For a while there, it looked like Williamsville North might earn the right to sing in the rain following its stiff, nonleague test against defending state Class AA champion Jamestown. But two mistakes gave the Red Raiders the opening they needed to turn a potential defeat into a special victory, leaving the Spartans all wet.
Jamestown rallied for a 30-14 win in a contest between ranked large schools, as two special-teams plays opened the door for the third-ranked Red Raiders to extend their winning streak to 11 games at the expense of the News’ No. 4 team. Jamestown received the spark it needed to jump-start its game late in the second quarter when Gunnar Carlson returned a blocked punt 50 yards for a touchdown, pulling the Raiders within 7-6 with 4:30 left in the second quarter.
After a three-and-out, the Red Raiders took the lead for good with 1:25 left in the half on a 37-yard touchdown pass from Nikkolas Holland to Zacc Kinsey. That was Holland’s only completion in eight tries during a tough first half.
Play of the game: Carlson’s touchdown. Out of an offensive formation meant for a quick kick, punter Nick Maranto appeared to lose his footing on a slick field as he was attempting to kick, resulting in disaster on the play for North. Further complicating that – the fullback on the play missed his block, leaving two untouched Red Raiders bearing in on Maranto. Up to that point, Jamestown’s defense had been holding its own against North’s tough physical line. The play gave the rest of the Red Raiders an infusion of confidence needed to pull out the triumph.
Three cheers for the substitute, as Carlson normally would not have been in that position. He learned midweek he’d fill in for injured senior captain Jack Breen on a play designed for Breen.
“I just stepped up … did exactly what my coach told me to do,” said Carlson, a junior who is not related to former Jamestown star and Connolly Cup winner Stephen. “I owe it all to my coaches.”
“That was big,” Jamestown coach Tom Langworthy said. “It got us back in the game after a lousy start. … Gunnar stepped in and did a heck of a job.”
Phase three delivers: Special teams, the third phase of the game, played a significant role in the Red Raiders’ win.
In addition to Carlson’s touchdown, Ricky Williams recovered the opening kickoff of the second half at North’s 20-yard line after the hard, squib kick slipped in and out of the hands of the Spartans’ returner. That led to the first of two Devan Jackson touchdown runs, this one a 10-yarder that gave Jamestown a 20-7 lead.
Another special-teams gem came in the fourth quarter when Jamestown opted to kick a 25-yard field goal with the wind in slick conditions. On a muddy field, that’s no easy feat, but Carson Peters drilled the boot through the uprights to make it 23-14 with 8:13 left. That made it a two-possession game, all but wrapping up the “W” because North driving into a stiff wind.
Holland report: The first team All-Western New York quarterback had a tough day but like last season showed that he’s a battler to the end. He completed only one pass in the first half. It came on his eighth attempt, a perfectly threaded throw to Kinsey on an inside pattern for the 37-yard TD. Holland finished 3 for 14 for 61 yards, a TD and interception. He ran for a tough 46 yards on 17 rushes, 31 of those yards coming in the second half.
“We preach: win the next play,” Holland said. “I threw a pick, I kept my head up, came back out and tried to win the next play. That’s how our whole team operates and that’s why we’re successful.”
Quotable I: “I thought we got off to a bad start but besides that, I thought we played great, especially in these conditions,” Langworthy said. “Last week I was embarrassed about the way we played, quite frankly, and our players knew that. Today, I’m extremely proud. It’s extremely gratifying to see us improve.”
Stats: On a windy, rainy day in which a straight-ahead approach was the best and obvious play, Jamestown finished with 216 yards to North’s 200. Andrew Hwang rushed for 73 yards on 20 carries and two TDs for North. Jamestown’s Jackson finished with 84 yards on 20 rushes and two touchdowns.
Dropsies: Jose Padilla filled in at quarterback for injured North starter Jason Hwang and deserved better. He went 7 for 17 with an interception and 115 yards. However, Spartans receivers dropped at least five catchable passes including a potential TD on their second possession that could’ve made it 14-0 and changed the complexion of the game.
Quotable II: “I thought we did a lot of good things,” North coach Mike Mammoliti said of his team’s good start. “We missed that ball in the end zone. You do what you’re supposed to do, it’s 14-0. It changes some things. … They won and deserved to win.”
Attendance: An estimated 1,200 braved the elements.
Next: Jamestown (2-0) has its home opener Friday against Class AA South rival Lancaster. North (1-1) visits Niagara-Wheatfield in Class A North.