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.
Jason Miller and Sam Grey combined for 97 rushing yards and two touchdowns for C-LV. Miller also ran back an 85-yard kick return late in the second quarter send the teams into halftime in a 12-12 tie. Jake Harris and Hunter Furl each had an interception for the T-Wolves’ defense.
With the exception of Grey, C-LV had new starters across its backfield but at one point held a 4-1 turnover advantage. That advantage finished 5-3, however, with the last fumble giving Salamanca the spart it needed to survive Week 1.
“When you have that kind of night, you've got to put it away,” C-LV coach Tim Miller said. “The turnover game was rolling our way. We just didn't take advantage of it enough. A couple of those turnovers, we gave it right back. Turnovers are huge in high school football. They're huge at any level, but I think they're particularly large in high school football and we put it on the ground at some very inopportune times.”
Miller admitted he thought his team had put the game away before he saw the ball come loose.
“(We) got a beautiful hole, got the six inches (we needed) plus two or three yards and the ball's on the ground,” he said. “It's those first week mistakes. We had a guy bobble a kick, they pooch-kicked one (earlier in the fourth quarter) and it went right off one of our middle row guys and it went right straight towards a red jersey. And you sort of expect things to occasionally go wrong in the first week and it happened to Salamanca too. They bounced back well and I love our kids' effort. We've just got to, you know, when that time of the game comes, you've gotta be determined to finish it out. And we didn't, we didn't quite climb that hill.”
The victory marked Salamanca’s third in a calendar year over neighbor and Class D rival C-LV, having beaten the T-Wolves 13-6 in Week 3 last season and 29-6 in the consolation bowl. The Warriors and T-Wolves play at least one more time this season, with a rematch Sept. 28 in Cattaraugus.
Miller sees a budding rivalry as long as they’re both D schools.
“These kids all know each other, they go to BOCES together,” he said. “They interacted in other sports. Heck, we merged with them for (boys) soccer, so yeah, they're pretty familiar with each other and that score, that's a close football game. That's what makes rivalries. You want to come back the next time and say 'this time we finish it.'”
Catt-LV 6 6 8 0 — 20
Salamanca 6 6 0 14 — 26
Catt-LV - Sam Grey 3 run (8 plays, 65 yards); run failed, 6-0
Salamanca - Xavier Taylor 16 run (6 plays, 36 yards); kick failed, 6-6
Salamanca - Ira John 5 run (8 plays, 66 yards); pass failed, 6-12
Catt-LV - Jason Miller 85 kick return; pass failed, 12-12
Catt-LV - Miller 3 run (1 play, 3 yards after fumble recovery); Miller run, 20-12
Salamanca - Lucas McKenna 12 run (8 plays, 59 yards after fumble recovery); run failed, 20-18
Salamanca - Tyler Hedlund 22 pass from Zariah Armstrong (8 play, 63 yards); Taylor pass from Armstrong, 20-26
First Downs 14 18
Rushes-Yards 35-108 46-187
Passing Yards 16 97
Comp-Att.-Int. 2-6-1 7-15-2
Total Offense 134 284
Fumbles-Lost 3-2 4-3
Penalties-Yards 7-47 8-59
Punts-Avg. 5-36.8 3-31.7
Total Plays 43 61