ENDICOTT – When Matt Myers and Juston Johnson joined the West Seneca West football program from Bishop Timon-St. Jude over the summer, they and their new teammates set the goal of winning a state championship.
It may have seemed lofty considering the Indians hadn't qualified for the postseason in 12 years, but the first-time Section VI champions are one win away from earning immortality and the coveted ring that goes with it.
West Seneca West punched its ticket to the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association Class A championship game by crushing Section III champion Whitesboro, 42-6, on Friday night at Union-Endicott High School.
Myers had a hand in three touchdowns – completing 12-of-23 passes for 172 yards and two scores and rushing seven times for 86 yards and a TD. Johnson's 67-yard punt return TD highlighted a 28-point second quarter that enabled the unbeaten Indians to seize control for good before an estimated 1,000.
Bryan Ball's first-quarter sack sparked an early defensive stand for the winners. John Speyer rushed for two touchdowns, while Luke Wilhelm and Kyle Haettich each caught TD passes for West (12-0), which is one win away from the perfect ending planted in its mind months ago by Myers and Johnson.
"It's a great feeling right now," Myers said.
The Indians next face I-Yorktown at 3 p.m. next Friday at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse for the title. Yorktown advanced by defeating Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa, 34-19.
"We knew we could get this far because one the connection me and Matt have and then just the team around us," said Johnson, who also caught three passes for 67 yards. "We came in and saw the whole team was good."
"It takes a lot of luck and hard work," West coach Mike Vastola said. "We have guys that come to work and good players. It's a recipe for success."
Ball's sack on a first-and-goal play from West's 6 blunted the momentum of Whitesboro's game-opening offensive drive. The march that started at its 30 and ate up more than 7 minutes of clock, with the loss of 13 yards setting the stage for a turnover on downs.
"That's huge," Vastola said. "We knew we had to get them behind the sticks. To put them back there it's tough to get those yards back."
West got its offense going thanks to its defense. Nick Knowles recovered a Warriors (8-4) fumble at their 34 late in the first quarter. Myers scored on a 17-yard run five plays later – just 8 seconds into the second quarter. Josh Clifton followed with the first of six extra-point kicks.
West's defense forced a punt on Whitesboro's next series. Johnson fielded, saw a crease and dashed 67 yards to the end zone. Myers' 12 yard pass to Wilhelm in the end zone and Speyer's 12-yard TD run capped the second quarter scoring.
West didn't let its foot off the gas as Myers connected on a 36-yard TD pass to Haettich 29 seconds into the third quarter.
After Whitesboro got on the board via David Camerota's 51-yard TD run, West replied with one last score of its own – a 1-yard Speyer run with 14 seconds left in the third quarter.
Ball finished with 6.5 tackles, while Vinny Draper had 7.5 tackles and batted down a pass. David Beard also recovered a fumble for the winners. Speyer finished with eight carries for 61 yards.
"We're so good all-around which is why teams don't know how to stop us," Johnson said. "This is the best feeling in the world. I've never played in a game this big. I'm just excited for everybody."