Lackawanna stymies Salamanca, secures 14-0 quarterfinal shutout
By John Pullano | Special to The Press
Thanks to a potent rushing attack from Amir Douglass, who had 14 carries for 118 yards, and a stingy defense, the Lackawanna football team was able to knock off Salamanca, 14-0, in a Section 6 Class C quarterfinal at Veterans Memorial Park on Friday.
The game started slow, with a scoreless first half that contained a trio of three-and-outs, four punts on nine drives and a pair of interceptions from Salamanca.
Lackawanna finally opened the scoring with 35 seconds remaining in the third quarter, concluding a nine-play drive with William Gechell finding Matt Rodriguez on a fade pass to the right corner of the endzone. A pair of crossing patterns freed up Rodriguez and Gechell found him on the first read.
Salamanca countered with a nine-play drive of its own, reaching the 14-yard line before coughing up the football on the seven.
Lackawanna responded right away, however, driving 93 yards on six run plays topped off with a double reverse play leading to an Ashlin Alexander-Hall touchdown. Hall circled to the left side of the field, weaved through a trio of defenders, cut the middle and strutted into the endzone to put Lackawanna up 14-0. The score came with just three minutes remaining, sucking the last effort out of the Warriors.
“They are a really good team,” Salamanca coach Chad Bartoszek said. “I think they were able to get really creative with the play calling and, honestly, they played really well.
Offensively for the Warriors, they attempted to establish the run early, leaning on Jesse Stahlman for 18 carries in the first half for just 50 yards.
“We are normally able to spread our team and hit Jesse up the middle but, of course, we weren’t able to connect,” Bartoszek said.
But due to the lack of success on the ground and for the offensive line at the point of attack, Bartoszek was forced to call on his freshman quarterback, Maddox Isaac, to orchestrate some offense.
“We had to put a lot of pressure on (Isaac); we did not want to put the pressure on him, but we had to,” Bartoszek said. “The way Lackawanna was playing we needed to do some things at the next level with the pass.”
With the run contained, the Lackawanna cornerbacks and safeties were free to focus all attention on the Warriors. Relying on physical play at the line of scrimmage the Lackawanna secondary forced a trio of turnovers and kept the Warriors from the big momentum plays.
“We were not able to really connect on any of our passes tonight,” Bartoszek said. “We connected on a couple of wheels and screens, but their coverage was right on top of us. They just brought it and they deserve all the credit.”
Isaac finished 10-of-22 passing for 135 yards and three interceptions.
The Lackawanna defense finished with one sack, three forced fumbles, one recovery and numerous pass break ups in one-on-one situations.
Despite the Steelers being the lower seed in the matchup, Bartoszek felt the teams were evenly matched from kickoff. Salamanca finished the year 7-2 while the Steelers will move on to a semifinal matchup against top-seeded Medina.
“I think man-for-man we were very even,” Bartoszek said. “They just played us tough man-for-man. Give them a lot of credit tonight they were better.”
Stahlman, the lone bright spot on offense for the Warriors, reached 1,000 yards rushing on the season (1,044) with 112 yards on 25 carries. He also came up with 61 yards receiving on three catches.
Stahlman led the Warriors to the two red zone trips with a pair of long receptions on a wheel route and a screen in the fourth quarter. Bartoszek went as far as to call Stahlman the “heart and soul of the team” and despite his season coming to an end knows he will return in position for an even better senior year.
“Jesse does it all for us,” Bartoszek said. “I think he is a Big 30 Player of the Year candidate and offensively and defensively he is the identity, and he has carried us. He would probably be the first one to tell you that we have a great line and I hate singling out one player, but Jesse deserves a lot of credit for getting us through this year.”
Lackawanna 0 0 8 6 — 14
Salamanca 0 0 0 0 — 0
Lackawanna - Matt Rodriguez pass from William Gechell; 8-0
Lackawanna - Ashlin Alexander-Hall 30 run; 14-0
First Downs 10 13
Rushes-Yards 27-172 35-116
Passing Yards 76 135
Comp-Att.-Int. 9-14-0 10-24-3
Total Offense 248 251
Fumbles-Lost 3-1 2-1
Penalties-Yards 8-60 5-40
Punts-Avg. 2-41 6-30
Total Plays 41 59