Salamanca, Randolph put 3-0 records on the line
By SAM WILSON - Olean Times Herald
The Big 30's only remaining undefeated New York football teams — Randolph and Salamanca — hit the road on Saturday to put their 3-0 records to test.
Randolph travels to Panama to play Clymer/Sherman/Panama, the No. 1 Class D team in the state (Randolph is No. 4). The game will determine first place in Section 6 Class D and could have heavy implications for sectional playoff seeding. Approaching midseason, the Cardinals are relishing the chance to play the top-ranked Wolfpack (3-0, 2-0).
“I think this is the week the kids have been waiting for,” Randolph coach Brent Brown acknowledged. “If you're going to be anything this is the week you've got to win. You've got to beat the best if you're going to be the best and right now they're the best, so our kids are pretty focused. We've had three good days of practice this week and we get an extra day because the game's on Saturday. This will be a fun one. It'll probably be tight, it'll be a tough game but the kids are looking forward to it.”
BROWN, with the deepest roster he’s had in years after Randolph rebuilt its numbers, said his players began the season with plenty of confidence, which has only grown so far.
“This group, even when they were little, they had quite a bit of success,” he said, “and in the springtime they were a little bitter at how our year went. The atmosphere was a little bit different from the beginning and they're certainly excited about how we started. They're pretty confident, but I think this group's hungry.”
Randolph will likely rely on what’s worked so far: run and stop the run. Cardinals running backs Xander Hind and Luke Pagett have both earned Connolly Cup weekly recognition already this season and Hind has 750 yards in just three games.
While CSP played in Class C last spring, Randolph still faced the Wolfpack in a non-league COVID-19 replacement game, a 25-6 CSP victory at Randolph. Brown compared CSP’s recent success — winning state Class D titles in 2018 and 2019 — to the kind of runs Randolph had earlier this decade, with three-straight state titles from 2012-14 under Brown and predecessor Pat Slater.
“When you get on a run like CSP has been on, whether you graduate kids or not — we've been there — you get kids that then come up, they expect to win, they know how to practice, they practice hard, they play fast, and you can tell that's exactly where CSP is at,” he said. “Whether they graduated a bunch or not they have a bunch of numbers, they certainly have reloaded and I'm hoping this will be a good game.”
Salamanca’s Zaron Tucker (24) looks for room to run as Allegany-Limestone defenders try to bring him down during a game Sept. 17 in Salamanca. (Jerry Trass/Olean Times Herald)
SALAMANCA, meanwhile, has a similar test with first place Class C South on the line. The Warriors visit Sinclairville to play Cassadaga Valley/Falconer/Maple Grove, a new three-school program that started 2-1 (2-0 in league).
The Warriors last started 3-0 in 2012.
In uncharted territory for the program’s recent history — earning rankings from both the state and Western New York small school level — third-year coach Chad Bartoszek wants his team to play with confidence but not “complacency.”
“It would be ironic to achieve success and then start overthinking it too much or worrying about it,” Bartoszek said. “I'm trying to fight that as a coach and I'm trying to portray that to our players. So we want confidence, but we don't want complacency. I don't see that. I still think it's awfully fresh in our minds, where we were just a couple weeks ago. It's going to be more of a challenge just to stay where we are because you're really not going to be able to sneak under the radar at this point and we've got a really tough opponent coming up this week.”
CV/F/MG lost its season opener at CSP, but bounced back with back-to-back shutouts of Silver Creek, 42-0, and Gowanda/Pine Valley, 21-0.
Despite the 3-0 start, Salamanca's coaches have seen mistakes they need to clean up. The Warriors lost the turnover battle in their first two games and tied in turnovers last week, but had a botched punt snap that led to a short-field touchdown.
“On special teams we had a blunder that in a close game will just kill you,” Bartoszek said. “You have a bad snap or a blocked put, you're in deep trouble and that led to a touchdown. So minor mistakes like that, and offensively we're still struggling to win that turnover battle.
“We've just got to make sure we're sound on those three phases, but especially early on both teams are going to be fired up. I think both teams know it's a huge game.”
Bartoszek wants his team to maintain the level of physicality it's played with recently, which may not be so easy against a team with impressive speed.
“They've got a couple big kids that they utilize but for the most part they use a lot of speed, especially on defense laterally,” he said. “They've got some prime weapons at the quarterback position and a receiver, running back. They've got some players that they've added and they're just getting better as the season goes on and that's typically the case when you merge programs, you're going to see some early bumps in the road and then the kids are going to get used to each other's habits and timing and you really start to jell as the season goes on.”
— In Portville, the “rocking chair rivalry” will resume between the Panthers (2-1) and Allegany-Limestone (1-2) in a non-league Friday night game. Portville won the last meeting between nearby Cattaraugus County rivals in a 40-12 game in 2019.
— Olean (0-3), still seeking its first win, will look to get its season back on track with a Friday night home game with East Aurora/Holland (0-3) at Bradner Stadium.
After having its B South league game at Dunkirk postponed, Pioneer (2-1) instead will look to bounce back from its first loss in a non-league trip to play Eden (2-1).
Cattaraugus-Little Valley (1-2), after its first win, will try to make it two in a row with a trip to Silver Creek/Forestville (0-3). Franklinville/Ellicottville (2-1) visits Cardinal O’Hara on Saturday.