It is one of the most stunning results in Section VI playoff history.
That’s because of what Sweet Home has accomplished over the last seven years, and because of what Williamsville North accomplished Friday night.
The Spartans used a dominant first half to beat Sweet Home, 21-12, in the Section VI Class A championship game, dethroning the six-time defending champions and ending the Panthers’ 69-game win streak against Section VI competition.
A crowd of about 1,000 at Ralph Wilson Stadium, including a large, ecstatic throng in North’s green-and-gold, watched North stunningly take control of the game in a 14-0 first quarter, continue dictating the action as it took a 21-0 halftime lead, and then hang on in the second half to knock off the state’s top-ranked Class A team.
“It’s unreal,” said 6-foot-2, 225-pound junior Duke Hwang, who helped lead North by delivering hard hits on both sides of the ball. “People say it was basically impossible, that this is their house, that they’ve been here so long. But today was our day.”
Williamsville North (7-3), which lost its first two games of the season, advances to the Far West Regionals at 8 p.m. next Friday at Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester. North will play Section V (Rochester area) champion Eastridge (9-1), which beat Victor, 19-16, in Friday night’s Section V Class A final.
“We didn’t think this was an upset,” said senior Derick Isler, who ran 20 times for 99 yards and a touchdown and had two interceptions on defense. “We came here and we proved ourselves tonight.”
The Far West Regionals determine what teams will advance to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class A semifinals, which is a round that Sweet Home (9-1) has been very familiar with.
Sweet Home made its ninth straight appearance at The Ralph, the last six of which have been Panther victories.
The 69-game win streak against Section VI teams included not only those six titles but two Class A state championships (2008 and 2009) and last year’s trip to the state final. The last time Sweet Home lost to a Section VI team was a 53-20 defeat to Iroquois in the 2006 Section VI Class A title game at The Ralph.
Sweet Home was ranked first in the New York State Sportswriters Association Class A poll and No. 3 in The News large school poll, while North was the co-No. 6 team in The News poll and No. 22 in the state.
“I can’t put it into words,” said North coach Mike Mammoliti. “You start 0-2, and you’re not sure about what you are going to do, but they came together themselves. It’s been a great ride so far.”
North had nine first downs to Sweet Home’s two during a first half in which it outgained the Panthers, 181-40.
The Spartans started strong with a score on its first drive, coming on a big play to its big-play receiver, senior Kolbe Hughes. Senior quarterback Ryan Majewski (5 for 10, 97 yards) put up a nice ball for Hughes on the right side, and in single coverage he reeled it in, stepped away from his defender and trotted the final 20 yards for the 49-yard score 4:09 into the game.
With each drive, Will North continued to win the line of scrimmage and gain more momentum. An interception by senior Derick Isler put North at the Sweet Home 31 with 6:08 left in the first, and that was followed shortly there after by a 15-yard connection from Majewski to Hughes on the left side of the end zone for a 14-0 lead.
“The guys counted on me a lot in this game,” said Hughes. “I’m just glad I was able to come out and help us to this win. We’re going to take it as far as we can take it.”
North opened the second quarter by stuffing Sweet Home on a fourth-and-1 at the North 49. Later in the quarter, Isler ended Sweet Home’s best scoring opportunity with another interception, this time in the end zone.
North then went on an 80-yard drive over 5:12, which ended with Isler’s 2-yard run 2:42 before halftime.
Sweet Home scored a touchdown on its first drive of the second half when junior Jordan Evert scored on a 2-yard run, but North was able to possess the ball enough on offense and came up with enough stops to win. The Panthers scored on a pass from junior Kevin Torrillo to junior Brandon Smiley with 3:48 to play to cut the North lead to 21-12, but a failed extra-point kick kept North’s lead at two possessions.
“They are very familiar with this place,” Isler said of Sweet Home. “They were ready in the second half, and we answered.”