By GIB SNYDER III
OBSERVER Sports Reporter
Weston Ley's long touchdown run on the opening drive of the second half and a bend-but-don't-break effort from its defense keyed Fredonia's 14th straight win over arch-rival Dunkirk (2-5), as the Hillbillies (5-2) dropped the Marauders, 21-14, Friday night during non-league football action at the Orange Bowl.
OBSERVER?Photos by Justin?Goetz
At left,?Dunkirk’s Zach Torain runs with the ball during Friday’s non-league high school football game against arch-rival Fredonia. At right, Fredonia’s Nick Johnston, left, and Jude Gardner (26) stop Dunkirk’s Zach Torain.
"It was very nice," Fredonia head coach Bob Ball said of the win. "Our kids played hard and they played with a lot of heart and we had a little luck go our way too. But we hung on and our defense bailed us out in the end."
Down 21-14, Kevin Burns intercepted a Ley pass, and with the return, the Marauders had a drive start inside Hillbillies' territory at their 45-yard line. The Marauders made some progress down to Hillbillies' 32-yard line, but were stalled there as an ineligible man down field penalty and a sack put Dunkirk in a 4th-and-17 with time running off the clock. A last ditch hook-and-ladder was forced out of bounds and Fredonia was able to continue its 14-year reign over Dunkirk.
"That's the one thing after the game that I told them, no one can take away your guys effort, your energy and your heart," Dunkirk head coach Rob Genco said of his team. "The way they claw and fight, it's something to be proud of."
The Marauders got off to a quick start, scoring on the game's opening drive. Taking over on their own 37-yard line, the Marauders needed seven plays to get on the board, as Zach Torain went in from three yards out, helping Dunkirk to a 6-0 lead with 9:28 left in the first quarter.
"I think it set the tone like, 'Hey, we're here to play,'" Genco said. "And we just ran right up the field. We ran power all the way down just to let them know that we can play football too."
After forcing the Hillbillies to punt on their first drive, the Marauders got a nice return from Marquel Ruiz to the Fredonia 33-yard line, but Dunkirk was unable to take advantage of the field position, turning the ball over on downs.
The Hillbillies took advantage, putting together a five-play, 67-yard drive that was highlighted by Tyler Cassidy's 40-yard touchdown run. Trent Thompson added the extra point to put the Hillbillies up, 7-6, with 4:41 left in the opening quarter.
"We made the adjustments defensively and did what we needed to do," Ball said. "Our offense came right back and punched it in. You need to answer back to that. That's big."
With Dunkirk driving inside Fredonia territory, Ley was able to come up with the Hillbillies' lone turnover of the game, stripping Marauders' quarterback Kevin Burns at the end of a decent run on a sweep to the right sideline, giving Fredonia a drive start at its own 41-yard line.
Once again, the Hillbillies took advantage of the opportunity, running off an 11-play, 59-yard scoring drive punctuated by a three-yard plunge by Ley with 9:52 left in the first half. Thompson added his second extra point for a 14-6 lead.
"It was another competitive game for us right down to the last drive," Genco said. "It's heart breaking to lose when we had our opportunities and we kept fighting, it just didn't work out our way."
After the Ley touchdown, the Marauders began the ensuing drive at their own 44-yard line. Seven plays later, they found themselves with a 3rd-and-1 at the Hillbillies' 4-yard line. Unfortunately for Dunkirk and its fans on hand, Burns was unable to pick up the yard the Marauders needed on both third and fourth down, as they turned the ball over to the Hillbillies.
"That could have helped us," Genco said. "The kids came off the field and said that's what they wanted to do. We just didn't fire off the ball and they got underneath us and Kevin just didn't have anywhere to run. That's what we wanted to run and we couldn't get three inches and that's a credit to (Fredonia)."
Neither team was able to score before the break, and after Fredonia began the second half with a drive start at its own 20-yard line, the Hillbillies needed just four plays before Ley broke off a 67-yard jaunt to the end zone that proved to be the difference on the scoreboard.
"That was a big one," Ball said of Ley's touchdown to begin the second half. "To come out in the third quarter, our first series, we stretched it out to the right, Weston made a good run and once he got that first five or six yards of blocks, he made a great run after that. And that gave us the touchdown we needed to hang on at the end for our defense."
"We had a mixed up coverage," Genco noted of the Ley touchdown run. "We had a guy go the wrong way and that's all he needed. With an athlete like Ley, you make a mistake and he makes you pay for it."
Ley finished with 167 yards on 19 carries to lead the Hillbillies' rushing attack.
Not to be outdone, however, the Marauders put together a 13-play, 80-yard scoring drive, finished by Torain's second score of the night, this one a 1-yard run up the middle. Torain finished his final Dunkirk-Fredonia game with 121 yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns.
"I should have given him the ball 30 times, because he would have done it for us," Genco said of Torain. "But the way (Fredonia) was clogging it up, it was just a good adjustment. They were knifing their backers into all the 'A' gaps and jamming up our guards. We had to spread it out and keep them honest and then we went back to him."
Burns found Jared Miernik for the two-point conversion, putting Dunkirk within one possession of the Fredonia lead at 21-14 with 2:55 left in the third.
From there it was a defensive battle, as neither team allowed much of anything the rest of the way until a late Burns' interception set Dunkirk up with what could have been a game-tying or game-winning drive.
"We were bend and not break," Ball said of his defense. "They got some touchdowns and made some plays, made some pass plays on us, but when we needed it, when our backs were against the wall, we came up."
Fredonia will likely be at Allegany-Limestone next week when the Section 6 Class C playoffs begin while Dunkirk will have a non-league game against a non-league opponent.
"I congratulate Dunkirk on their effort (Friday)," Ball said. "I think their coaches did a great job all season long. I just met Rob (Genco) for the first time (Friday) and I congratulated him on the job he's done this year."
NOTES: Cassidy finished with 101 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown ... Cody Smith led Fredonia with 15 tackles and a sack ... Nick Nocek had 11 tackles and a sack in the win ... Burns finished with 34 yards on 12 carries and an interception on defense ... Torain had eight tackles to go with his 121 rushing yards and two touchdowns ... Nick Bomasuto finished with eight tackles ... Lucas Lugen had seven tackles and a sack ... Miernik finished with 33 yards receiving and seven tackles on defense ... Josh Gallardo finished with seven tackles for the Marauders while Edgardo Pryll chipped in a fumble recovery.