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Late Sneak, OT Score Send Salamanca Past Southwestern

BRADEN CARMEN, Jamestown Post Journal

Down 7-0 with 4 seconds remaining in regulation, the Salamanca Warriors lined up for one final play inside the Southwestern 1-yard line, needing a touchdown to extend the game.

Maddox Isaac took the snap, lifted the ball over the heads of his offensive line, and the referees granted him the touchdown. Salamanca kicked the extra point with 1 second left on the clock and the game went to overtime. After that crucial moment to end regulation, the momentum was too much for Southwestern to overcome. As a result, the host Warriors left their home turf in sole possession of first place in Class C South.

“It shows how we go through adversity,” Isaac said. “We’re Warriors, we stick it through the end.”

Salamanca quarterback Maddox Isaac lifts the ball up before reaching it across the goal line for a late touchdown during Friday’s Class C South game against Southwestern at Veterans Memorial Park in Salamanca. (Photo courtesy of Shelly Phillips)

In a game that both sides had plenty to be frustrated about, the Warriors were victorious over the Trojans, 14-7 in overtime Friday night at Veterans Memorial Park. “That certainly takes the wind out of your sails. We’d been stopping them all night,” said Southwestern head coach Jake Burkholder of the fourth-down play. “To have that be the last play of regulation, that’s tough.” Salamanca (5-2, 5-0) struggled all night to get something going offensively. Southwestern (5-2, 4-1) was dominant on the defensive side of the ball, forcing four turnovers and holding the Warriors scoreless for all but 4 seconds of regulation.

“I think we know that we’re a better team than that,” Isaac said. “We just needed to execute.”

The first half was full of big plays, but on the defensive side of the ball rather than the offense. Southwestern forced three turnovers in the first half while not allowing any points before the break.

“My coach side is very, very upset with the way we played tonight,” Salamanca head coach Chad Bartoszek said. “I know character-wise what they showed — heart, determination, Warrior Pride — but we have to execute better.” Only one touchdown was scored prior to the final play Salamanca ran in regulation — a 24-yard touchdown run by Southwestern’s Jameson Walsh with 8:55 left in the first half. The 7-0 score after that play held until the final seconds.

The biggest swing of the first half came two-thirds of the way through the second quarter, as Isaac scrambled down the Southwestern sideline. The crowd erupted as Isaac broke tackles and danced through the Southwestern defense all the way to the end zone for what appeared to be a 72-yard touchdown.

What the fans didn’t recognize, however, was the piece of yellow fabric sitting on the green turf. The referees caught a hold right in front of the Southwestern sideline that sprung Isaac on his thrilling run.

Then, just as the crowd had reason to cheer again as the Warriors broke off another long run, the Trojans forced a fumble and recovered the ball at their own 29-yard line with 3:38 left in the first half.

“It is an interesting game every time we play Southwestern. I can’t explain it — they seem to fly by, and then the last three minutes are the longest things ever,” Bartoszek said. ” … They played a hell of a game. It was great for both teams.”

The holding call was not the only call to go against Salamanca on the night. As the Warriors finally found success against Southwestern’s defense with a drive reaching the red zone, Salamanca was called for an unnecessary roughness penalty as Southwestern’s Declan Kennedy was blocked into the wall at the back of the end zone. The flag pushed the Warriors back to the 15-yard line on third-and-goal, and two plays later, Southwestern received the ball after a turnover on downs with 4:27 remaining in the game.

But even then, the Warriors fought and earned another opportunity.

After forcing a punt with just over three minutes remaining in regulation, Salamanca’s Cory Holleran returned the punt from near midfield all the way to the Southwestern 24-yard line. After completing a pass on third-and-6, Salamanca was set up at the Southwestern 10-yard line.

Seconds later, Isaac scrambled to the right side and appeared to break free for a game-tying touchdown, but the referees blew the whistle for his forward progress being stopped at the 2-yard line.

The Warriors regrouped with two plays to get in the end zone. After the Warriors nudged closer to the goal line, both teams traded timeouts as the game was set up for one final play to determine if Southwestern would win in regulation or if the game would continue.

From what appeared to be just inches from the goal line, Salamanca kept the play call simple.

“We’re an inch away. Don’t overthink it,” said Bartoszek. “All you need to do is get the tip of the ball over the white line. If we’re at the 1, things are different. If we’re at the 1 1/2, it’s definitely different. We’re at the inch, man, just go. … We needed to get in there.”

“At that point, it just comes down to making something happen. You’re inches from the goal line,” Burkholder said. “We stuck them right at the line, but I always tell our kids we can’t leave it in somebody else’s hands. We’ve got to put the game in a situation where we’re not relying on somebody else.”

Once the game progressed to overtime, Salamanca struck quickly. Isaac led the Warriors to the 4-yard line on a scramble on the first play, then the second play was a go-ahead touchdown by Joshua Auman.

Southwestern mustered 2 yards on two runs to begin its turn in overtime, then had two passes to the end zone fall incomplete to finalize the result.

Next week, the regular season concludes with a crucial league game for each team remaining. Next Friday, Salamanca travels to Portville, which came into Friday just a half-game behind the Warriors and Trojans atop the league. That same night, Southwestern hosts the Herd of Falconer/Cassadaga Valley/Maple Grove.

“We’ve got to bounce back from this and keep our composure. It’s out of our hands now, we’ve just got to win games,” Burkholder said.

If Salamanca defeats Portville, the Warriors are undisputed Class C South champions. Southwestern could earn a share of the division crown with a win and a Salamanca loss.

“We can’t turn the ball over in Portville or we’re not going to be successful,” Bartoszek said.


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