Sweet Home proved to be too fast for Cheektowaga. And its quarterback proved a fast learner.
Junior backup quarterback Michael Wolcott, starting his first career varsity game in place of injured starter Casey Kacz, completed 8 of 14 passes for 87 yards and a touchdown as Sweet Home sped past Cheektowaga, 31-6, Thursday night to win the Section VI Class A championship.
"How do you ask a 17-year-old kid to come into a semifinal game and then start the final game at Ralph Wilson Stadium with everything on his back?" said Sweet Home coach John Faller. "I'm proud of the team that stood behind him to give him the encouragement that he needed and he made the plays when he had to. I don't know too many 17-year-old kids who could come in and do that."
A crowd of about 2,500 watched Sweet Home win for just the second time in nine trips to The Ralph. The Panthers, ranked second among large schools in Western New York, overwhelmed the No. 3 Warriors in the battle of unbeatens by displaying an outstanding all-around game.
While the defense stifled a heretofore
explosive Cheektowaga attack, three different players scored touchdowns. Marcus Johnson ran 26 times for 92 yards and a touchdown and caught a 19-yard score from Wolcott. William Reese and Deshanaro Morris also ran for touchdowns for the Panthers.
Sweet Home (10-0) will face the Section V winner in the Far West Regionals on Nov. 9 at Rochester's Paetec Park.
Wolcott sounded as cool and confident after the game as he appeared on the field during it.
"I had all the snaps this week so I was ready," he said. "Even before this, I had playing time, and [Faller] ran me with the first offense, since Week One. So I was ready. You've got to be prepared for everything. Anything can happen in football. It feels great -- but everyone did great. The linemen, Marcus ran the ball well. Everything was just clicking."
On the other side, Cheektowaga (9-1) managed only 107 yards to Sweet Home's 212.
"We stuck our heads in there and played defense," said Johnson. "We had to stop their options and their sweeps. [Our speed] made a big difference."
Touchdown runs by Reese and Morris and a 26-yard field goal by Michael Lawandus gave Sweet Home a 17-0 halftime lead. It appeared momentum might head toward Cheektowaga after the Warriors opened the second half with a 27-yard touchdown catch by Dante Parker from Adam Piscitello and then followed that with an interception. But the momentum swung back.
Mikal Coleman and Ibrahim Ramadan forced a Piscitello fumble and Sweet Home took over at the Cheektowaga 21. Two plays later, out of a double-wing formation, Wolcott hit Johnson for the 18-yard touchdown pass and a 24-6 Sweet Home lead.