LOCKPORT — A long pass that was tipped by a Lockport defender fell conveniently into the arms of streaking Niagara Falls' receiver Faybian Prather and the junior took it in stride 68 yards for the tie-breaking, winning touchdown in Saturday's 26-20 Section VI Class AA football win over Lockport at Max D. Lederer Stadium.
Wolverines junior quarterback Justin Humphrey-Goldsmith had a huge Opening Day in Lions' Country, tossing three touchdown passes, one each to Prather, junior Isaiah Reed and sophomore Ja'shawn Prather. Next up, head coach Don Bass' Wolverines will host Lancaster next Saturday.
But things weren't looking quite so positive for the Falls early on, especially after Lockport took the ball the length of the field to score the game's first touchdown. LHS senior quarterback Nick Cascia (17 of 43 passing for 214 yards, 2 INTs) tossed an 8-yard touchdown pass over the middle to a streaking senior receiver Martin Krayna to give the host Lions a 6-0 lead with 6:59 left in the first quarter (conversion run failed).
Things looked even better for the partisan home crowd when senior Santino Drake recovered a Wolverines fumble at midfield. Penalties and fumbles hurt the Falls throughout the first half, but Humphrey-Goldsmith kept his poise, the Falls' defense stiffened the rest of the way as the tide eventually started to turn.
“This was huge. I thought with the amount of turnovers we had, and the way we fought to stay together I was really proud of these young men,” Bass said.
“We were trying to make some adjustments and we gave the QB permission to check out some things — some were right, some were wrong — but that's what he does, Justin's got a great arm. He's worked hard in the offseason. He's only in 11th grade, so he's only going to get better. As soon as he learns how to read defenses, he's going to be fantastic.”
Falls senior Terry Gandy recovered a Lions' fumble at midfield with 9:09 to go in the see-saw second quarter on a Lions' pass play in which Cascia set the school's all-time passing completion record.
But this turnover finally paid dividends for the visitors, as Humphrey-Goldsmith (10 for 19 passing, 272 yards, 3 TDS, INT) tossed a long pass to Ja'shawn Prather that put them inside the Lions' 10.
Moments later, junior running back Zion Paige ran around the left side for the TD, but that was called back on a penalty. Junior Faybien Prather also ran it in for a touchdown, but that, too, was called back on a penalty. Humphrey-Goldsmith settled matters, tossing a 12-yard scoring pass to Reed. Humphrey-Goldsmith's extra-point kick attempt sailed wide left, but the game was tied 6-6.
After the Falls' defense stopped the Lions on downs at their own 3-yard-line. A Humphrey-Goldsmith screen pass to Paige (112 receiving yards) went for nearly 80 yards and the Wolverines were in business again. Humphrey-Goldsmith rolled right and tossed a short TD pass to Ja'shawn Prather with 1:11 to go in the first half (conversion run failed) to give NFHS a 12-6 lead.
The Keystone Kops arrived, as the Lions fumbled the ball away inside the Wolverines 10-yard-line with 6:20 left in the third, but LHS junior Tyrone McGill recovered a Falls' fumble on their first play and Lockport again had a first-and-goal at the four yard line. Lions' junior Julius Williams finished the drive with a 4-yard run, and though the conversion pass failed, the game was tied at 12-12 with 5:39 to go in third.
Humphrey-Goldsmith's long pass to Paige gave NFHS a first-and-goal inside the Lions' 5, but Drake, who played a strong game throughout, came up with a huge INT, stepping in front of a Humphrey-Goldsmith pass at the 3. However, the Falls defense answered right back when junior defensive back El-shaddal Ashley intercepted a pass at the LHS 32.Calem Chappelle banged it in from the 1 moments later and after a conversion run was successful, NFHS had the lead again, 20-12, with 8:19 left in the game.
“We feel good. We did well in our first game,” Chappelle said. “We had some ups and downs throughout the game. Hopefully, we can do the same thing against Lancaster next week that we did today. This was a very important game. We lost last year and they're our rival.”
Lions' head coach Trait Smith went to the trick playbook to tie the game. Drake tossed a long pass to Williams on a flea flicker and Cascia finished the drive with a short TD run, adding a conversion 2-point run that tied the game for the last time, 20-20, with 7:43 to go.
That set the stage for Humphrey-Goldsmith's long, winning TD pass to Faybien Prather.
“We had a lot of positives to pull from the game,” coach Smith said. “We got Orchard Park coming up next week. We'll take the positives and move on from there.”
GAME NOTES: Special thanks to Lockport's Homer Harrison for his assistance as a volunteer spotter ... The Lions-Wolverines game was a long one, lasting well over three hours in real time.