the game sailed out of the end zone and gave Lockport an early 2-0 lead.
On their ensuing possession, Lions junior tailback Nick Hamilton turned a broken play into an ESPN highlight reel, running north, south, east and west, racing 44 yards down the left sideline to the end zone. Sophomore Brandon Few hit the first of two extra points on the day and the Lions looked like they were running away with it, leading 9-0 before the pizza arrived.
The tide started to turn in the second quarter when the Wolverines marched 52 yards on six plays, capped by Cook’s 13-yard TD run. The Niagara Falls conversion run attempt failed, but the Lockport lead was cut to 9-6 at halftime.
Another bad snap and turnover by the Wolverines early in the second half gave Lockport the ball and a short field to work with. Fraass (13 of 26, 167 yards, TD) and the Lions’ offense promptly took advantage, going 34 yards on five plays, capped by Charlie Sobieraski’s 12-yard TD catch off a tipped pass. Sobieraski had his best varsity start at wide receiver, catching five passes for 54 yards and a TD.
Trailing 16-6, Niagara Falls responded with their best drive of the day, marching 69 yards in nine plays. Cook and junior running back Shaolin McCray (18 carries, 93 yards) took turns churning up big chunks of yards on the ground en route, but Cook went to the air for the score, tossing a 21-yard TD pass to senior Amir Myles, who did an outstanding job of keeping his feet in bounds on the perfect throw. McCray’s conversion run cut the Lions’ lead to 16-14.
“We played as a team today. Everyone did what they were supposed to do — on blocks and runs. We made it happen,” McCray said. “We were confident today. We knew we were going to get this W from Day One.”
Simmons’ INT and winning TD came on the first play of the fourth quarter. After that, the Niagara Falls defense mopped up, sacking Fraass numerous times throughout the game’s final 12 minutes to preserve the lead.
“Our defense is second to none,” Bass said. “We were physical and fast to the ball. It was important for us to win. These kids have been working hard and it’s nice to see some of the fruits of their labor pay off for them.”
Besides Simmons’ pick, other Wolverines interceptions were recorded by Cook and Myles.
“Congratulations to them and especially coach Bass. This is another step in the process for them,” said Lions head coach Greg Bronson. “To take an 0-3 team and to get them to play so hard and so well — that’s not an easy thing to do.”