North Tonawanda's Dave Anastasi will never forget coaching in his first game against Tonawanda in 1976. That was the year his return man, overwhelmed by the emotion of the game, passed out with the ball tucked under his arm after fielding the opening kickoff.
He'll likely remember this year's game for Aaron Day's four-touchdown performance as the Lumberjacks beat the rival Warriors, 28-14, to spoil Tonawanda's bid for an undefeated season.
The 88th T-NT game featured the Division I champion Lumberjacks (7-1), ranked No. 11 in the state in Class AA, against the Division III champion Warriors (7-1), ranked No. 8 in Class A. With the win, North Tonawanda takes a 50-29-9 lead in the series, which began in 1904.
"This week took about a month (to pass)," said Anastasi. "There were so many activities, so much hype, so many phone calls. I'm glad its over, now we can start thinking about the playoffs, although this game had kind of a playoff feel to it."
For the first time the game was played at the 2-year-old Lumberjack Sports Complex. A crowd of 5,500 filled the bleachers and lined the fence about the field. Anastasi said it was the first time the game had been played during the day since the late 1930s.
Day found daylight all game long as he followed his front line, led by his brother Adam, for 101 yards on 22 carries. Following a scoreless first quarter, Day scored on a 15-yard run up the middle. Jon Mohr's extra point gave the Lumberjacks a lead they would not relinquish.
On the ensuing kickoff, however, Tonawanda crept within 7-6 when Joe Kusmierski returned the kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown.
"I sort of slipped after I caught it, but then I saw some room down the sideline and started running," Kusmierski said. The snap on the extra point was high, as the attempt to tie the game failed.
Kusmierski finished with 106 yards, most of which he gained on a 78-yard run on his third carry of the game. That run enabled him to pass 1,000 yards for the season.
The Lumberjacks carried the momentum and the lead into the locker room when Day caught a 14-yard pass from Mark Nachreiner with 19 seconds left in the second quarter.
The touchdown pass came one play after safety Russ Hicks intercepted a Tonawanda pass. It was one of seven turnovers in the game.
Day increased NT's lead to 20-6 on a 1-yard run in the third quarter.
Kusmierski answered with a 5-yard scoring run to bring the Warriors within 20-14. But Day broke free for his fourth score on a 40-yard run in the fourth quarter.
NT's defense was led by linebacker Todd Warmington with 12 tackles.
Day and Paul Piskor had pass interceptions while Eric Gerfin recovered a fumble.
Both teams advance to the Section VI Federation playoffs beginning next weekend.