Warriors grab Section 6 crown, 36-23, after dominant second half
By SPENCER BATES, Sports Editor, Salamanca Press
ORCHARD PARK — For the first time in 22 years, the Salamanca football team has its hands on the Section 6 crown.
The long road to the title was capped off by a 36-23 victory at the expense of the undefeated No.1 seed Medina at Highmark Stadium in the Section 6 Class C championship.
A moment filled with emotion and celebration, easily ranks high in the lifetime achievements for the Warriors. The years of hard work and fantasizing about their moment in the stadium all became reality in one magical moment. According to Salamanca quarterback Jaxson Ross, this is what they’ve always wanted.
“It's number one, for sure,” he said. “This feels so good. This feels amazing. We've worked through this all year. We've worked through this for our whole lives. We've been dreaming in the sense of your kids. You know, it just feels so good.”
Lucus Brown shared in the sentiment and explained how getting to experience playing in the stadium made the win just that much sweeter.
“This is one of the best sporting moments of my life,” Brown said. I’ve never got to experience Highmark before, this is my first time. So I’m really happy winning the sectional title.”
After trailing 16-14 at halftime, Ross had one of the biggest impacts of any player on the field. Originally alternating drives with fellow quarterback Maddox Isaac, he took sole control of the offense after his teammate went down with an injury. Ross completed eight passes for 176 total yards and no interceptions. Isaac had six completions and totaled up 132 yards before he was taken out due to injury. Ross said he felt no pressure in taking over thanks to the support system he had around him.
“No pressure, no pressure with any of us,” Ross said. “They're all supporting me throughout the way, Maddox is my number one supporter (and) I'm his number one supporter. We're a family.”
Brown was at the center of a good amount of the Warriors’ offense. After not tallying a reception in the first half, he caught three balls for 80 yards and two touchdowns, including a 28-yard score that was reeled in with one hand that sent the fans that traveled into a frenzy. It was his mixture of his confidence and mentality that helped him stay in the game.
“Confidence (and) just a next play mentality,” he said. “(Even though) I didn't catch that first ball on a slant, I was like, ‘Yeah, I don't care about that.’ I just want to get the next progression … Secure the ball and score a touchdown.”
WHETHER IT be Ross, Brown, Joshua Auman, who had nine carries for 37 yards, or Arlen Newark, who had 41 yards on the ground and 37 through the air. The Warriors found a way to get the job done. For coach Chad Bartoszek, depth has always been a part of this team’s identity.
“We got guys all over the place that can catch and move the ball and I think that's just where we've come over the last several weeks,” he said. “‘Let's just explore more options, more weapons.’ Our bigs up front are doing a great job of being able to be both powerful and lateral.”
Those weapons led them to the program’s biggest moment in just over two decades of history. However, it wasn’t until the second half when the Warriors seized control of the game. A back-and-forth first half was kickstarted by a Medina one yard punch-in from quarterback Julian Woodworth. The Warriors answered almost immediately with a 61-yard connection between Ross and Zach Trietley on a screen pass.
The second quarter was just as contested with both the Mustangs and Warriors finding the endzone once each. For Medina it was Noah Cudzilo latching onto a 17 yard pass from Woodworth. Isaac found the endzone on an 11 yard run two drives later. However, a late field goal by Cole Callard gave Medina the lead going into the break.
A LEAD that quickly evaporated after the break as the Warriors defense and offense became ruthless.
On the defensive side of the ball for Salamanca, Cory Holleran roped in the Warriors only interception of the game which he ran back for 14 yards. Trietley led the team in tackles with 11 total tackles while Carmine Hoag led in the unassisted tackles category with five.
Salamanca got the third quarter underway with an Arlen Newark 25-yard field goal followed up by Brown’s highlight reel touchdown catch. After his score was followed up by a four yard scrambling touchdown by Ross, the Warriors were in sole possession of momentum.
The Mustangs’ Christian Moss scored with time dwindling in the third quarter but it was all in vain as a final Salamanca touchdown — a 49 yard connection between Ross and Brown — solidified the team’s win.
A win that did not go unearned as the Warriors had to battle a “unique” and “strong” Medina team as Bartoszek described them.
For Bartoszek, the win was filled with a little more emotion as the memory of Darren Ross was on his mind.
“The performance you saw tonight … that was Ross strong right there, baby,” he said. “There was something special inside our heart in our team.”
The Warriors left the field victors after joining together in chanting family one last time. A representation of the bond the team has.
“We're brothers,” Ross said. “We support each other and we stick through it.”