Salamanca swipes road win over St. Mary's of Lancaster
BUFFALO — With its opponent loading up to stop the run, the Salamanca football team desperately needed to connect on a big pass play.
Late in the first half against St. Mary’s of Lancaster, quarterback Lucas McKenna and tight end Harley Hoag connected for that big play and swung the Saturday afternoon contest for good in the Warriors’ favor. The senior signal-caller hit Hoag over the top of the defense and the junior ran free for an 84-yard score. An extra point kick gave the Warriors a 7-6 lead just before halftime and Salamanca (2-1) added a safety and another touchdown in the second half to put away St. Mary’s, 16-6.
“I saw the free safety roll down, I knew our inside guy had a wide open route, I just threw it up, (and) let him make a play,” McKenna said of the pass to Hoag. “It was a big momentum booster, really got us fired up.”
Salamanca scored its safety on a bad St. Mary’s punt snap in the third quarter. The ball sailed over punter Noah Renkas’ head and he fell on the ball before the Warriors could grab it for a defensive touchdown.
Leading 9-6, the Warriors tacked on another touchdown later in the quarter off a short field. On defense, McKenna intercepted a deep pass from St. Mary’s quarterback Jayden Wilson, taking a 33-yard return to the Lancars’ 27-yard line. Running back Jessie Stahlman punched in a 3-yard run to finish an eight-play, 27-yard drive and give the Warriors a two-score lead.
“The mentality was just to keep two hands on the football, no turnovers, just try to keep moving it,” McKenna said.
The Warriors finished with 95 rushing yards (including minus-15 yards from three sacks) and 198 passing, a career high for McKenna, who was 7-for-15.
“They were putting everybody in the box. It was difficult to do much,” Salamanca coach Chad Bartoszek said of his offense. “They sent a lot, really snuck people through on some big plays. We tried taking shots. The numbers were saying throw the ball and a windy day today, cold, windy (day), we didn’t have a ton of success. We did enough. But the defense was the reason we were able to shorten the field.
“This last drive to go up another score was just ‘gut check.’ We told them we’re not throwing, we’re running every play until we’re in. And I’m just so proud of how they’re playing, they’re flying all over the place, it’s crazy. It’s crazy the way that they are teaming up, team tackling, everything’s great.”
Salamanca forced four turnovers — interceptions from McKenna and Trevor Ellis and two forced fumbles by Ezra Stahlman — while committing three turnovers, all lost fumbles, itself.
Ezra Stahlman had two sacks and seven tackles. Kody Shinners made six tackles (two assists).
The Warriors didn’t allow a defensive touchdown, as St. Mary’s scored in the second quarter on a 79-yard fumble return by Trevor Sheehan. The Warriors have allowed only two defensive touchdowns through three games this season.
“The thing that I love about them right now is they're very team-oriented,” Bartoszek said of the defense. “There's layers, there's layers, and they just keep backing each other up. Everyone's in position. The coaching staff has been on top of everything. Last year we had holes, there’d be one cut and there’d be a hole on the weak side. Now everyone's in their position and it’s just making a huge difference because their 10-yard runs or their 20-yard runs are 20-yard runs, they’re not touchdowns. You saw that today. They had some good plays, those guys can ball, St. Mary’s is — our kids said — as physical as we’ve faced. But just defensively they're everywhere right now.”
Bartoszek said the big pass play for Salamanca’s first touchdown didn’t do much to force the Lancers out of that run-heavy defense. But scoring their first touchdown since the third quarter of Week 1, after a shutout loss to Franklinville/Ellicottville in Week 2, boosted the Warriors’ confidence.
“I think that was like, ‘Oh OK, we can do this, we can complete this,’” he said. “They kept coming though. Every time we would pound it out a little bit, they kept coming and we took shots, we missed a couple that you think you need to catch. I told them we’re good right now, we’re just not a great team. We need to take that next step. I keep telling them ‘good, not great,’ because we want to keep getting to that great level. These kids are earning it and this was a good win for us, that's a good team right there.”
Salamanca 0 7 9 0 — 16
St. Mary's. 0 6 0 0 — 6
St. Mary's — Trevor Sheehan 79 fumble return; pass failed, 6-0
Salamanca — Harley Hoag 84 pass from Lucas McKenna (3 plays, 90 yards); Jarrett Pond kick, 6-7
Salamanca — Safety. Noah Renkas downed in end zone; 6-9
Salamanca — Jessie Stahlman 3 run (8 plays, 27 yards after McKenna interception return); Pond kick, 6-16
Sala. St. M
First Downs; 14;9
Passing Yards; 198;164
Total Offense; 293;192
Total Plays; 51;49
Sam Wilson, Salamanca Press