Joey Shifflet has been Mr. Everything this season for Williamsville East football, even earning the nod as Homecoming king this weekend.
He is something else on Saturday, too: a decoy.
Kenmore West fell for it, which enabled the Cardiac kids of Class A North to rally for another victory and put themselves in position to do something a Flames team hasn't done in quite some time.
Williamsville East completed its comeback from a nine-point deficit on Nick Kieffer's 10-yard touchdown catch with 1 minute, 13 seconds left as the playoff-bound Flames secured a 20-16 victory.
A Homecoming crowd of more than 1,500 witnessed Williamsville East's second straight comeback win on its glitzy, new home field. It's the Flames third comeback win in four games – a streak that began in Week Three at rival Williamsville South.
The victory did not clinch a playoff spot for the Flames (4-2, 4-1 in Class A North). Losses by their two closest pursuers in Class A North on Friday night, Sweet Home and Williamsville South, punched East's ticket into the Section VI Tournament for the first time since 2012. The Flames last had a winning season in 2010.
They've put themselves in position to do it again, provided they win at least one more game.
They've also put themselves in a spot where Friday's game at Gene Masters Field against sizzling Grand Island has some high stakes attached to it. Both have already clinched playoff berths but the winner of the contest earns a home playoff game.
"It's big ... I'm happy for the kids," said first-year coach Mike Torrillo, the former longtime aide to retired Sweet Home coach John Faller. "These kids have worked hard. You come into a new situation with new coaches, new terminology, new philosophies, new everything and they buy into it, it's awesome. They're fun to coach."
The seeds for Will East's fourth straight victory were planted earlier when Shifflet burned the Blue Devils on a play from the same formation. Apparently Kenmore West didn't forget that or the fact that in East's previous two comeback wins Shifflet accounted for either the game-tying or game-winning scores in those games.
Except on Saturday the Flames went in a different direction.
With the defense understandably focused on Shifflet, that left a one-on-one matchup for Kieffer on the outside. Lefty Colson Skorka zipped in an accurate throw to Kieffer on the slant route much to the delight of the red and yellow faithful.
"They're saying watch 10 all game," Shifflet said. "We made sure I faked the run and put the focus on me so Nick could score the touchdown there."
"Joey's been the guy all year long," Torrillo said. "That was actually the same play we scored on down there (in the second quarter). They called timeout because they saw it. … Again we needed a great throw and (Skorka) put it right in there."
Homecoming at Williamsville East's new turf stadium home was quite the spectacle with the red and yellow streamers whipping with the wind. People filled the stands and stood along the fence that surrounds the field to catch the action on a nice, unseasonably warm October day.
The Flames wasted little time giving them something to cheer about as Danny Wagner crushed quarterback Ahmadi Faisal on Ken West's third play, the sack causing a fumble. John Moran scooped it and raced in for the 22 yard touchdown just 1 minute, 12 seconds into it.
The Blue Devils (1-5, 0-5) grounded and pounded their way to touchdowns on their next two possessions with Joseph Stewart scoring on a 6-yard run to cap a 14-play – all runs – 72-yard drive. He also ran in the conversion to make it 8-7 Ken West. The Blue Devils made it 16-7 with 4:18 left in the second quarter as a 16-play, 80-yard march ended with Erick Rainey's 5-yard TD. Eddie Vona ran in the conversion.
Kieffer provided the spark the started the comeback with an interception and 40-yard return to Ken West's 15 with 1:48 left in the second quarter. Fifty-eight seconds later, Shifflet caught a 2-yard TD from Skorska.
Neither side got much of anything going during the second half until the Flames' penultimate possession of the game with 2:38 left. Shifflet had key gains of 15 yards on third-and-10 and a 15-yard run on back to back plays to get East to West's 10-yard line.
Though Shifflet didn't have his number 10 called on the game-winning play, he secured the special win by making a leaping interception at East's 10 with under 40 seconds to go.
"This really hasn't been a football school," Shifflet said. "We've been getting a lot of fans lately and the atmosphere is great around here. ... It's been great."