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MAMAK'S BACK AS IROQUOIS RUNS TO STATE SEMIS

When does the state playoff record holder for touchdowns in a game get bumped from the starting lineup?

When he's part of the wild postseason script for this year's Iroquois football team.

Asked who would be his starting running back for this weekend's Class A state semifinal, Iroquois coach Frank Payne's answer came quicker than Steve Mamak hitting the hole and faster than Andy Wolffe sprinting away from tacklers.

"It's Mamak. He's our guy," said Payne, whose Chiefs (9-2) will face Maine-Endwell (10-0) at 7:30 p.m Friday in Syracuse University's Carrier Dome.

"Wolffe did an unbelievable job filling in, but we'll go with Mamak. He's our workhorse. The ankle sprain is a lot better than last week. (Wolffe) is fine with it. He knows it's Mamak's job. And both will be in the backfield in certain situations."

Mamak, the 5-foot-9, 180-pound senior who started all season on his way to becoming the school's all-time leading rusher, saw limited duty last week due to a sprained right ankle.

The 5-7, 140-pound Wolffe got his first start at running back and made history by scoring seven touchdowns during the Chiefs' surreal 67-48 win over Eastridge of Section V (Rochester area). Wolffe is normally a wide receiver -- as his No. 81 indicates -- but he rushed for 271 yards and six touchdowns (another state record) on 20 carries as he covered the turf in Ralph Wilson Stadium for 445 all-purpose yards, including a 34-yard punt return for a touchdown.

Mamak was due to get 10 to 15 carries, but with Wolffe off and running and the Chiefs claiming a huge lead, Iroquois allowed his ankle more rest. He finished with three carries for 14 yards and a 4-yard touchdown. Mamak has set Iroquois records for yards (1,461) and carries (239) in a season and had set the school record for yardage in a game (240 versus Lake Shore in the final game of the regular season) before Wolffe's performance.

Payne credits 6-3, 230-pound senior fullback Matt Gartler for creating the holes no matter who is running the ball.

"He's strong as an ox, and no one wants to take on that fullback all day," Payne said. "He definitely blows things up. On some of those plays Wolffe made (five of his six rushing TDs were for more than 20 yards), you heard a 'bang!' from Gartler, and there goes Wolffe."

Last week's game was just the latest chapter in a season of ups and downs for Iroquois, the only team heading to Syracuse with two losses.

The next stop comes against Section IV (Binghamton area) champion Maine-Endwell, which ascended two spots to No. 1 in the state Class A poll after its 27-20 regional win over Section III (Syracuse area) champion Whitesboro. Iroquois moved up to seventh from 15th.

Maine-Endwell has some similarities to Iroquois in that it has a well-balanced offense and pulled off an incredible comeback in the playoffs. The Spartans rallied from a 20-0 deficit in the second half to Whitesboro. In their playoff comebacks, both Iroquois (in an 18-14 win over Lew-Port in the Section VI final) and M-E benefited from a muffed kick return, which set up their go-ahead scores.

While Iroquois' balance probably favors the ground game, M-E appears more aerially inclined behind senior quarterback Shane Connolly, who is 69 for 113 for 1,324 yards, 14 touchdowns and six interceptions. His top targets are receiver Matt Carrigg (six TDs) and running back Tim Rice (five TDs). Connolly has also run for more than 400 yards and nine TDs behind an option attack that also includes Mike Meta (700-plus yards, eight TDs) and Rice (eight TDs).

Around the states

Section VI has two chances to win its first field hockey title since Sweet Home won in 2000. Williamsville North (Class A) and Amherst (B) will play in the state semifinals Friday in Syracuse.

North, led by standout freshman Chantae Miller (33 goals, 28 assists), takes on Mamaroneck of Section I a year after losing to a Section I team (Lakeland) in the championship game. The Spartans are back in the final four despite graduating 10 players.

"Last year they were telling me they were going to get me back," said coach Kris LaPaglia. "It's a tribute to them. They seem to like challenges."

Amherst senior goalie Ashley Yantomasi (11 shutouts) has been a major part of getting the Tigers to their first final four. Amherst faces three-time defending state champion Rye of Section I.

Lethal junior striker Jessica Remmes (43 goals) and the Grand Island girls soccer team will try to send coach Peter Prozik into retirement with a state championship. The Vikings are in their third straight final four and will take on Oneonta, the champion of host Section IV, Friday in the Binghamton area.

The Roy-Hart boys soccer team, behind three postseason shutouts by goalie Brandon Guild with help from senior stopper Kevin Morse and junior sweeper Bret Tinder, will play Section III's Westhill on Saturday in the Class B semifinals in Oneonta.

"The boys have played just perfect games at the end of the season," said first-year coach Jeremiah Hicks. "They're playing teams with a little more skill, but they're just beating them with their heart."
e-mail: kmcshea@buffnews.com

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