Second-half big plays lift Salamanca to Funke Bowl win
Warriors beat Catt-LV 29-6 with two deep passes from McKenna
A trio of big plays helped vault the Salamanca football team over Cattaraugus-Little Valley and ensure a winning record to close the season Thursday.
Leading 7-0 at halftime, Salamanca scored three times in the second half on plays of 69 yards or more to roll to a 29-6 win in the Chuck Funke Memorial Bowl Class D final.
Two of the quick strikes came from the arm of freshman quarterback Lucas McKenna, who rotated throughout the game with junior Zariah Armstrong. First, McKenna hit senior wide receiver Nick Johnson in stride for a 69-yard touchdown on the second play after C-LV had cut the lead to 7-6. Leading 15-6 in the fourth, junior running back Ira John busted an 84-yard touchdown run through the T-Wolves defense and, after a C-LV three-and-out, McKenna found junior Tyler Hedlund on another deep ball for a 90-yard catch-and-run to ice the game.
John finished with 90 yards and senior Jeremiah Shoup had 28 yards including a first-quarter touchdown. Johnson had three catches for 77 yards. The Warriors’ defense produced four turnovers, all interceptions, including two from sophomore Jarrett McKenna and one each from Austin Reyes and Nick Johnson.
After a 40-0 playoff loss the Chautauqua Lake, coach Paul Haley and staff were pleased to get the Warriors a chance to finish 5-4 and send off their seniors with a win. One of six seniors, Johnson, helped spark the run on big plays to close the game.
“He's been a captain, he's a great leader for the team, but on top of that he's a great kid,” Haley said of Johnson.
“This is a kid that volunteers his time for his little brothers wrestling and football and his academics are good. It couldn't happen to a nicer kid.”
Haley thanked his seniors for helping keep the program afloat through two winless regular seasons in 2015 and 2016.
“These are kids that toughed it out the last couple years,” Haley said of his seniors. “(The win is) for the guys who sacrificed the last two years that have been a rough couple years.”
While sending off its seniors, Salamanca also hopes to have seen a glimpse of the future. Haley expects big things for the McKenna brothers, who earned some varsity playing time late in the season.
“We know those two are players coming up and it was nice to get them a little taste of it today,” Haley said. “You can see they're both going to be good players for us the next couple years.”
Zach Bieber led C-LV with 123 rushing yards on 12 carries, while Tim Ulinger scored a 3-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
Outside of John’s explosive 84-yard run, C-LV held Salamanca to 68 rushing yards on 26 carries. But the Warriors’ three second-half scores made the difference in an otherwise tight game, defeating the T-Wolves for a second time after a 13-6 win in Week 3.
“We piled up to stop the run and we did a great job stopping the run but they popped one big run on us,” T-Wolves coach Tim Miller said. “The rest of them were pass plays and we weren't there to cover them. It's disappointing. I thought our kids played their guts out, I'm proud of their effort, but we weren't able to stop the big plays and that's the difference in this football game.”
The T-Wolves (3-6) finished the season with four straight losses after a 3-2 start and dwindled in healthy players available for its last few games.
“Your goals change as our personnel changed,” Miller said. “We went from being a team that wanted to compete and be a force in the playoffs to being a team that needed to grow up and grow into positions and be competitive, period. The last four weeks of our season, we weren't competitive until tonight and tonight we came up a quarter short.”
Cattaraugus-LV 0 0 6 0 — 6
Salamanca 7 0 8 14 — 29
Salamanca - Jeremiah Shoup 8 run (1 play, 8 yards after botched punt); Austin Reyes kick, 7-0
Catt-LV - Tim Ulinger 3 run (6 plays, 46 yards); run failed, 7-6
Salamanca - Nick Johnson 69 pass from Lucas McKenna (2 plays, 70 yards); Tyler Hedlund pass from Zariah Armstrong, 15-6
Salamanca - Ira John 84 run (1 play, 84 yards); Johnson pass from McKenna, 23-6