ALLEGANY - Allegany-Limestone (5-3) certainly had its chances, but in the end, the Fredonia Hillbillies (6-2) caught most of the breaks in rallying past the Gators, 7-6, Friday in night in Section 6 Class C high school football quarterfinal action.
"We did catch some breaks," Fredonia coach Bob Ball said with a sigh of relief. "You have to have some luck go your way in the playoffs. They are a great team. If we play them 10 times we win five and lose five. To be able to come on the road and win two of two is pretty good. I think we are evenly matched. We are equal all the way around."
Trailing 6-0 late in the fourth quarter and the Fredonia offense unable to generate any offense, it finally got things going on its final drive. With just more than four minutes to play, the Hillbillies embarked on a 13-play, 84-yard drive capped off by a Zach Buckley 1-yard touchdown plunge with 1:14 remaining.
"He really didn't get a lot of practice this week," Ball said of Buckley, who has been battling an ankle injury most of the season. "He didn't play at all last week. He is doing his best, but as a coach, I have to know when to put him in and pull him out. I thought it worked out."
On the drive, Fredonia converted two third-down chances and a 4th-and-2 from the Gators' 9-yard line with 1:58 remaining.
The heart-stopping drive nearly came to an end early as Weston Ley's pass down the middle of the field was right in the hands of Allegany-Limestone's Dakota Woodgie at Fredonia's 20-yard line. However, the ball slipped through his hands to give the visitors life.
Another key play in the drive came on first down when Ley's pass was caught by a diving Jude Gardner for a 29-yard pass down to the Gator's 16-yard line.
Before that drive, the closest Fredonia got was to the 37-yard line.
"We started hitting some passes," Ball said of the drive. "Their defense, it's hard to call a running play when they are beating you one-on-one every play. That's what they were doing for three quarters. Everywhere we tried to run, they were beating us. Then they were jamming our receivers, taking away the quick passes and we couldn't hit the deep pass. They had a great defensive plan called."
After Buckley's score, Trent Thompson hit the crucial extra point for the 7-6 advantage with 1:14 remaining.
"Our extra point has been there all year," Ball said. "We have missed two out of 20."
The Gators' final drive started at their own 9-yard line. The passing of quarterback Kyle Stover to receiver Todd Mason was effective as the duo helped march the home team down the field, highlighted by a 29-yard strike to set up first down from the Hillbillies' 11-yard line. After a pass interference call and an incomplete pass, the Gators tried for a 23-yard field goal with :2.3 left. The ball was bobbled by the holder and recovered by Fredonia as the clock struck zero.
"We were kind of caught between playing our regular defense or going to a prevent," Ball said of the final drive. "I thought the prevent was there. It's not something you get to practice a lot. At the end, I thought Matt McCarthy made two great plays. I thought he came up big in the end. They had their chances and we had our chances."
The Gators had a chance to score on their opening drive of the game as they marched down the field. However, Tyler DiRusso intercepted a Stover pass in the end zone to halt the drive.
"That was a big play," Ball said. "We had scouted that play. They have gone to it a few different times. Tyler made a nice play on it. Those are the kind of plays you have to make to stay in the game."
The Gators got on the board midway through the second quarter as Trevin Barber finished off a nine-play, 28-yard drive with a 2-yard run. A failed extra point left the score 6-0. The Gators got great field position to start the drive thanks to a Todd Mason 37-yard punt return.
Weston Ley finished with 90 yards on 29 carries to lead the offense. Torry Grupa paced the defense with 10 tackles.
"We just couldn't win the one-on-one battles," Ball said. "They beat us all over the field. When we did finally get a one-on-one, they made the tackle. We couldn't get outside and we couldn't run the middle. They won the one-on-one battles. Their defense was better than our offense tonight. Everything is said and done. We got the win. Our kids played with a ton of heart. I can't say enough about them. It could have gone either way."