Warriors ride defense, special teams to winning regular season
Hedlund, John each score twice as Salamanca dispatches Gowanda, 32-13
GOWANDA — Mark this one as a win for the Salamanca defense and special teams.
Despite being outgained 200-167 in total offense, the Warriors’ football team rode four Gowanda/Pine Valley turnovers, two for defensive touchdowns, and a special teams touchdown to a 32-13 victory over the winless Panthers (0-7, 0-4) in non-league play Friday.
Of course, the total yards don’t include the 86 amassed on Tyler Hedlund’s punt return for touchdown in the second quarter or the combined 57 gained by a fumble recovery for touchdown by Austin Reyes and interception return by Ira John. Salamanca also gave itself excellent field position by twice recovering kickoffs on short, high kicks from Braden Siebert to catch the Panthers’ special teams off-guard.
“Braden has a real knack for dropping that in there, dropping the ball in the holes and getting guys to it,” coach Paul Haley said.
“All season, coach (Dustin) Ross has had them dialed in,” Haley added of his defense. “He's done a great job with them. They're our bread and butter. Our offense has been trying not to get in our own way and do enough but not kill us. Luckily our defense has been there all year.”
By virtue of Cattaraugus-Little Valley’s loss to Randolph/Frewsburg Friday night, the Warriors finished fifth in Section 6 Class D with a 2-3 league record (holding a head-to-head win over CLV) and will visit No. 4 Chautauqua Lake next week. By winning its two non-league games, Salamanca finished the regular season 4-3, its first winning mark since 2013 (the same year as its last win over Gowanda) after winless regular seasons in ‘15 and ‘16.
“That was our first goal this year, to have a winning regular season and we accomplished that tonight so we're very happy,” Haley said. “It was kind of a sloppy game but we got through it. Sometimes you've got to play though those (mistakes). We came out in the second half and were a different ballclub. We finally got some bounces, a fumble recovery for a touchdown, interception for a touchdown, those are the things we haven't been getting. A punt return for a touchdown. We just haven't been getting those kind of bounces and we finally got some today.”
Gowanda/Pine Valley worked a methodical 11-play, 86-yard drive to score on Hunter Ring’s three-yard run after Hedlund’s punt return, taking a 6-6 score to halftime.
Salamanca’s offense scored twice, first on a 21-yard pass from quarterback