Perhaps some day the Maryvale Flyers will look back at Saturday's game as the rebirth of their football program.
The homestanding Flyers snapped a 15-game losing streak Saturday by winning an 8-3 Section VI Division IV slugfest from cross-town rival Cheektowaga, which entered the game ranked 10th among small schools in The Buffalo News poll.
"It's a new beginning for us," said Maryvale first-year head coach and long-time assistant Bob Mullen after being doused with a container of ice water by his players as the final seconds ticked down. "We don't have speed, we don't have size. We're kind of the Bad News Bears of football.
"But the kids have worked so hard and stayed with it through the first three games this season. They have to learn how to win again and maybe this is the first step."
They almost took that step last Saturday, giving unbeaten, top-ranked Lackawanna a scare before their upset bid fell short, 26-22.
Saturday's winning touchdown came on a 36-yard scamper around the right end by senior quarterback Jason Kuczmanski with only 1:28 left in the game. Kuczmanski, who shares the Flyers' signal-calling duties with his sophomore brother, Mark, atoned for two earlier fumbles. One of those came at the Cheektowaga 2-yard line in the dying seconds of the first half.
"The play I scored on is called a '96 mirror' where I fake a handoff and then run to the right," the elder Kuczmanski said. "I got a couple of big blocks out there and got outside their contain man."
Kuczmanski, who finished with 10 carries for 100 yards while attempting only one pass, denied that he derived additional motivation from those earlier fumbles.
"Coach told us at halftime that we made some mistakes but we were only down, 3-0, and we still had a shot to win the game," Kuczmanski said. "After the way we played against Lackawanna and lost, we just felt we were going to come back and win this game. We never quit and we deserved it."
For the most part, Maryvale's defense held the team in the game.
The Warriors (2-2, 2-1) penetrated the Flyers' 15-yard line three times in the first half and only came away with a 19-yard field goal by Adam Somogye. Maryvale held on downs twice.
"Those missed chances in the first half came back to haunt us," said Cheektowaga coach Chuck Tilley. "I was tempted to try a field goal the second time we were down there. We were running the trap play well and we went with it, but they came with the blitz and stopped us. The other time, we had a receiver open in the end zone, but one of their kids tipped the pass away."
An interception of a Warrior desperation pass by Mark Kuczmanski at the Maryvale 32 with 44 seconds left sealed the win.
To fully understand the magnitude of this win, you have to realize where Maryvale has come from. At the end of last season, the program was so devastated by a lack of numbers that the Flyers had to forfeit the season-finale to Cheektowaga, which had trounced them by 34-0 the year before.
"What a thrill," Mullen said, choking back tears. "This makes all the work the kids and coaches have done to put this program back on its feet worthwhile."