Maple Grove takes Round 3, advances past Salamanca
DUNKIRK — A week meant a world of difference to both the Salamanca and Maple Grove football teams.
The Warriors ended their regular season flying high with a 23-21 victory at Maple Grove last Friday, tying the season series ahead of a playoff rematch. But with season-ending stakes on the line, the Red Dragons didn’t let up this Friday, jumping on Salamanca early for a 28-0 halftime lead in the Section 6 Class D semifinals and winning 38-7.
“They came out flying and we did not. That's about it,” Warriors coach Paul Haley said. “They were ready to play and we came out a little flat and by the time we had a chance to gather ourselves, we were in a hole and we're not built to come out of a hole too much. They had our number today. We had theirs last week, they had ours today.”
Multidimensional senior star Easton Tanner played a hand in all five of Maple Grove’s touchdowns, throwing for two, running for two and catching one. Both of Tanner’s passing completions went for scores, one to quarterback Carson Crist (who went 9-for-15 for 230 yards) and one to Zach Hendrick. He added a game-best 162 rushing yards and 134 receiving yards.
Salamanca played without one of its senior leaders, wide receiver/safety Tyler Hedlund, who came down with mono this week. Additionally, two-way lineman Dylan Jimerson sat out after an ejection in last week’s game.
“That's a big loss for us,” Haley said of Hedlund. “He's one of, if not the best, defensive player in the Big 30 and to lose him on Thursday morning, it's tough to adjust to.
“We lost Dylan last week because of a questionable call. Now our offensive line we've got to shuffle a little bit. But it is what it is. The next guy has got to step up, you've got to roll and we just couldn't get rolling.”
Fullback Tristen Gillette led the Warriors with 65 rushing yards while Ira John had 56 and Xavier Taylor had 47, including the team’s only touchdown, an eight-yard run in the third quarter.
Ezra Stahlman, Kawliga Stahlman, Asa John and Mitchell Gregory each had a sack for Salamanca and Zach Helms recovered a fumble.
Maple Grove moved the game to Dunkirk due to field conditions at its home facility in Bemus Point. While the Red Dragons looked fast on the turf, coach Justin Hanft thought his team’s performance had little to do with the change in surface.
“I think it was a different attitude,” Hanft said. “It's probably a lot on me. I knew we talked too much as a staff about how much that game (meant) as far as seedings went and stuff like that, that it didn't have any effect whether we won or lost. I probably should have kept it internal and should have been focused more on the execution of the game last Friday.
“Honestly we came out pretty good in that game, we started well, we just didn't keep the pedal down on the gas and we had a fumble, some turnovers, a little sloppy with a lot of penalties in the second half and a couple dropped balls and some not good throws and before you knew it they were right back in the game and we couldn't stop them.”
Hanft said his team changed its defensive alignment after the Warriors ran for 251 yards in Week 8, holding them to 186 this time.
“We went from the 3-5-3 to a 4-4, moved some of our bigger guys out a little bit wider,” he said. “They were killing us with that downhill toss out of their power set that they were running and they were just getting off the edge a little bit more. So we moved our wider guys out and that happened to work for us.”
Maple Grove has won four consecutive sectional titles, including two in Class C as a merged team with Chautauqua Lake and then two Class D state championship appearances. First-year coach Hanft has the Red Dragons (6-3) headed back to New Era Field, playing the winner of No. 4 Cattaraugus-Little Valley at No. 1 Clymer/Sherman/Panama next Friday.