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Maple Grove pulls away for 49-22 victory at Salamanca

SALAMANCA — While not exactly identical to last week, the loss felt a little too familiar for the Salamanca varsity football team.

In Week 2, the Warriors fell to Franklinville/Ellicottville, a recent small-school power, 27-12, in a mostly competitive game. On Friday, another recently strong opponent, Maple Grove, downed Salamanca by a 49-22 margin at Veterans Memorial Park in a Section 6 Class D game that first-year Red Dragons coach Justin Hanft called closer than the final score indicated.

"That was a lot closer game until the scoreboard showed up until about the third quarter, so they were hanging right into it and we got a lucky couple of bounces there towards the end," Hanft admitted.

The Warriors (1-2, 1-1) trailed 14-6 at halftime made it a one-score game again in the third quarter on an 85-yard kick return by Tyler Hedlund, which cut the lead to 21-14 after a two-point conversion. However Maple Grove scored four of the last five touchdowns of the night, surviving a brief scare when the Warriors recovered an onside kick still trailing 35-22.

"A lot of credit to our defense there," Hanft said. "(We had) a couple of miscues in the special teams game that you don't want especially with the onside kick attempt. But way to bounce back and not let it affect you and made some good plays defensively to shut them down."

Easton Tanner accounted for 233 of Maple Grove’s 396 total yards, with 126 rushing yards, and threw, caught and ran for touchdowns. Carson Crist, grandson of Salamanca native former Penn State and NFL defensive back Chuck Crist, threw for 229 yards and three touchdowns.

The Red Dragons (2-1, 1-1) scored three times on fourth-and-long scenarios and converted five of nine first-half third downs.

Hedlund had two catches for 48 yards and senior classmate Ira John scored twice on a 13-yard run and 13-yard catch. Senior Zariah Armstrong was 5-of-13 passing for 100 yards and a score.

Salamanca coach Paul Haley acknowledged playing the back-to-back state finalists (albeit with a new coaching staff) competitively for most of the night, but falling short of a comeback was "definitely both" encouraging and frustrating, considering the Red Dragons’ success on third and fourth downs.

'Obviously I'm happy (with our effort), our kids never quit," he said. "They battled right to the end of the game. I'm frustrated because we can't get off the field on fourth and long, we're giving up stupid plays, but this was a team where I thought we did a good job moving the ball on them. We just can't seem to finish drives or we get a fumble or something. We're still shooting ourselves in the foot with stupid stuff.

"I thought our line for the most part played good tonight, especially the right side... it's just we get moving and then fumble the ball and (on defense) we get a fourth-and-long and give up a bone-headed play. It is what it is."

Those issues — like Salamanca’s three fumbles (one lost), five sacks and eight penalties for 65 yards (to Maple Grove’s one for five yards) — are all correctable, Haley maintained.

"We've just got to stop doing it," Haley said. "If we're in trouble, throw the ball away, we had a little trouble with our long snaps tonight and that put us in some bad spots. Our offense, we get going and we stop and we don't help our defense out at all because they're on the field all the time. It's the same story. A couple big plays on fourth down didn't help us and Easton Tanner had a big game. He's a stud. That kid's tough and we knew he was going to be."

Maple Grove 7 7 14 21 — 49

Salamanca 0 6 8 8 — 22

First Quarter

Maple Grove - Daren Vaillancourt 10 pass from Easton