Weekly Feature



2018-11-08 / Sports

East tops West in Class A football final

Dolac scores tying, winning TDs as Trojans avenge week-seven loss
JASON NADOLINSKI
Sports Reporter


West Seneca East’s Devare Mathis knocks the ball out of the hands of West Seneca West quarterback Maurice Robertson during Thursday’s Federation Class A championship football game at New Era Field. East rallied from a 13-7 halftime deficit to claim its first sectional title since 1987 with the 20-13 victory. Photo by Jake French West Seneca East’s Devare Mathis knocks the ball out of the hands of West Seneca West quarterback Maurice Robertson during Thursday’s Federation Class A championship football game at New Era Field. East rallied from a 13-7 halftime deficit to claim its first sectional title since 1987 with the 20-13 victory. Photo by Jake French Playing in its first Federation final since 2015, West Seneca East’s football team wasn’t focused on Thursday’s Class A title game at New Era Field being a rematch with its crosstown rival, or on the fact that it was going up against the defending state champions.

The Trojans were focused instead on playing their brand of football, and though it took a little bit of time to do so under far-from-ideal weather conditions, that’s just what they did in ending the Indians’ reign in come-from-behind fashion, 20-13, to win their first Section VI championship since 1987.

“To be honest, it feels great,” East senior Niam Bonner said after the game. “To come into the season in January with some young guys mixing into our group of veteran players, and start the season ranked by some as maybe the fourth-best team in our division but now be one of the best teams in Western New York, it just feels great. To win a huge game at a big stadium like this just makes me so happy.”

East quarterback Shaun Dolac had a big hand in helping the Trojans feel great about their efforts in the relentless, driving monsoon of a rain storm, scoring both the tying and go-ahead touchdowns in a five-minute span of the fourth quarter to help the Trojans pull out the victory. His dive over the pile to break the plane from a yard out on his third attempt with 2:29 to play may have put the Trojans out front for the first time in the contest, but that wouldn’t have even been possible had it not been for his 17-yard reception on a busted fourth and eight play at the 7:11 mark that knotted the game at 13-13.


Shaun Dolac goes over the pile for the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter of West Seneca East’s Federation Class A final victory over West Seneca West. Photo by Jake French Shaun Dolac goes over the pile for the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter of West Seneca East’s Federation Class A final victory over West Seneca West. Photo by Jake French That play, in which Zach Arnone was supposed to toss it into the end zone on the same side of the field that he ran to, saw Arnone come to a stop when he realized all the receivers on the right side of the field were covered – only to quickly find Dolac all by himself on the left side of the end zone for a wide-open pass.

“I think everyone in the stadium knew who was getting the ball on all three times it took to get that score,” East coach Jim Maurino said. “There was no chance anyone else was going to get it there, and I was confident he was definitely going to get that touchdown there for us. Fortunately for us, we’ve been more of a second-half team all year long, and we didn’t make the mistakes this time that we did when we played them in the regular season. It seemed like it was their turn tonight with a lot of bad snaps and some unfortunate penalties at the end, and that allowed us to come out on top.”

“My guys were at the right place at the right time for us to get the job done,” Dolac said of his two scores. “We worked really hard for this since January, always believing we could do it, and we got it done tonight. Even though the first half didn’t go our way, we got together in the locker room, got ourselves hyped and knew we had to win this game. We really wanted this win so we came out hot for the second half, and I’m just so happy that in the end things came out our way.”

“That was a great job by Arnone ad-libbing on that one,” West coach Mike Vastola conceded. “We spent all week preaching high discipline, including knowing who you have, and one of our guys got caught up in the moment and lost his guy. We just weren’t disciplined enough to make a play, and credit to them that was a great heads-up play. What it ultimately boils down to is that we picked a horrible day to play bad football. We were going to lose at some point, but it just stinks that it was in the sectional final.”

East found itself in the position of needing to rally to get the victory thanks to the early effectiveness of West running back John Speyer, who scored on an 11-yard run with 6:39 to play in the first quarter and a 12-yard run with 4:51 to play in the second quarter. Speyer’s second score gave the Indians a 13-7 lead and broke the 7-7 tie created when Devare Mathis returned the kickoff 73 yards to paydirt after Speyer’s first score.

