2001: Warriors Win Far West Regional
ROCHESTER - The Salamanca Warriors may have entered the Western Regional Championship game undefeated Friday night, but the undefeated Section 5 LeRoy team they faced was not only undefeated, but featured a senior-heavy roster of players with a state championship under their belts.
But Salamanca coach Rich Morton told anyone that would listen this week that the fact his team played in so many close games this season, the Warriors had the edge.
And oh how right he was.
Trailing LeRoy (10-1) by 10 points, 16-6 in the second half, Salamanca (11-0) answered with three straight scores and 22 unanswered points to escape with as 28-22 win at the University of Rochester.
Salamanca now plays Sunday, Nov. 25 at 5 p.m. in the Syracuse Carrier Dome in the state semifinals.
Even though we were up 28-16 with two minutes left, you never think you have it sealed up because LeRoy is such a good football team, said Morton, as LeRoy scored on a 55-yard pass to cut the lead to five with 1:12 left.
But Cameron Haines (two touchdown runs) recovered on onsides kick and Mike Liberatore ran 10 yards for a first down to seal the win.
And the win was the result of big plays by both teams. LeRoy took advantage of 6-foot-6, 180-pound wide receiver Brendan Fulmer, as he made a leaping 23-yard touchdown catch to start the scoring. Fulmer also threw a 57-yard touchdown after catching a screen and later hauled in the 55-yard pass.
His heroics, though, were overshadowed by the play of Salamanca senior Dustin Ross, and a timely sack by Spencer George.
Facing a third-and-8, Morton called a long pass play with Ross as the lone receiver. Haines got the pass off thanks to a block by Tommie Hogan, and Ross made an amazing catch, as the ball was tipped before he tipped it and raced into the end zone to complete a 54-yard scoring play.
"I was the wing back on the play, and when I went between the safeties, I didn't even see the ball in the air or when they tipped it," said Ross, the game's Most Valuable Player. "I redirected it, caught it, and kept running … it was awesome."
With LeRoy keying on Ross, Morton spread the ball around, but when Ross carried it, he ran hard and punished the Knights defenders for 102 yards on just 13 carries.
"That 44 (Ross) was hard to tackle and he's not just an outstanding back, but an outstanding player, but we knew that … I told their coaches Thank God he's a senior," said LeRoy coach Brian Moran. "There were big plays all over this game, but they made more in the end and I hope they can bring the state championship back to Western New York."
One of the big plays Moran talked about was the sack by George, one of five Salamanca sacks on the day (Aaron DeBoy had two). With LeRoy trailing, 20-16, they drove down to the Salamanca 29 and needed four yards for another first down. But George chased down LeRoy quarterback Joe Schaunessey and dropped him for a 12-yard loss and forced a punt.