It was the fourth quarter of Friday evening's Section VI Class B championship game, and Olean was beating Southwestern again. It looked like the Huskies would extend their six-game winning streak over the Trojans, who would again make the drive from Ralph Wilson Stadium home to Jamestown without a title.
But Steve Mancari changed all that. The senior running back's 79-yard touchdown run, and Chris Stoddard's extra point, were the biggest plays in a big fourth quarter for Southwestern as the Trojans won their first sectional football championship by exorcising Olean, 14-13, in front of an estimated 1,000.
"Losing to them six times has been a kick in the butt, but I'm glad we brought home a banner to the school, and hopefully we'll win another one," said Mancari, who rushed for 163 yards on 17 carries. "After Chris (Stoddard) gave us the lead, I was out of my mind."
Southwestern (9-1) will play the Section V (Rochester area) champion in the Far West Regionals in The Ralph at 1 p.m. next Saturday.
Olean seemed to take control of the game by scoring on successive second-half possessions to take a 13-6 lead, but with 8:58 left to play, Mancari started Southwestern's possession at its 21 by taking a handoff to the right. He followed a big block by Matt Mazgaj, then cut back to the left and juked a few linebackers to get into open space and went untouched down the left sideline for the score. Stoddard, a sophomore, nailed a line drive straight through the uprights for the extra point and the 14-13 lead.
"Steve's got great breakaway speed, and I thank him for that," said Mazgaj, a senior who had 12 tackles at linebacker and scored a touchdown. "There was a lot of history going into this, and we rose above all the doubters."
No. 2 small school Southwestern's 21-16 loss in Week Five to top-ranked Olean (8-2) had been its sixth straight to the Huskies. Olean also spoiled the Trojans' trip to The Ralph in 2001, 14-13, while last year Southwestern lost to Eden, 48-33.
The teams slugged it out in the first half, with Southwestern taking a 7-0 lead thanks to a big defensive play on Olean's third-and-7 at the Southwestern 22.
Olean quarterback Justin George (24 carries, 101 yards) was looking to pass when he was sacked by Trojans senior Matt Langworthy. The ball popped loose, bounced once and was scooped up by senior Colby Chamberlin, who ran down an open field for 73 yards to the 3. The 73-yard fumble return tied a Section VI stadium record (Lackawanna's Joaquin LaBoy and Marium Owens had a 73-yard return for a TD -- on a lateral -- in 1986). On second-and-goal at the 1, Mazgaj leaned in for the touchdown.
Olean took over in the third quarter with a 14-play drive that ate up 9:01 of the period. Junior running back Neil Fay had some tough runs in the drive, converting a fourth-and-3 and a fourth-and-4, before running through a nice hole for a 4-yard TD and a 7-7 tie.
Olean's momentum built on the first play of Southwestern's next drive, when Hussam Al-Samrrai intercepted Chad Bush after Bush was popped by Julio Fuentes from the front and Fay from the back. Set up at the Southwestern 43, a 14-yard run by Fay put Olean up, 13-7, with 9:06 left. Daniel Grabowski's extra-point try, however, went wide right.
After Mancari's touchdown, the Trojans sent Olean off with a three-and-out. Southwestern ran off a lot of the remaining time with a 10-play drive that included Mancari converting third downs with runs of 37 and 6 yards. Although the Trojans were stopped on fourth-and-goal at the 5, Olean couldn't do much in the final 2:16. A sack of George by Langworthy helped keep the Huskies inside the 30.