SYRACUSE – All season long, West Seneca West's defense has kind of taken a back seat to an offense that has seemingly scored at will against most teams.
The points didn't come so easily for West on Friday afternoon against Yorktown, but that ended up being OK. The 'D' handled its business and provided the foundation for the biggest victory in history of West Seneca West football.
The Indians did it. Oh, my goodness, the Indians did it.
West Seneca West completed a perfect season by securing the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association Class A championship with a 14-6 triumph over the Section I champion Huskers before an estimated 5,000 at the Carrier Dome.
Senior quarterback Matt Myers accounted for 264 of West's 290 yards in total offense, while a defense that yielded a 67-yard touchdown drive on Yorktown's first series held the Huskers to just 125 the rest of the way.
"I can't thank my defense enough; I think they're the best defense in all of Western New York," said Myers, who completed 22-of-37 passes for 190 yards and rushed 19 times for 74 and one touchdown. "It's a great feeling right now."
"It's pretty crazy," sophomore defensive end Liam Scheuer said. "I never thought at the beginning of the season we'd take it this far. This is a good one. I'll remember it for a long time."
The Indians (13-0) are the first Section VI team to win a state championship since South Park captured the Class A crown in 2015 with a triumph over Our Lady of Lourdes.
After the clock hit zero for the final time, West players celebrated wildly before thousands of their fans who made the trip to Onondaga County. After the trophy presentation, they celebrated with them some more, posing for the traditional champion's photo along with the school's cheerleaders.
When the party moved into the locker room, the team enjoyed singing "We are the champions" over and over again.
It's an unforgettable moment for a program that ended a 12-year playoff drought this season by beating everyone on its schedule and all comers during the postseason.
"It's unbelievable," West sophomore linebacker Mike Glinski said. "We came from a losing record last year and making history."
"Great moment for our fans," triumphant coach Mike Vastola said. "Boy, did West Seneca show up or what? Great moment for the community, great moment for all the guys, I'm so proud of them seeing it through. What else can you say?"
West scored on its first and penultimate possessions – the most important ones in this clash between the second (Yorktown) and third-ranked teams in the state Sportswriters' poll.
The first TD enabled the Indians to deliver the perfect response to Yorktown's game-opening scoring march. The last TD provided insurance late in the fourth quarter of what had been an edge-of-your-seat one-point game for most of the day.
Myers passed for 55 and rushed for 11 yards on West's first drive, which came after Yorktown took a 6-0 lead on a nearly 7 minute drive that ended with Brett Makar's 1-yard scoring run. Bryan Ball scored the tying TD for West with Josh Clifton's extra-point kick giving the Indians the lead for good with 10:12 left in the second quarter.
From that point on, it was all about the defenses finding ways to get off the field and prevent their foes from finding the end zone. West's defense got stronger and more dominant as the game went on, yielding just 64 yards in the second half.
"They had every reason to fold after that first drive (by Yorktown)," Vastola said. "They picked up a big third-and-12 and then they march (to the touchdown). We had to make some adjustments defensively. Boy, the guys stuck them. … I've been talking up our defense all year. It's a tough road against our 'D' when we're playing well."
The Indians' defense basked under the bright lights of the Dome with Glinski finishing with a team-high 14 tackles. Scheuer made five tackles, including one for a loss and a sack. He also recovered perhaps the biggest fumble in program history when Ball forced a fumble at West's 23 with 5:17 left. Scheuer pounced on the loose ball as that came five plays after the Indians turned the ball over on downs in Huskers country.
West turned that takeaway into points as Vastola put the game in Myers' hands. The Bishop Timon-St. Jude transfer and University at Buffalo commit did not disappoint. He completed two passes for 43 yards and rushed four times for 23, capping the 77-yard scoring march with a 2-yard touchdown run that prompted an explosion of cheers from the West fans in attendance with 1:37 left.
"We knew once we got the ball we had to milk the clock and score," Myers said. "The line was great. The play calling was great."
Yorktown (12-1) had decent field position after returning the kickoff to its 48. The Huskers got as far as the Indians' 44. Fittingly, the defense delivered the final key play that secured the crown, as Juston Johnson (nine catches, 86 yards) and Jesse Broad (nine catches, 70 yards) combined to break up a fourth-down pass with a minute left.
That gave Myers a chance to experience what it's like to take a snap in a championship-clinching victory formation.
"It was probably one of the specialist moments of my life," Myers said. "It was just an unreal moment. I've dreamt about this my whole life. I've always wanted to be a state champion. To go out my senior year in my last game (as a champion) is unreal. … I'm going to enjoy it."