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FALCONS EDGE SWEET HOME, LAY CLAIM TO NO. 1

A little bit of room.

That's what Frank Pavicich said he needed, and that's what the cornerback mistakenly gave him moments before he made a dramatic touchdown catch in overtime to help Niagara-Wheatfield edge Sweet Home, 21-14, on Saturday.

Pavicich's game-winning catch from quarterback Jason Herman came on a quick slant play on third-and-8 after the Falcons took first possession in overtime.

"I was going to check off, but the corner gave me a little room so I took it," said Pavicich. "It was a great pass. This is unbelievable."

The battle of Division II unbeatens before 1,500 at Sweet Home featured the drama of a soap opera and the excitement of a Game Seven. Sweet Home and Niagara-Wheatfield entered the game 4-0 and ranked 1-2 among large schools in The Buffalo News poll and 2-3 in the Class A state poll.

Sweet Home, needing seven points to force a second overtime, couldn't come back from a third-and-13 hole after Pavicich dumped Sweet Home running back Durrell Hatch for a 5-yard loss. It was one of the few plays in which Hatch lost yardage; he finished with 180 yards on 25 carries.

"They played their hearts out," said Sweet Home coach John Faller. "A game like this you could have found umpteen things that could have went one way or another. I basically told my players they did everything we asked of them. Every year is another year that you don't know what's going to happen. We'll try to settle this in another game down the line."

Overtime and fantastic finishes are nothing new for these two rivals. In last year's Class A title game at Rich Stadium, the Falcons won, 14-10. In 1995, Sweet Home beat Niagara-Wheatfield in OT by the identical score of 21-14.

A choked up Niagara-Wheatfield coach, Ace Cacciatore, cited his players for playing tough in a tough game and was thankful for being able to beat a quality team.

Sweet Home scored the first time it touched the ball. Junior running back Brian Hanselman caught a 12-yard pass from Brendan Brady to highlight a six-play, 51-yard scoring drive.

Niagara-Wheatfield answered on its next possession, driving 80 yards on 12 plays to tie it, 7-7. Running back Jeff Schoonover eventually scored from 22 yards out through a huge hole on the right side.

Sweet Home took a 14-7 lead into the locker room when Hatch broke free for a 70-yard touchdown run up the middle. The Falcons tied, 14-14, in the third quarter when cornerback Nick Condino intercepted a pass and returned it 20 yards.

The Panthers attempted a 44-yard field goal into the wind with 3:14 left in regulation, but the kick fell short.

Sweet Home's Adrian Herr and David Hergert had interceptions in the second half.