Warriors catch Watkins Glen/O-M in final minute
Ira John’s 4-touchdown night lifts Salamanca to 34-28 Homecoming win
Paul Haley said it was about time his offense carried the Salamanca football defense for a change. Ira John’s rushing effort just about carried the whole team Friday night in a thrilling non-league Homecoming win.
John rushed in his fourth touchdown of the night to give the Warriors (with an extra point kick from Austin Reyes) a 34-28 victory as the final horn sounded 22 seconds later. The junior, who started the season at wide receiver but moved to the backfield in Week 3, finished with 24 carries for 218 yards and four touchdowns.
John and coach Paul Haley each credited the offensive line — tackles Lee John and Dylan Jimerson, guards Tristan Gillette and Brandon Rea and center Asa John — for the breakout rushing effort.
“We switched our line around and those guys just... I don't know what it was,” Haley said. “We've been tinkering with those guys all year and we found a chemistry tonight. That team out-sized us down the line, we had to have been out-weighed 50 pounds apiece on the line but we just blew off and took charge. Jeremiah Shoup blocking from the fullback spot, Braden Siebert from the tight end spot, Ira running the ball, our split guys Tyler (Hedlund) and Nick (Johnson) keeping them honest with our passes, it came together. We've been saying for how long that we wanted to play four quarters of football, if that's not four quarters, I don't know what is.”
A visibly exhausted Ira John finished the game despite a handful of injury scares — cramps and a bruised knee — and dedicated the win to his grandfather, Leland John, who he honors with an “LJ” written on his wristband.
“I am drained out, a couple cramps in both calves and my knee's a little bruised, but I wasn't going to come out of this game,” he said. “This is just for everyone that doubted us. Most especially this is for my grandpa... I wish he got to see me (play). Every yard, every carry, every touchdown was for him.
“I just love them to death,” he added of the line. “They did all the work for me.”
John’s go-ahead touchdown was the fourth and final lead change of the fourth quarter after Salamanca (3-2, 2-2) entered the final 12 minutes leading 20-18. Leading 27-26, the Warriors got a fourth-down stop at their own 5-yard line, but three straight negative rushes gave WG/O-M a safety to retake a 28-27 lead.
From there, Hedlund made two game-saving plays, first recovering the safety free kick along Salamanca’s sideline to set up the Warriors with at their 47. Later on the drive, Hedlund pulled down a jump ball pass from Zariah Armstrong at the WG/O-M 1 for a 27-yard gain with 36 seconds left. After a 1-yard loss, John rushed to the his left pylon on second down for the winning touchdown.
"We've been slowly phasing him into the offense," Haley said of John, "and we knew we had to get the ball into his hands more. This was a team win from the top down. These guys just came together this week. You could tell Tuesday we had probably the best practice of the year, guys were bouncing around, excited and after last week's game (53-13 loss to Franklinville/Ellicottville) we said, 'Hey, we need to practice how we want to play.' They did it this week, they came out and you could see the difference."
Siebert produced Salamanca’s other score, a 38-yard pass from Armstrong to take a 27-26 lead with 8:53 to play. Reyes was 4-for-5 kicking extra points, only missing on a botched snap in the first quarter. Armstrong, playing deep safety, pulled down an interception with 10 second left to seal the game.
Leading 18-13 at halftime, Watkins Glen/Odessa-Montour (2-3) got three first-half touchdowns from Zach Elliott, including two for a combined 130 yards. Elliott finished with 190 yards.
Nicknamed the Seneca Warriors (combining nicknames for the merged neighboring school districts off of Seneca Lake), WG/O-M replaced Frewsburg on Salamanca’s schedule after the Bears merged with Randolph before the season. The replacement game resulted in Salamanca’s first home win since 2014 and a thrilling memory for the Warriors.
“I've been coaching football for about 18 years, I don't think I've ever been a part of something like this,” said Haley, the Warriors’ third-year head coach. “Never. If this isn't why you coach, you're wrong.”
Watkins Glen/O-M 6 12 0 10 — 28
Salamanca 6 7 7 14 — 34
WG/OM - Zach Elliott 62 run (1 play, 62 yards); kick failed, 6-0
Salamanca - Ira John 19 run (8 plays, 69 yards); kick failed, 6-6
WG/OM - Elliott 68 run (5 plays, 80 yards); run failed, 12-6
Salamanca - John 4 run (8 plays, 61 yards); Austin Reyes kick, 12-13
WG/OM - Elliott 14 run (7 plays, 50 yards); run failed, 18-13
Salamanca - John 10 run (3 plays, 55 yards); Reyes kick, 18-20
WG/OM - Joe Chedzoy 19 run (10 plays, 52 yards); Chedzoy run, 26-20
Salamanca - Braden Siebert 38 pass from Zariah Armstrong (6 plays, 54 yards); Reyes kick, 26-27
WG/OM - Safety. John tackled in end zone, 28-27
Salamanca - John 2 run (9 plays, 58 yards after safety kick recovery); Reyes kick, 34-38
Team Statistics - WG/OM Salamanca
First Downs 10 13
Rushes-Yards 34-304 36-264
Passing Yards 0 72
Comp-Att.-Int. 0-3-1 4-9-1
Total Offense 304 336
Fumbles-Lost 3-2 5-3
Penalties-Yards 5-42 9-50
Punts-Avg. 0 1-27
Total Plays 37 45