Bradley scores in final seconds to lift Warriors over LeRoy
The Warriors’ season came down to one play, one pass and one catch by an unlikely hero.
Payton Bradley, Salamanca’s sophomore tight end, before Saturday, had only three receptions for 50 yards this season. But he was there when it mattered most, scoring the game-winning touchdown that gave Salamanca its first football Far West Regional win since 2001.
On third down at the Le Roy 15-yard line, the Warriors’ kicker, Arlen Newark, was getting warm and fighting through an ankle injury in case he was needed with under 10 seconds left in regulation. Instead, coach Chad Bartoszek drew up a play. With eyes heavily on star wide receiver Lucus Brown and tight end Carmine Hoag, that freed up Bradley to haul in the game’s biggest catch. Bradley caught the go-ahead touchdown from Maddox Isaac, putting the Warriors ahead for a 21-13 win after the two-point conversion.
“(Le Roy), defensively, were all over it,” Bartoszek said. “They had a great game plan. They were all over (Brown). They're all over Carmine and we couldn't we couldn't find ways to get the ball free. Payton has been a big part of our offense throughout the year, we just don't target him because we have other weapons. We're able to draw some eyes in a pressure situation and he shot right up the scene. It's beautiful when it works, so I give the guys all the credit.”
As for Bradley, he lightheartedly said that the only thing going through his head as the ball was floating his way was “don’t drop it.”
Bradley’s preparation came from biding his time.
“It starts at practice,” Bradley said. “I'm not mad at all with the target share, because I know those guys out there are dogs and I just waited for my moment and it came.
“Man, that was a special moment, especially in this final.”
Bradley’s shining moment was preceded by what had been a back and forth game. Section 5 Class C champion Le Roy got on the board first with a one-yard punch-in run by the Knights’ Andrew Strollo. Salamanca answered back in the second quarter as Isaac connected with Newark for a 45-yard touchdown that got the Warriors faithful in full voice. The scores remained locked at 7-7 at halftime.
Immediately after the interval, Le Roy took advantage of a big potential Lucus Brown reception being ruled incomplete and a punt attempt being ruled kneeled down in the backfield. Le Roy took the lead via Strollo’s second touchdown of the game, this time off a four-yard run. However, the extra-point that followed was blocked, giving Salamanca a lifeline.
Zach Trietley popped up for Salamanca on defense on more than one occasion as he led the team in tackles with 14, five of which were solo tackles. While only recording one solo tackle each, Warrick Kyler and Kyle Lecceardone had 10 assisted tackles each with the latter also grabbing an interception.
The Warriors once again responded to the Le Roy score with one of their own, just two drives later as Isaac, who was awarded the honor of Player of the Game by WNY Athletics, took a run 33 yards to the house. Unfortunately for Salamanca, the chance to take the lead with the extra point was left untaken as its extra point was also blocked.
With the scores knotted at 13 each, Le Roy threatened again late in the fourth quarter. After a good amount of success in short yardage scenarios, the Knights did the one thing they could not do on 4th and 1 — get flagged for a false start. The Knights then opted to punt to Salamanca, who ended the drive with the game winning score with only six seconds on the clock after the two-point conversion was scored by Carmine Hoag on a jump pass from Trietley.
No amount of laterals were enough for Le Roy as Salamanca were crowned the Far West Regional champions, 22 years in the making. It holds a little more meaning for Bartoszek as one who has seen and been beaten by Le Roy himself as a Salamanca player.
“(Playing Le Roy) means a ton,” Bartoszek said. “I shook the coaches’ hands and just said ‘I'm glad it was them.’ I'm glad they represented (Section) 5. I wanted to see Le Roy, I wanted the challenge … It was just good football. I think the crowd got a little bit nervous. Everyone was probably a little anxious but it ended up working out for us.”
A season that has thus far been an emotional one for Bartoszek, the Warriors and the entire Salamanca community, keeps on extending. Thinking back to the regular season, Bartoszek credits his team’s ability to stay consistent and finish strong.
“We've had ups and downs with emotions here,” he said. “Every week brings the community a new wave of pride, a new wave of emotion … it was just one of those games that I've gone back to our regular season again. We have just continued to stay consistent, stay structured and stay together. Once again, the kids made plays and we finished.”
Salamanca now moves on to the New York State Class C semifinal, where they will face Section 4 champion Waverly, who defeated Adirondack in its regional final by a score of 49-8, at Cicero-North Syracuse High School on Saturday, Nov. 25, at noon.
Le Roy 7 0 6 0 — 13
Salamanca 0 7 6 8 — 21
Le Roy - Andrew Strollo 1 run, Jack Currin kick; 7-0
Salamanca - Maddox Isaac 45 pass to Arlen Newark, Newark kick; 7-7
Le Roy - Strollo 4 run, kick blocked; 13-7
Salamanca - Isaac 33 run, kick blocked; 13-13
Salamanca - Isaac 15 pass to Payton Bradley, 2-pt pass good; 13-21
Le Roy Sala.
First Downs 13 8
Rushes-Yards 41-163 23-117
Passing Yards 7 132
Comp-Att.-Int. 4-7-1 7-17-0
Total Offense 170 249
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 1-15 4-20
Punts-Avg. 5-20 4-31
Total Plays 53 44