McKenna’s Late TD Leads Salamanca To 6-0 Upset Of Portville In Class D
PORTVILLE — Salamanca’s defense stood tall from start to finish in Sunday evening’s Section VI Class D football semifinal game.
The Warriors’ offense waited literally until the final minute.
Finally, senior quarterback Lucas McKenna found paydirt — or was that “paymud?” — on a 12-yard run with 54.5 seconds remaining to send Coach Chad Bartoszek’s crew to a 6-0 upset victory over No. 2 Portville in the rain and snow on Mother’s Day.
The win advances No. 3 Salamanca (4-2) into the title game against No. 1 Franklinville/Ellicottville (6-0). Meanwhile, the second-seeded Panthers (5-1), who defeated the same Warriors team, 54-14, a little more than two weeks ago ended their season 5-1.
“I’m just really happy for our kids,” Bartoszek said. “I don’t take a ton of this as my own doing. They’ve worked so hard in this weird season. It’s not like we’ve had a ton of kids. We’ve had varsity practices with 18 or 19 kids most of the year. We’ve called it the ’19 Strong’ most of the time, because the guys have been fighting all year, playing both ways, playing through injuries. … I just really wanted it for them. I felt they deserved it with the way they played. I hope they enjoy it as much as I am.”
Salamanca’s Lucus Brown makes a reception in front of Portville’s Bryce Findlay during the first half of Sunday’s Section VI Class D semifinal in Portville. P-J photo by Tim Frank
Bartoszek had reason to be proud of his team’s effort, as the Warriors contained Portville senior running back Jayden Lassiter — he came into the game with 739 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns — and never allowed him much room at all.
“Our defensive staff made a couple small adjustments,” Bartoszek said. “We’ve got a few dynamic players on the defensive line and we moved them around a little bit. We also put a ‘spy’ on (Lassiter) for most of the game and just layered our defense because he breaks a lot of tackles. He’s as tough as we’ve ever faced.”
As well as the defense played, there was still the very real possibility of overtime, because Salamanca had multiple trips deep into Portville territory earlier in the game come up empty. But with 3:30 remaining, the Warriors found their offensive footing.
Starting from their own 44-yard line after a punt — a personal foul penalty on Portville helped with the favorable field position — they needed a little less than 2.5 minutes to finally put the deciding points on the board.
After Amos Whitcomb was stopped for no gain on first down, McKenna took a keeper to the outside, good for 17 yards to move the chains. Jesse Stahlman followed with a 14-yard run, McKenna ripped off 11 yards and Stahlman added 2 more. Set up with a second-and-8 at the 12, McKenna kept the ball himself for the third time on the drive and headed for the right pylon. Once he crossed the goal line, he was greeted in the end zone by his jubilant teammates.
“The momentum shifted on that drive and we kept pounding, pounding, pounding,” Bartoszek said. “It wasn’t very schematically sound. We snapped it and ran right at them. We couldn’t throw, we couldn’t option. You had to get after it and hope our blockers were better than their defense. I’m glad we ended up on that side of it.”
The 2-point conversion failed, but Salamanca was in front 6-0 with just under a minute remaining.
Portville’s final possession was made interesting when the Warriors were flagged for a personal foul on Joe Long’s long kickoff return to give the Panthers a drive start at the Salamanca 35 with 46.6 seconds left.
But Lassiter was stopped twice for no gain and senior quarterback Griffin Hunter threw two incompletions, the last of which sailed out of bounds on fourth down.
Salamanca will now meet Franklinville/Ellicottville for the sectional title on Friday. Earlier this season, the Titans held off the Warriors 7-0.
“We know each other very well,” Bartoszek said. “The staffs know each other, the kids know each other. It’s going to be a well-played game. Obviously, we’re excited to play for a sectional championship. … They have three or four dynamic players. … We’re going to have our hands full, but we’re looking forward to it.”
NOTES: The first half featured a combined six turnovers — three by each team — but neither Salamanca nor Portville could capitalize. … The Character Athletes of the Game were the Warriors’ Whitcomb and the Panthers’ Jared Zenner.