Press: New York rallies, ties Pennsylvania 27-27 in 46th Big 30 game
BRADFORD, Pa. — They didn’t leave Parkway Field with a victory, but New York’s seniors had a fourth quarter they won’t soon forget playing their last game of organized high school football on Saturday.
New York’s frantic fourth quarter erased a 21-point lead, avoiding a defeat but unable to finish off a victory. After New York scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns to erase a 27-6 Pennsylvania lead in the 46th Big 30 All-Star Charities Classic, Salamanca safety Tyler Hedlund gave his team one last chance to take the lead on a late interception. Hedlund returned a pick 20 yards to Pennsy’s 30-yard line. New York attempted a 47-yard field goal for kicker Conner Golley (Allegany-Limestone), but the would-be winner landed short of the goal posts. New York and Pennsylvania tied, 27-27, halting a streak of three consecutive Pennsy victories.
Still, it felt like a win for Salamanca running back Ira John, who threw the tying two-point conversion pass to Allegany-Limestone’s Connor Parsons with 4:31 to play.
“It's like a moral victory for all of us because we came back,” John said. “It was 6-27 at one point so to be able to come back ... yeah, it would have been nice to win the game, but in our books it's a victory because we came back and we showed the pride that we had.”
Hedlund hoped he could give New York the victory by returning his interception for a touchdown.
“Defensive coaches were telling us to play deep,” Hedlund said of the pick. “We were playing deep, got some depth and I don't know where the pass was going, but I ran under it, came up under. I had one place in mind, it was the end zone, but couldn't get there.”
Pioneer quarterback Nick Rinker largely engineered the New York offense’s comeback, throwing for 181 yards (77 on one play, a touchdown to Southwestern’s Alex Card), completing 6-of-17 passes. He threw three touchdowns and ran for another.
As New York struggled to pass early on, coach Jehuu Caulcrick encouraged his quarterbacks to use their feet when they saw an opportunity.
“The timing's not going to be there with the receivers in that short of time,” he said, “so we called a lot more run-oriented plays and we told them if it's not there, use your feet and if you see something, throw it, and if you see green grass, go.”
Rinker played the entire fourth quarter after Salamanca quarterback Zariah Armstrong left with an ankle injury after being tackled three yards short of a touchdown on fourth and goal in the third quarter.
“Nick did a great job,” Caulcrick said. “He told me all along, he's like, 'Coach, count on me, I'll take this game over,' and he did that. Zariah had a great drive taking us down there and unfortunately he got hurt, but Nick, he stepped up and played big-time football.”
Franklinville/Ellicottville running back Jake Peters led New York in rushing, gaining 51 yards on nine carries. Armstrong was second on the team with 29 yards on six rushes.
Aside from Hedlund’s interception, the game had four other turnovers via fumble recovery, two each for both teams. Daniel Reinagel (Randolph/Frewsburg) and Adam Sisti (Gowanda/Pine Valley) picked up fumbles for New York and Chris Connelly (Otto-Eldred) and Nathan Gehm (Bradford) for Pennsylvania.
“Us getting stops really gave our offense energy and we put them in a good spot on the field,” Hedlund said of the second half. “They figured out the plays, started working, and we just kept at it.
“It was mixed emotions at first,” he added of the tie, “but I'm really proud of our team and how we came back from down 27-6 from halftime and we never gave up, so we've got a lot of heart.”
John, who will play football at Baldwin Wallace in the fall, said the team just needed to relax and “play our game,” leading to the comeback.
“You know, just play our game, because we've had the best two weeks as a team,” he said. “We came together really good and we just trusted each other. We trusted to make each other's plays. If someone else went down, we picked each other up. We came back because we were together in the second half.
“I loved it. I didn't want it to end. These coaches are one of a kind. I was so blessed to be (with) this coaching staff for these two weeks. They're really great. I didn't want it to end, but off to college ball now for me.”
Hedlund isn’t done with football either, planning to play at Mount Union.
“It's a great experience,” Hedlund said of the Big 30 game. “There's so many guys here that are great athletes and it's just really good to get to know them and play with them for one last final time, so it was a really good experience.”
By rallying for a tie, the third in the game’s history and first since 1996. New York ever so slightly held on to its lead in the all-time series at 22-21-3.
As voted by their teammates, Andrew Bernard (Randolph), Alex Card (Southwestern), Icar Simon (Olean) and Faizan Munir (Southwestern) served as New York’s captains.
“Obviously you want to come out with the true victory, but I'm just proud of these guys,” Caulcrick said. “We had adversity, we turned the ball over several times, we shot ourselves (in the foot), we had a lot of self-inflicted wounds going into the half. We had to play smart football, we had to play together and I think the second half, we battled and we did that.”