top of page

HS football notebook: Salamanca, Randolph are on the rise (OTH)

By J.P. BUTLER Olean Times Herald

The Portville and Pioneer football teams had already established themselves as class heavyweights.

Indeed, entering Friday, both squads were riding impressive win streaks, with the maroon and white Panthers having won 11-straight and 13 of their last 14 regular season games (including two forfeits) dating back to 2018 while the black and green Panthers had taken seven in a row and 21 of 22 such contests since 2017. And in Week 2, both kept those streaks intact, with Portville grinding out a 14-0 road triumph over Timon-St. Jude and Pioneer wearing down East Aurora/Holland, 21-14.

If these first two weeks are any indication, however, they have some (relatively new) company in the upper-echelon of New York’s Big 30 programs:

Salamanca and Randolph.

After a pair of convincing Week 1 wins, both provided further proof that they’re “for real” over the weekend, as the Warriors knocked off Class C power Southwestern (typically a good indication for anybody that they’ve arrived in some capacity) on a last-second two-point conversion and the Cardinals thrice held two-score leads in a 36-26 win over defending Class D champion Franklinville/Ellicottville.

FOR TWO historically proud programs, a budding return to prominence has, perhaps, been a long time coming.

After a mostly prosperous stretch (at least in terms of regular-season success) from 2011-13, in which it went 19-6, Salamanca hit a prolonged rough-to-mediocre period, following an unsightly 1-16 (2015, ‘16) mark with a couple of .500ish seasons that overlapped with the arrival of former program great Chad Bartoszek as new head coach.

Under Bartoszek’s direction, though, the Warriors have slowly but surely made the climb back to the top tier, going from 4-5 with a playoff win in his first campaign, to 4-3 with a surprise trip to the Section 6 Class D championship game last spring, to a 2-0 start in 2021, including an early win over the league favorites.

Randolph, meanwhile, had enjoyed one of the best eras in local annals at the start of last decade, going an incredible 36-3 with three-straight New York State Class D championships from 2012-14 while transitioning between long-time coach Pat Slater and current boss Brent Brown.

What followed, however, was a mostly (by their standards) average stretch between 2015-20, the lowlight coming last spring when, with a young and overmatched roster, the Cardinals struggled to a 2-4 mark.

But with just about everybody back, and that familiar Randolph “culture” seemingly back in place, Brown’s team has responded accordingly, trouncing JFK, 47-0, before claiming a key league battle with the Titans.

Salamanca is now 2-0 for the first time since 2014. Randolph, interestingly, is 2-0 for the first time since its middle state title season, when it went a perfect 13-0 in Brown’s first year. But how has each gotten here?

FOR THE Warriors, a staunch defense has been as big a factor as any.

That group has gone from giving up an average of 30 points per game in Bartoszek’s first year, to just 16 last season to surrendering just three total touchdowns in eight quarters so far this fall (10.5 points per). The magnum opus, to this point, might have been limiting an explosive team to just 13 points on Friday (or limiting F/E to a TD in a 7-0 loss in a regular season game last spring).

“Aaron Hill, (Dustin) Ross and (Paul) Furlong, they've got these kids tuned up,” Bartoszek s