Tom Goddard was quick to deflect all the praise being heaped on him while walking off the football field Saturday.
"It wasn't me," the Clarence coach said while shaking the hand of a parent. "I didn't do anything."
Goddard wanted the credit placed firmly where he thought it belonged -- with his players, who rallied for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to beat visiting Jamestown, 18-15. The Class AA victory qualified the Red Devils for the Federation playoffs for the fourth year in a row.
The Class AA playoffs will have a distinct South Division flavor. Clarence (6-2, 5-2) will travel to Orchard Park (7-1, 6-1) for its semifinal, while Lancaster (7-1, 6-1) will host Jamestown (5-3, 4-3).
Jamestown finished with the same division record as North Tonawanda (4-3) and Kenmore East (4-3), but the first tiebreaker is head-to-head and Jamestown beat both teams. Kenmore East could have written its playoff ticket, but it lost to rival Kenmore West, 28-7.
Clarence trailed by two scores (15-6) going into the fourth quarter. The Red Devils climbed within 15-12 when Zach Enko caught a 24-yard pass from Justin Bingel with 9:07 left. The Red Devils then took advantage of a poor Jamestown punt which gave them possession at the Red Raiders' 20. Two plays later, Brad Brunetto scored his 10th touchdown of the season on a 5-yard run for an 18-15 advantage with 7:03 left.
The Clarence defense then stopped Jamestown on its last two possessions. Jamestown turned the ball over on downs after a fourth-and-8 screen pass fell incomplete, and Clarence ran out the final 1:13.
Brunetto finished with 128 yards, 109 in the second half, and had an interception. Brunetto enjoyed his biggest gains running behind John Burgio, an imposing 6-foot-9, 305-pound left tackle.
"A big boy like that, how can you not love having somebody like that?" said Brunetto. "He gets in people's way even if he doesn't do anything."
Clarence overcame three failed extra-point attempts, two interceptions, a fumble on a reverse and a holding penalty that wiped out a 75-yard interception return for a score.
Jamestown had its share of miscues, including two turnovers and six penalties, and they proved more costly.
The Red Raiders fumbled on their third play of the game. Clarence took advantage, scoring on a 39-yard touchdown pass to Blake Williams from Bingel for a 6-0 lead. The six points were a gift as Jamestown left Williams uncovered on the right side.
Jamestown regrouped to take an 8-6 lead on the last play of the first quarter when Josh Singletary scored on a 4-yard run. Jamestown lined up to kick the extra point, but a low snap forced the holder, quarterback Kristien Olson, to scramble. He was able to shuffle the ball ahead to Jared Pollino, who fell into the end zone for two. Jamestown padded its lead to 15-6 when Pollino scored on a 1-yard run with 21 seconds left in the first half.
Olson completed 10 of 11 passes for 140 yards in the first half. The second half was a different story; Olson connected on just 2 of 12 for 38 yards. Tight end Andy Sturzenbecker caught six passes for 91 yards.
"It wasn't a good effort on our part," said Jamestown coach Wally Huckno. "By and large I thought they kind of took it to us in the second half. Our offensive line didn't block anybody the whole game. It was a pathetic job by them. Again, we were prone to mistakes. It wasn't a good ballgame."
Singletary needs 22 yards against Lancaster for 1,000. It would mark the ninth year in a row that Jamestown has had a 1,000-yard rusher.
It is also the ninth year in a row that Jamestown has qualified for the postseason. The Red Raiders have been a fixture in the Federation playoffs with 18 appearances in the playoffs' 22-year history. The only years Jamestown missed were in 1992, 1988, 1985 and 1980.