Here we are. Teams are one win away from completing the Road to the Ralph. Should be an interesting night.
I'm here at North Tonawanda for the Class AA semifinal between NT and Lancaster, a rematch of last year's semifinal won by Lancaster. The Lumberjacks have had all season as a goal to go "deeper in the postseason" as they've said throughout the season.
I stopped by the Harvard Cup 5 p.m. game on the way here, where McKinley was leading Lafayette, 8-6, with less than a minute to go before halftime. Kevin Chillis scored on a 37-yard touchdown run and added the two-point conversion run. Lafayette scored with 56.1 seconds left in the second quarter when Derrick Simmons ran in from 3 yards out; Simmons' conversion run was stuffed by the Macks.
Keep tabs on the high school scoreboard here.
6:44 p.m. I'm sitting in what was just named the "Dick Grapes Press Box" in a pregame ceremony at the Lumberjack Sports Complex. Grapes is in his 50th and final year as the public address announcer at North Tonawanda, and he is a treasure not only to NT but to Western New York. He certainly deserves the honor.
The 82-year-old Grapes has called more than 200 games since 1958, and he's definitely one of the best.
He briefly addressed the crowd before the game. "I'm moved to pieces," he said.
7 p.m. We've kicked off and North Tonawanda will receive. We'll provide updates when we can, probably after scores and quarters.
7:09 p.m. Lancaster calls timeout with 6:24 left in a scoreless first quarter.
7:18 p.m. North Tonawanda has a 7-0 lead after quarterback Mike Tuzzo burrowed in for a 1-yard touchdown wtih 1:20 left in the first quarter. Aaron Davis kicked the extra point.
7:20 p.m. Check that. We're tied at 7-7. Junior Andrew Mrozek returned the ensuing kickoff 91 yards for a score. Keith Stoerr kicked the extra point. Mrozek sped from the middle of the field to the right side, then got some great blocking for about 20 yards before he just broke away alone for the score.
7:24 p.m. It's the END OF THE FIRST QUARTER and we have a 7-7 tie.
7:32 p.m. Lancaster has a 14-7 lead after a 1-yard leap by senior Thomas Nolder on third-and-goal. The possession was set up by a blocked punt by Cory Davis that gave Lancaster a drive start at the NT 9.
7:43 p.m. Lancaster's lead has been cut to 14-10 after a 22-yard field goal by NT's Aaron Davis with 3:58 left in the second quarter. NT had a first-and-goal at the 5.
7:51 p.m. In a game full of momentum swings, NT grabbed the latest one to take the lead back. Junior fullback Steve Kijowski easily stepped through a pile for a 1-yard touchdown and a 17-14 NT lead with 1:13 left in the first half. NT's possession was set up by a Lancaster fumble on their first play after Lancaster's field goal; the Lumberjacks kept their drive alive by converting a fourth-and-16 at the Lancaster 25 with a 19-yard first-down pass from Mike Tuzzo to Kijowski.
7:56 p.m. It's HALFTIME and North Tonawanda has a 17-14 lead.
8:17 p.m. We've kicked off the second half. It has been a great first half, as expected, and we should be in for some more enjoyable action for the next hour.
8:21 p.m. All game there have been abrupt momentum switches, like third-and-longs turned into big plays. And we just had another one. Lancaster has taken a 21-17 lead with 10:10 left in the third quarter. On third-and-17 at the North Tonawanda 49, Lancaster senior quarterback Frank Gregori lofted a ball down the left side to Andrew Mrozek, who caught the ball near the 20, fended off two defenders -- and what would be called a pass interference penalty -- and ran down the left sideline for a 49-yard touchdown. Stoerr's extra point was good.
8:26 p.m. Here we go again. On third-and-7 from the NT 23, Tuzzo hit Davis over the middle on a pass play that would go 72 yards. Junior Eric Rindo made a touchdown-saving tackle on Davis, but Kijowski would bull in to the end zone easily for a 4-yard touchdown and, after Davis' extra point, a 24-21 NT lead with 7:45 left in the third quarter.
8:44 p.m. It's the END OF THE THIRD QUARTER and NT holds its 24-21 lead.
Lancaster had a long drive that ended with a punt and NT had a long drive which ended on downs when Kevin Kieliszek sacked Tuzzo on fourth-and-15 at the Lancaster 27 before another momentum-switcher: On its first play from its own 35, Lancaster attempted a hook-and-lateral pass play -- except the lateral was fumbled away and NT took over at the Lancaster 39. The Lumberjacks start the fourth quarter with a first-and-10 at the Lancaster 11.
8:48 p.m. North Tonawanda has cashed in its possession and taken a 31-21 lead with 10:31 left to play. On third-and-3 at the Lancaster 4, Tuzzo rolled right and hit McClinsey near the right sideline and the senior broke the plane just before taking a hit. Davis hit the extra point.
8:50 p.m. Press box has a report of Orchard Park leading Kenmore West, 28-7, with five minutes left in their AA semifinal. We appear to be about 20 minutes or so away from OP-NT at The Ralph.
8:52 p.m. We're a little bit closer. Lancaster just fumbled and NT takes over at the Redskins' 34 with a 10-point lead and 8:40 to play.
8:58 p.m. Lancaster fans have some hope. The Redskins hold and take over at their 27 with 5:18 left.
9 p.m. Make that a lot more hope. Frank Gregori hit speedy Andrew Mrozek on the left side, and he used that speed to blow by a defensive back down the left sideline for a 71-yard touchdown. Stoerr's extra point makes it: NT 31, Lancaster 28 with 4:40 to play.
9:05 p.m. NT just made a huge first down on third-and-8 from its 24 on a pass from Tuzzo to Cory Stuff with 3:03 left; however, NT is in another third-down hole (14 yards to go from its 34) with 2:13. Lancaster has taken a timeout.
Meanwhile, a final score report from OP: Orchard Park 28, Kenmore West 13.
9:08 p.m. In a game full of huge plays on third down, NT comes up with another one. A Tuzzo swing pass to the left side to back Joe Montesanti nearly goes all the way. Montestanti had lots of room on the left side, then headed for the sideline and would only be caught at the 3. With 1:58 left, NT has a first-and-goal at the 3.
9:12 p.m. Lancaster fans can breathe a sigh of relief. On third-and-goal at the 6, McClinsey took an inside handoff to the right side, found a hole and barged in for a touchdown. Davis' extra point gives NT a 38-28 lead with 1:06 to go and we're looking at an OP-NT showdown next Friday night at The Ralph.
9:20 p.m. A valiant drive by Lancaster ends on downs with :09 left at the Lancaster 34.
9:21 p.m. A kneel-down, with injured Jeff Zellner on the field for the play, is the last play and we have a FINAL SCORE: North Tonawanda 38, Lancaster 28. That's NT-OP at The Ralph next Friday at 8:30 p.m. Time for interviews, a fast drive back to the office and some writing.
If you went to a game tonight, let us know what you saw in the comments section below. Bonus points to those who use Halloween euphemisms in describing the tricks or treats.