Salamanca produces a Senior Night stunner, 24-12, over Olean
SALAMANCA — Paul Haley called it the best win in his four years as head coach for Salamanca football, and it’s easy to see why.
Friday night at Veterans Memorial Park, the Warriors scored one of the most impressive Big 30 upsets of the season on their Senior Night, knocking off Class B Olean, 24-12, in non-league play. The Huskies (3-3) ranked fourth in this week’s Times Herald Big 30 large school rankings while the Warriors (3-3) were fifth among Big 30 small schools.
Senior running back Xavier Taylor marked a career high with 153 rushing yards on 20 carries for the Warriors. Quarterback Zariah Armstrong ran for two touchdowns and running back Ira John (83 total yards) ran for another, all from 1 yard out, while Salamanca built a 24-6 lead early in the fourth quarter after leading 8-6 at halftime.
“I've been telling these kids, 'We're just a couple plays here and there and we've got to clean this up and we've got to do this ...'” Haley said. “Finally this week it just came together. These kids need it. They had a good week of practice. It's just exciting. I'm so happy for especially our seniors, on Senior Night to come out and play a game like this on this field for what could be their last time, it's for them. They deserved it, they earned it and I hope they enjoy it for a long time.”
Salamanca won with two traditional football principles: run the ball and stop the run (the Warriors outgained Olean 252-65 on the ground) and, perhaps just as importantly, take care of the ball. Salamanca feasted on six turnovers, including three interceptions, while turning it over once on a late fumble into the end zone for a touchback.
“All credit goes to Salamanca,” said OHS coach Phil Vecchio. “They played football a lot harder than we did tonight. They took it to us. I was a little disappointed in some things, obviously turnovers happen, you just hope you don't have an avalanche of them like we did tonight. But once again, I thought Salamanca outplayed us and outhustled us all night long.”
Olean lost a fumble on its first drive with a botched shotgun snap, but made a goal-line stand on fourth down at its own 4. However, the Huskies went three-and-out on their next drive before Salamanca scored its first touchdown, a Zariah Armstrong quarterback sneak, and went up 8-0.
The Huskies answered with a 60-yard scoring drive on their next possession, an Alex Weakfall 1-yard sneak, but Olean wouldn’t score again until the game’s final minute, trailing by three touchdowns.
Weakfall completed 10 of 20 passes for 114 yards and led Olean rushers with 38 yards and both of the Huskies’ touchdowns.
Crediting assistant coaches Aaron Hill and Dustin Ross, Haley said the Warriors tried to keep the speedy Weakfall from burning them as a runner.
“They played disciplined and we had to keep No. 2 (Weakfall) in the pocket,” Haley said. “That kid is lightning when he gets out there and we knew we had to keep him in the pocket, we did a good job of that and we made him a thrower.”
Dezmine Adams (eight tackles), Cole Anastasia and Corry Johnston had all had a sack for the Olean defense.
Ira John, Tyler Hedlund and Lucas McKenna intercepted one pass each. Hedlund led the team with eight tackles and Kawliga Stahlman, Seth Bocharski and Quinton Stahlman each had a sack.
“This week in practice we got back to our roots a little bit and our line this week just took control of the game,” Haley said. “Tre Turner at center and Bryce Jimerson at guard and Asa John at one tackle, Milksy (Nik Milks) the other tackle and Kody Shinners has been at left guard all year. Those five guys, they took charge at the line of scrimmage and defensively we were lights out.”
Playing behind a reshuffled line, Taylor enjoyed a career night and earned a historical comparison from Haley.
“Xavier ran like a possessed person today. He was amazing. I haven't seen a kid run like that since T.J. Brol,” Haley said, referring to Salamanca's 1989 and 1990 Big 30 All-Star. “He was just unstoppable. I could not be more proud of him. He did a great job.”
Just two years ago, Salamanca finished winless in the regular season and Olean went 7-0 with a 54-7 victory over the Warriors at Bradner Stadium. Many of the 17 senior Salamanca recognized Friday endured difficult seasons to get back to competitiveness the last two years.
“(Haley) puts in a lot of time, he's there in the summer, I'm sure he's there with his weightlifting program,” Vecchio said. “The idea is when you have to play freshmen and sophomores, you take your lumps and then when those guys get to be seniors hopefully they're a little bit more seasoned and play a little bit better for you. Paul does a great job. I'm happy for them because they played well.”
While the victory marks Haley’s first winning streak at Salamanca (the Warriors went 5-4 last season but never won consecutive games), Olean drops its second straight after a 3-1 start. The good news is neither this defeat nor a 50-20 loss last week to Southwestern hurt the Huskies’ playoff hopes.
Olean can still earn a Class B playoff spot with a win at Lackawanna next week.
“(Going in) we were looking to bounce back from last week,” Vecchio said. “Southwestern handled us pretty well. The idea was to try to get out here, try to get our bearings straight and it didn't happen. But with that being said, we still have everything in front of us. So if we can get it together and we just challenged them just now, we've got two choices: We can either bury our head in the sand or we can prepare and fight and work as hard as we can and try to get a win on Saturday.”
Olean 0 6 0 6 — 12
Salamanca 8 0 8 8 — 24
Salamanca - Zariah Armstrong 1 run (6 plays, 61 yards); Armstrong run, 8-0
Olean - Alex Weakfall 1 run (10 plays, 60 yards); run failed, 8-6
Salamanca - Ira John 1 run (3 plays, 38 yards after John 49 yard kick return); Tyler Hedlund run, 16-6
Salamanca - Armstrong 1 run (10 plays, 71 yards); Hedlund pass from Armstrong, 24-6
Olean - Weakfall 1 run (10 plays, 80 yards); pass failed, 24-12
First Downs 11 15
Rushes-Yards 26-65 52-252
Passing Yards 114 12