Before Friday night's Class B South high school football game between Dunkirk and Olean, Marauders coach Tim Majka said the law of averages will eventually turn in their favor.
Unfortunately for the Maroon, the law of averages is still against them as they fell 35-21 to the Huskies.
After the Marauders tied the score 7-all early in the third quarter, Olean scored three touchdowns in a matter of 2:22 to build a 28-7 lead.
OBSERVER?Photo by Roger Coda
Dunkirk’s Gage Austin dives for a first down during Friday’s Class B?South high school football game against Olean.
"I told the guys after the game, we are right there," Majka said, perplexed. "It's all right there for us. I looked in their eyes and they believe it. I can't wait to get back to work Monday with them and watch film on Depew and see what we can correct."
Olean opened the game with a touchdown on its opening drive for a quick 7-0 lead, but the Marauders played strong the rest of the half.
The home team could not get much going offensively in the first 12 minutes as it was plagued by 25 yards worth of penalties.
But in the second quarter, the Marauders only had five penalty yards and maintained possession of the ball for the first eight minutes as they marched down the field bit by bit. Unfortunately, the drive was halted by an interception in the end zone.
"I don't think I would do anything differently," Majka said about the drive. "The ball was right there in the receiver's hands. It's disappointing not to come away with points there. (The points) were there for us to take and we didn't take advantage of that."
In the second half, the Marauders took their opening drive right down the field using a running game featuring cutbacks and a lot of running back Rashad Graham. Austin capped off the drive with a 1-yard plunge for the score and a 7-7 tie.
"Our offense ran a heck of a lot better and a lot smoother tonight," Majka said. "I think coach (Jim) Quinn did a great job of calling plays tonight. We are going to keep plugging away. We will get one eventually."
However, from there it was all Olean.
It took the visitors just two minutes to regain the lead as Wil Bathurst caught a 16-yard touchdown reception for a 14-7 lead. On Dunkirk's ensuing possession, Olean's Dante Tarr intercepted an Austin pass and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown. After a Dunkirk 3-and-out, the Huskies used a 54-yard reception to set up a 6-yard touchdown run from Tarr to balloon the lead, 28-7.
"They are an explosive team," Majka said. "Tarr is a great athlete and Bathurst is hard to stop. They are explosive. It wasn't a surprise at all (they started passing the ball). We proved in the first half we were on to their game. We were schemed well for them and their run game."
"I thought we would pull through," Austin added. "It's a tough loss."
With 8:05 left in the fourth quarter, Graham had a pick-6 of his own as he intercepted a pass at Olean's 18-yard line and took it into the end zone to cut the deficit, 28-14.
However, a 36-yard touchdown pass to Olean's Jaryd Plaud gave the Huskies a commanding 35-21 lead.
Graham rushed for another touchdown late in the game.
Graham had a stellar game as he rushed for 147 yards on 23 carries and had two touchdowns - including the interception return.
"We have seen it from him," Majka said of Graham's potential. "He got some carries last week and we came in with the mindset to get him the ball a little more. He is tough to stop. He is a good field runner with good vision. It's definitely a bright spot going forward."
Austin finished 4-for-12 in the air for 30 yards with two interceptions.
"Gage did a great job," Majka said. "Outside of one or two, he was on target all night and we didn't help him out a bunch of times. He did a really good job. He is very calm and doesn't let anything rattle him. He loves being in the moment and being there."
Defensively, Lucas Lugen and Nate Skubis led the way with 10 tackles each. Nick Jones added a sack. Sam Pepe was a perfect 3-for-3 on extra point attempts.