Weekly Feature



2018-11-29 / Sports

East’s best football season ends with loss in ‘A’ final

by JASON NADOLINSKI
Reporter


Lineman Nick Hamme gives West Seneca East quarterback time to steer clear of incoming Cornwall defenders during the Trojans’ 21-14 loss in Friday’s New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class A title game at Syracuse University. Photo by Jason Nadolinski Purchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Lineman Nick Hamme gives West Seneca East quarterback time to steer clear of incoming Cornwall defenders during the Trojans’ 21-14 loss in Friday’s New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class A title game at Syracuse University. Photo by Jason Nadolinski Purchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com All good things must come to an end, which is just what West Seneca’s reign as title town for New York State Class A high school football did Friday at Syracuse University’s Carrier Dome when Section IX’s Cornwall edged out West Seneca East, 21-14, to do what only one other team did all season long: defeat the Trojans.

An interception on East’s final possession by the Green Dragons’ Alex Suarez sealed the Trojans’ fate with 19 seconds to play and East on the move following Cornwall’s go-ahead touchdown on a 1-yard run by Steven Gazzillo just over 30 seconds earlier.

“Honestly, we felt like we had them right where we wanted them in the second half, but in the end I think the fact that they had a bunch more one-way players than we did helped them have a little more left in the fourth quarter than us – even though I’ve thought all year long that our conditioning has really helped us be successful during the later stages of games,” coach Jim Maurino said. “We were able to get our running game going in the second half, but we also had trouble stopping theirs when we really needed to. Plus, we had a couple of untimely penalties that killed some drives that could’ve otherwise helped us to put the game out of reach.

“It just felt right, how the second half was setting up, because playing from behind has pretty much been how we’ve been rolling the last three or four weeks, but we just came up a little short this time,” Maurino continued. “It sure was an amazing ride, though, and there’s no doubt that we went down swinging. The game could’ve easily gone either way or gone to overtime with how the fourth quarter was going. Both teams played really hard and really well, and it just felt like we were one drive, one call, one big play or one turnover away from being a win for us.”

Cornwall was only in position to take the 21-14 lead after having knotted the score at 14-14 with just under seven minutes to play in regulation on a 15-yard pass play from Aidan Semo to Louie Francese. That was the game’s first score since Zach Arnone had hit Shaun Dolac on a 65-yard pass on the first play of the second half to give East its only lead of the contest, 14-7, just 15 seconds into the third quarter.

East looked poised to almost immediately do additional damage after the ball came loose on the ensuing kickoff and the Trojans had appeared to pounce on the stripped ball, but the officials instead deemed that Cornwall would maintain possession of the ball – a call that Maurino said he was still puzzled by three days after the contest.

“To open the third quarter with that huge touchdown play and then strip the ball on the kickoff but have the call go against us was a huge swing,” Maurino said. “We really could’ve potentially killed their spirits if we get the ball there and find a way to score, but we didn’t get the chance. But, that touchdown before the kickoff was just fun to watch. We talked during halftime about how we should come out, and they both said let’s throw that pass and see what happens. It’s just a great credit to Shaun and Zach and what they bring to our team.”

Dolac, not surprisingly to anyone who’s followed East all season, also scored East’s earlier touchdown, dragging Cornwall defenders four yards into the end zone with 8:29 to play in the second quarter to knot the game at 7-7. That touchdown answered Cornwall’s opening salvo, a 6-yard pass from Semo to Suarez that gave the Green Dragons a 7-0 lead just over four minutes into the contest.

“To be able to take some momentum back a little bit right there was big in terms of keeping us in the game, and the way Shaun did it was pretty awesome,” Maurino said of Dolac’s rushing touchdown. “It just felt like that was one of the things we did well as the season went on, answering other teams when they scored on us.”

Dolac finished the final game of his high school football career with 178 yards on 26 carries, while Devare Mathis added 37 yards on 11 carries. Arnone, who had the majority of East’s 73 passing yards, finished with 10 yards on two carries. Defensively, Mathis finished with seven total tackles (6 solo) to go along with an interception, while Dolac had seven solo stops. Arnone added four solo stops for East, which completed its best-ever season with an 11-2 overall record.

“Everybody tells you while you’re going through it to enjoy the ride, and our guys took that to heart throughout our playoff run,” Maurino said. “It was all about the team, about being together and doing our thing. As a coach you want to get there all the time and imagine what it’d be like to play for a state title, but it was just fun watching these guys have fun and find ways to win. Our success was because of our hard work and grit; that’s going to be these guys’ legacy for sure.

“The greatest part of it is that these guys can say that, in 50 years of there being football at West Seneca East, they’re the best team ever to compete. They’ve done more than any other team, and I’m just really glad to have been the guy steering the ship when this came along. It truly was awesome to spend time with them.”

email: jnadolinski@beenews.com

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