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Salamanca rallies to survive scare from C-LV

Last-minute TD pass lifts Warriors after late turnover

SALAMANCA — Paul Haley’s team had enough turnovers and missed passing opportunities to drive any coach mad, but that didn’t stop Salamanca from claiming an opening-week high school football victory.

Instead, the Warriors shook off five turnovers and an eight-point fourth quarter deficit against Cattaraugus-Little Valley to win, 26-20, Friday night on a dramatic last-minute touchdown drive.

Playing a quarterback rotation of senior Zariah Armstrong and sophomore Lucas McKenna, both Salamanca signal-callers produced a fourth-quarter touchdown. First, McKenna sprang a 12-yard touchdown run on fourth down on the first play of the fourth quarter, but Salamanca still trailed 20-18 after a failed two-point conversion.

The Timberwolves nearly held on until Salamanca found a lift with the game nearly iced.

C-LV appeared to all but ice the victory, converting a fourth-and-inches run with 2:21 to play in Salamanca territory, but the Warriors knocked the ball loose from running back Jason Miller. Salamanca’s Xavier Taylor picked up his second fumble recovery of the night at his own 37. Both quarterbacks helped Salamanca drive 63 yards, capped by Tyler Hedlund’s 22-yard catch-and-run from Armstrong to take the lead with 46 seconds remaining.

“Oh boy, it was ugly,” Haley said. “It was ugly. We had so many wide open, just missed (or) dropped throws, penalties, turnovers. But in the end the one thing we were looking for is if we get in a spot, are we going to step up? And we did.”

Haley thought Taylor’s fumble recovery boosted an offense that had failed to capitalize on its previous two possessions.

“You could tell,” he said. “You could almost feel them, they got puffed right back up and they're walking 10 feet tall after that. It almost felt at that point where you're really going to make something happen and Zariah came in, I like the rotation we've got.

“When it's a big time that kid (Armstrong) steps up, man, he makes the throws and then of course Tyler Hedlund on the other end down here makes a great catch and run to get into the zone. So that's what these kids have done. They step up. It's their senior year, these are the players we expect to step up when it's a big time and they did today.”

Armstrong and McKenna combined for 107 yards, with Amstrong making two catches for 36 yards. McKenna added 43 rushing yards.

Ira John led the Warriors with 51 rushing yards, before leaving with a fourth-quarter injury, and Taylor added 50 yards and both scored a touchdown. A balanced attack produced 187 rushing yards on 46 attempts.

“I thought our offensive line played great,” Haley said. “We want our offense to be as balanced as possible. We've got kids that we can lean on spots, but our offense is going to work the best when we're spreading it around and keeping defenses on their toes and they've got to cover the whole field.”

Haley said from the start of summer he planned to use a QB rotation “until someone separates themself.”

“I've got complete faith that both those two can run our offense and tonight they both good things and both did bad things, but the bad things are without a doubt correctable,” Haley said. “We missed a couple of wide open throws or It should've been a three-score game. But give credit to Catt-Little Valley, I told these guys, I said, 'Those kids will play hard, they'll play the whole game and they'll come after you.' And they did.”

Hedlund also had a 45-yard kick return. Zach Helms made an interception, as the Warriors held C-LV to 16 yards on 2-of-6 passing.