Of all the difficult calls Lackawanna coach Bill Moore made during Saturday's game against Clarence, one of the easier ones was whether to go for two points and the win in overtime.
"Really, there was no thought. I didn't want to go another series with them," said Moore. "They were bigger than us. Our kids had a lot of heart, and they stuck together."
Senior running back Joe West made Moore's call pay off, scoring the conversion on a run around the left side to give the Steelers a thrilling 15-14 victory.
"I knew I had to get to the outside, so I just kept my feet moving, followed my blockers and got in safely," said West, who finished with 170 yards on 29 carries. "We knew Clarence was a good team, a big team, so we had to use our speed."
The interdivision game attracted an estimated 1,200 fans and featured the two-time defending Class B state champion Steelers and the defending Section VI Class A champion Red Devils. Lackawanna extended its winning streak to 27 games, the second-longest streak in the state behind Poly Prep (NYC), which hadn't lost in 28 games heading into this weekend.
The teams exchanged touchdowns in overtime, with each getting the ball for one set of downs from the opponent's 20-yard line. Clarence got the ball first and scored when senior tailback Tim Hammer found the end zone from the 4-yard line. Chris Coppola's conversion kick was good.
Lackawanna wasted no time when it got the ball, as West scored on a pitch from quarterback Rodney Randolph on first down. Moore then elected to go for the win.
"To be honest there were two great teams out here, two great programs, it should have ended in a tie," said Moore. "No one should have lost this. It wasn't a division game. I'm sure they're a little depressed right now, but they've got nothing to be ashamed of. It was just a great football game."
After a scoreless first quarter, West gave the Steelers a 7-0 second-quarter lead on a 12-yard run. Clarence didn't give its fans, many of whom tailgated before the game, much to cheer about in the first half.
However, the Red Devils had their chances over the final two quarters. They fumbled on the Lackawanna 17-yard line in the third quarter before tying the game, 7-7, on quarterback Charles Madison's 12-yard run early in the fourth quarter. They later had a pass intercepted at the Lackawanna 25 with 2:14 left.
"Those two (turnovers) hurt us because they might have taken some points off the board, but that's football," said Clarence coach Tom Goddard. "I told the kids you can't have a better past. We can't change what just happened, but we can change the future, so that's our motto. We played a great game so now we're ready to play some great football through our league."
Lackawanna senior linemen Dave Szentesy and Hank Porowski led the Steelers with 15 and 13 tackles. Hammer finished with 85 yards on 17 carries for Clarence.
The Red Devils, coming off a season-opening win over Jamestown, evened their record at 1-1. The Steelers, the No. 1-ranked small school in WNY, moved to 2-0.