“We had chances in the second quarter to really put the game out of reach, but we didn’t,” Vastola said. “We let them hang around and a lot of that’s on us. We had uncharacteristically poor snaps, and we had some overthrows and some fumbles that you just can’t have if you’re going to beat a team like East. I just wish I could’ve put my finger on what was making all that happen. They hang around and hang around, and then turn it on in the second half. They’re opportunistic when you turn the ball over.”

West’s chances took a significant hit after Speyer’s second score, as a hip pointer took him out of the game for a significant portion of the second half. With Speyer – who received the lion’s share of practice reps leading up to the game – relegated to the sidelines, top receiver Juston Johnson also battling through a nagging injury and quarterback Maurice Johnson having difficulty executing through the air, the game just shaped up to have too many obstacles for the Indians to clear.

“We dealt with a rash of injuries all at once, starting with losing Josh Wilson two weeks ago, the one guy we said before the season we couldn’t afford to lose as someone who was the strength of both our lines,” Vastola said. “Josh going down really hurt us. And Johnny was having a great game before that hip pointer took him out of it for a bit, plus Juston wasn’t able to go full bore because of a little injury too. Maurice had an off day too; we had open guys, had good play selection, but for multiple reasons we just weren’t able to execute.

“But even with all that said, I’m happy for this group; they accomplished more than most high school kids could ever dream of. They have nothing to be sad about or feel sorry for. These guys took us on the greatest ride in the world these last two years, and they’re going to go on to do bigger and better things.”

For the game, West was led offensively by Speyer’s 106 yards on 21 carries. Ball added five yards on 11 carries as the team’s only other rusher with positive yardage. Defensively, Johnson had an interception, while Mike Glinski finished with 17 total tackles, five of which were unassisted. Dillon Weir added seven total tackles for the Indians, who lose 21 players to graduation off a squad that finished the season 9-1 overall.

“You’re never quite ready for it to be done, and I think losing this game and having this experience come to an end caught a lot of our guys off guard,” Vastola said. “I’m sure our guys have some regrets, but failure’s a great teacher. But we’re not defined by this loss; you can’t look at everything they’ve done the last couple of years and say, ‘Yeah, but you lost to East in the final.’ We’re going to be defined by establishing a culture that continues to improve, thrive, and reshape itself to fit the players who are living it. Our kids have their whole lives ahead of them, and they’ll look back fondly at their high school memories. Our seniors, the lessons they learned, will make them successful no matter what they do. We want our kids to be great men, and that’s when we’ll know if we were truly successful, decades from now.”

Dolac, meanwhile, finished the game with 135 yards on 32 carries to pace the victors. Mathis finished with 17 yards on two carries, while Bonner chipped in with nine yards on three carries. Defensively, East saw Mathis (10 total tackles) and Mark Amborski (6 total tackles) each record a sack, with Dolac recording an astounding 20 total stops, including 10 solo tackles. Bonner added three total tackles and Arnone assisted on four stops for the Trojans (9-1 overall), who now face Section V’s Irondequoit (10-0 overall) at 8 p.m. Friday at Clarence for the right to move on to the state final four.

“We’ll get a good in-person scout on them, but for tonight we’ll enjoy this win and go from there,” Maurino said. “Irondequoit is really good, though, and undefeated for a reason. They have a fast and aggressive defense, and their quarterback is a state-level player. I’m just really proud of our kids and of the program that we’re even in this position. We’re just little old West Seneca East, grinding away over on our side of town. Our kids do things the right way, as does our coaching staff, and it’s just really nice to be rewarded and get to where we are with the toughness and effort we always pride ourselves on.”

“I just wanted to do well against West for my dad – I hope that he’s proud of me – but I’d also like for us to take this as far as we can,” Dolac said. “We’re just going to take things one week at a time and focus in practice this week so that we can be ready to go come Friday.”

email: jnadolinski@beenews.com

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