Throwback Feature: McMillen field goal gives Warriors win, 19-18 (2001)
PORTVILLE — This was a different type of football game for the Salamanca Warriors.
They did not dominate their opponent. They were not enjoying a comfortable lead.
In fact, with less than 10 minutes left in the game, Portville led, 18-8, on their home turf. However, the Warriors pulley) themselves together and came back on a touchdown pass from Cameron Haines to Dustin Ross. They made a two-point conversion on a Mike Li be rat ore run. Then, with less than 30 seconds left, the Warriors (3-0) found themselves in an unfamiliar situation — lining up to kick a field goal, hopefully to win.
Kicker Andy McMillen booted the 23-yarder that gave Salamanca its 25th consecutive regular season victory. McMillen, a junior who is playing his first year of football, had been a soccer player.
During that last drive, which began at the Portville 28, Salamanca was called for a holding penalty on a Dustin Ross run. Later, though, the Warriors would benefit from a pass interference call which gave them 15 yards and a first down. With less than a minute left, quarterback Cameron Haines threw an incomplete pass. The field goal team came on with the ball at the Portville 6-yard line.
Rich Morton, in his third year as Salamanca head coach, said Saturday's game was the first he's been involved in that came down to a field goal. Still, he had confidence in McMillen.
"He's been working hard all summer. We knew he could hit it straight on and that's what he did," Morton said. Ralph Tomblin, assistant coach, said Morton remained calm during the final drive, despite the urgency to score. As a result of this, the players became calm and remained focused.
"He turned to me and said 'Let's get our field goal team ready. We may need them,"' Tomblin said, referring to instructions Morton gave him at the beginning of the final drive.
Aside from the McMillen field goal, Salamanca got touchdowns on a 5-yard run by Mike Liberatore and a 35-yard pass from Haines to Ross. After both scores, the Warriors made two-point conversions.
The Panthers proved that they are a formidable opponent, finishing with 313 total yards compared to 218 for Salamanca. Senior quarterback Chet Holcomb completed six of 14 passes for 188 yards. He threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to senior T.J. Latten in the third quarter that made the score 12-6. This was sandwiched between touchdown runs of 17 and 1 yard by junior running back Adam Hellwig.
In general, Morton felt his team could have played better.
"We knew coming in that we were going to have to stop Holcomb and the passing attack and we didn't do it, for the most part," Morton said. "He's a great quarterback, a great athlete." He called the comeback from being 10 points down "a tribute to our kids.
"These kids are the type of kids that are champions," Morton said, "They're not just going to lay down and give it up because it's too important to them."
While game film was being played afterwards Gary Swetland, Portville coach, said the Panthers couldn't answer Salamanca's running game. The Panthers rolled up 125 yards rushing, but Salamanca finished with 171.
"The big problem was Salamanca is a pretty physical team," he said. "They pounded the ball at us and we just didn't pound the ball back at them.
"We gave them some opportunities and that made it difficult," Swetland added. "We have to get better at keeping the football away from teams."