There was a lot of talk in the Orchard Park football team's postgame huddle Saturday night about being "two minutes away."
That's two minutes -- and three points -- away from the Carrier Dome, site of the state championship game in football. West Genesee, which has ended the state title hopes of the OP lacrosse teams many times, did the same to the Quakers' football team.
The Wildcats rode the arm of senior quarterback Tim Moran to a big lead, then withstood a late charge by Orchard Park to survive with a 30-27 victory in the Class AA state semifinals before an estimated 1,800 at Paetec Park.
"Our kids played right to the end. It wasn't over until the last down and we still had a chance," said Orchard Park 14th-year coach Gene Tundo, who also coaches the school's lacrosse team.
"We love our kids and obviously we'd like to still be playing. But it's been an amazing ride to get here."
West Genesee of Section III (Syracuse area) has been Orchard Park's nemesis in the state lacrosse tournament over the last decade, beating the Quakers seven of eight times in the state semifinals.
The Wildcats won this first football matchup by taking control early, going up, 17-7, by halftime. They had leads of 23-7 in the third quarter and 30-13 in the fourth thanks to the play of Moran, who consistently had plenty of protection as he found open receivers out of West Genny's spread offense. The 6-foot, 185-pound Moran was 25 of 31 for 284 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Joe Fazio, a 6-2, 185-pound junior, had nine catches for 126 yards and a touchdown.
"He made three or four unbelievable passes when he had to," said Tundo. "We had him in third-and-10 and he made nice passes under pressure. He's just calm and cool, and he has great receivers."
Last week OP won its first Far West Regional in football in its eighth try by dominating Canandaigua, 49-27, at Paetec. Jeff Tundo, a 5-8, 185-pound junior, rushed for five touchdowns and 368 yards on 35 carries in that game (the yardage total would have been a state tournament record if Geneva's Jeremiah Allen hadn't run for 396 against Depew in the regionals).
After scoring on its opening drive Saturday night -- on a 10-yard run by Jeff Tundo on a drive that featured six Tundo runs -- Orchard Park spent much of the game sputtering on offense. West Genny consistently packed defenders close to the line in an effort to contain Tundo.
"They just threw everyone in there and blitzed everyone," said Jeff Tundo, who had 116 yards and two touchdowns and 23 carries. "We should have put it together in the first half. It felt great [in the second half]. We thought we were going to win."
OP was in a 23-7 hole in the third quarter when Dave Michael capitalized on Moran's only mistake of the game, picking off a pass to the left flat and easily running 8 yards for a touchdown and a 23-13 game. But Moran and West Genny would bounce back with another productive drive which ended with a Ryan McConnell 3-yard run that put them up, 30-13, with 10:21 to play.
OP's next drive was a quick one, with the seventh play a 17-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Hoppy to Jake Gurtler. Gurtler (four catches, 61 yards) made a great one-handed catch over the middle on a slant to bring OP within 30-20 with 8:19 to play.
"We just tightened up a little bit on defense and found what we had to attack them with on offense and we just played better," said Gene Tundo. "We had to adjust a little bit and we did, but we were too far behind."
After OP nearly recovered an excellent onside kick, it got the ball back and had great results in a hurry-up offense behind Hoppy. The junior QB was 6 of 11 for 128 yards passing with a touchdown and two interceptions while he ran nine times for 68 yards.
The Quakers went 73 yards in nine plays, with Tundo powering in behind a great push at the line for a 1-yard score to pull OP within 30-27 with 3:16 left.
A first down was crucial for West Genesee on its ensuing drive, and fittingly Moran came up with it. On third-and-6 at the West Genny 34 with 2:31 to play, Moran lofted a ball to 6-3, 195-pound Kevin Petrick for the first down. OP's defense stuffed three runs to get the ball back for a last-ditch effort with 23 seconds to play.
But OP couldn't move the ball from its 31. After two Hoppy incompletions, West Genny lineman Christos Dimkos chased down Hoppy for a sack and the clock ran out.
"We definitely would have liked to have two more minutes," said Gene Tundo. "But I think everyone who's down three would like two more minutes."