Warriors’ seniors ‘changed the standard’ through 2022
Sam Wilson, Salamanca Press
The Salamanca football team made another inarguable step forward in 2022, but that doesn’t make the ending much easier.
The Warriors lost a bit of a heartbreaker in the Section 6 Class C semifinal, tied 6-6 through three quarters before Lackawanna scored three unanswered touchdowns to knock out Salamanca 24-6.
And suddenly, Salamanca’s hopes of playing at Highmark Stadium for the first time since 2001 went on hold for another year. But if the Warriors take another step next year, it will be without their 11 seniors.
“I think they have just changed the standard, changed the expectation and I told them in the huddle they know what they just did for us moving forward,” fourth-year Warriors coach Chad Bartoszek said of his seniors. “They know they have set us up for big things to come. We've got a lot of guys returning and I just wish the seniors could have had a bit of that taste of that Ralph, the sectional finals, because they have put together three very good seasons under their belts since their sophomore year. They have really changed the culture here and our expectation levels are no longer .500 or above average, we're expecting to win and we're expecting to be back in these games next year.”
Salamanca has a core of strong performers who are set to return, including a pair of Connolly Cup weekly nominees, sophomore quarterback Maddox Isaac and junior tight end Tayoni Galante.
Bartoszek couldn’t hide his devastation after the semifinal loss and didn’t sound ready to turn the page on 2022. These seniors were the first ones to come up through four years under his leadership.
“It usually takes a couple months to get over this stuff, but this team is one of those teams that you don't want to stop coaching,” he said. “I don't feel exhausted. I don't feel whipped. I don't have any relief, because they are that good character-wise and discipline-wise. We get compliments everywhere we go about how we act and I'm just proud of that, super proud of that, but in the end, the most fun part is winning that game so Lackawanna gets to relish that.”
Seniors Jason McGraw, Zaron Tucker, Jesse Stahlman and Jaxon Tarr served as captains for the Warriors.
Among Salamanca’s 11 seniors was a four-year impact player, running back/linebacker Stahlman, a 2021 Big 30 All-Star. Stahlman missed the Warriors’ two playoff games with a knee injury suffered in Week 8. While Lackawanna coach Adam Tardif acknowledged Stahlman’s injury changed how the Steelers prepared to face Salamanca, Bartoszek didn’t want to consider ‘what if?’
“I don't think about he impacts (the game), I think about him as a person,” Bartoszek said. “And it's hard to even talk about because I don't know, I can't imagine what he's feeling right now. I didn't have that (thought), I don't think about how it impacted the game because we coach just like we normally (do). It's just him as an individual, as a human being, having to miss this game is a crusher.
“I'm proud of how he handled it and I'm hopeful that his injury is not long-lasting and he has a great rest of his senior year and hopefully a long college (career) playing lacrosse or football at that level.”
(Salamanca Press sports editor Sam Wilson may be contact at firstname.lastname@example.org)