OBSERVER Staff Report
OLEAN - The Dunkirk Marauders (1-1) and head coach Rob Genco won their first game of the season, 34-28, Saturday against Olean and it couldn't have been much more suspenseful.
"Guys stepped up and made some big plays," Genco said. "It's all about them and I couldn't be happier for them. It's exciting for us."
In the last 40 seconds of the game, Dunkirk returned a punt 70 yards, had a player haul down a 26-yard catch on his only play of the game and scored the go-ahead touchdown with three seconds left on the clock.
With the game tied at 28, Olean booted a high, short punt. Both coaches were yelling for their players to back away from the ball.
Dunkirk's Marquel Ruiz, however, saw an opening and took it. He scooped the ball up and ran 70 yards down the sideline before being brought down at the Olean 27-yard line.
With time quickly running out and down to one timeout, Genco called upon receiver Lucas Lugen, who up until that point hadn't seen any game action.
All Lugen did was make an acrobatic catch in traffic to set the Marauders up with a first-and-goal from the 1-yard line.
"I just kind of made up a play," Genco admitted. "I had a vision of one of our guys dropping the ball, so I told (Lugen) what to do and the kid made an unbelievable catch. He was smiling ear-to-ear. It was great."
It wasn't all heroics and smiles for the Marauders though, as Dunkirk found itself on the short end of a 7-0 score after just one play - an Olean 68-yard touchdown pass from Chance Anzivine to Luke Hennessy.
Dunkirk answered right back with a long drive that ended in a Kevin Burns 1-yard touchdown run and it was marching down the field towards another score when the turnover bug bit.
The Marauders were establishing themselves as the dominant team on a 60-yard drive, but fumbled at the goal line.
Olean responded with a long drive of its own that ended in another big pass play, this one a 70-yard touchdown from Anzivine to Wil Bathurst.
"Some guys lost their jobs tonight," Genco said regarding the long plays. "But it was a great game."
Zach Torrain started what turned out to be a big day by capping a Dunkirk drive with a 5-yard touchdown plunge. The Marauders failed on the two-point conversion and trailed 14-13.
The Huskies continued their dominance through the air with a third touchdown - 19 yards from Anzivine to Bathurst - to take a 21-13 lead into halftime.
"A couple kids stopped believing," Genco admitted. "As a group they believed and it allowed us to do it. I was so proud of them to watch that happen before my eyes."
Dunkirk responded to the halftime deficit by opening the third quarter with a 58-yard touchdown drive that ended when Torrain took the ball in from 2 yards out. The two-point conversion tied the game at 21.
The defense started to come around too, which gave the Marauders the ball back quickly.
Genco called Torrain's number again and the senior running back answered the call by finding the end zone for a third time, this one from 16 yards out.
Torrain finished with 19 carries for 68 yards and three scores.
The Marauders were on the verge of icing the game when they took over with a 28-21 lead and drove down to the Olean 2-yard line. The drive stalled there and Olean took over with a chance to tie the game.
Tie the game is exactly what the Huskies did with a back-breaking 98-yard drive capped by a 16-yard pass from Anzivine to Max Portlow.
After both teams failed an attempt at the go-ahead score, Dunkirk's heroes stepped up.
First came the Ruiz punt return. Then there was the leaping grab by Lugen. To cap off the incredible night, Burns kept it himself, diving in from 1 yard out with 3.3 second remaining to give the Marauders the hard-fought victory.
Olean tried trickery on the final kickoff, but to no avail.
"Sometimes if you're not winning, they don't believe," Genco concluded. "But a win certainly helps."
NOTES: Burns finished with 10 rushes for 49 yards and 7 of 16 through the air for 118 yards ... Ruiz rushed six times for 52 yards and hauled in three catches for 64 yards ... As a team, Dunkirk rushed 44 times for 232 yards.