SILVER CREEK - The low point was Sept. 8.
With a little more than two minutes remaining and a 12-7 lead in their Week Two battle with host Randolph, Silver Creek needed simply to run out the clock to clinch the hard-fought win. Instead, a fumble and a long touchdown pass - all in a span of about 15 seconds - led the Cardinals to a come-from-behind victory, 13-12, dropping the Black Knights to 0-2.
By Week Four, the squad was 1-3, and the season was on the brink.
OBSERVER?Photo by Roger Coda
Silver Creek’s Zach Klisiewicz (21) makes a reception before being tackled by Chautauqua Lake’s Adam?Carpenter?(40) and Anthony Pezzulo (53) during Friday’s Class D?high school football game.
"This could have been a disastrous season," Silver Creek coach Sean Helmer said.
Could have been.
Since that 1-3 start, the Black Knights haven't lost a game (outscoring their opponents 98-32 along the way), and with their convincing, 34-0 shutout of Chautauqua Lake on Friday, ended the regular season on a three-game winning streak to finish with a 4-3 record in Class D and earn a home playoff game against a to-be-determined opponent next week.
"It's important (to be hosting a playoff game)," Helmer said. "I'm really happy for the kids, especially for our seniors, but all of our kids, because we were 1-3 at one point and it would have been easy for them to give up."
It was those seniors that led the charge on a frigid Friday.
Zeddie Williams made plays on both sides of the football, knocking down a pass and intercepting one more on defense while also racking up a team-high 108 yards on 20 rushes and taking a 40-yard pass from quarterback Nick Iskra to paydirt in the third quarter. Tyler Bain, meanwhile, taking advanatage of Iskra's accurate passing, hauled in a pair of touchdown passes in the second half and fellow wideout Zach Klisiewicz caught four passes for 52 yards.
Iskra, a junior, went a perfect 4 of 4 in the second half, finishing with completions in 8 of 11 attempts for 130 yards with three touchdown strikes.
"Zed had a great game, Nick had a great game, Tyler Bain had a great game," Helmer said. "The seniors played really great tonight. We talked all week about earning another chance to play here, and our seniors earned that tonight."
Silver Creek had all the points it would need in the first quarter
after Williams ripped off a 30-yard touchdown run. Iskra then gave his squad a two-touchdown advantage in the waning moments of the first half when he hit Bain on a 9-yard post pattern in the end zone.
"(Nick's) accuracy and completion percentage were all great," Helmer said. "He's had a really good year. He's had some games where he's struggled a little bit, but when he can play the game and not overthink it (like he did tonight) he's really good."
The solid lead in hand, Silver Creek nevertheless kept the pedal to the floor in the third.
Following a Williams fumble on their first possession, the Black Knights defense responded by forcing a Chautauqua Lake three-and-out. Williams, evidently determined to make up for his turnover, returned the punt to the Thunderbirds' 44 and then two plays later tipped Iskra's slightly-too-high-pass to himself and weaved his way across the goal line to push the advantage to 21.
On the very next Chautauqua Lake possession, Williams intercepted Jeremiah Russin's pass, leading to a 15-yard touchdown grab by Bain.
Finally, it was the Silver Creek defense that came up big once again in the fourth when Tony Strong picked up a Thunderbird fumble and carried the ball 54 yards into the end zone.
"Coming out of halftime we fumbled," Helmer said, "but the kids didn't get their heads down and they really took the game over defensively. Our defense tonight was great. It's been absolutely fantastic the last two weeks."
Chautauqua Lake, which was held to 83 yards on 25 carries, had its best drive midway through the final period when Ryan Miller rushed nine yards for 33 yards to bring the Thunderbirds down to the Silver Creek 14. But they turned the ball over on downs and the Black Knights ran the final 1:56 off the clock for the victory.
Since starting 3-0, Chautauqua Lake has lost 3 of 4.
"We've just got to take a hard look at ourselves and ask the question: 'What did we sign up for? Did we sign up just to participate, or did we sign up to compete?'" Chautauqua Lake coach Dan Greco said of what it's going to take to turn things around. "Right now we're not competing so we'll have to see what the answer is when we watch film tomorrow."
Chautauqua Lake 0 0 0 0 - 0
Silver Creek 6 8 14 6 - 34
Sil - ZWilliams 30 run (kick failed).
Sil - Bain 9 pass from Iskra (ZWilliams run).
Sil - ZWilliams 40 pass from Iskra (kick good).
Sil - Bain 15 pass from Iskra (kick good).
Sil - Strong 45 fumble return (kick failed).