In a game full of offensive highlights, the Williamsville South defense saved its best effort for last Friday night.
The Billies, led by senior Luke Falzone's 12 tackles, came up with three stops in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter to secure a 34-27 Class A semifinal win over North Tonawanda before an estimated 1,000 fans at Williamsville's District Field.
The first two stops were the result of quarterback pressures and pass breakups inside their own 40-yard line, while the final halt included a wild lateral play as the clock expired.
"We started a little flat, but we made some great adjustments at the half and we all rallied to the ball," Falzone said, while crediting defensive coordinator Brian Swatland's switch on option responsibilities. "We were much more aggressive and made the plays."
South (9-0), for the second consecutive year, advances to the Class A Championship at 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Ralph Wilson Stadium. They will play the winner of today's semifinal between Sweet Home and Bennett.
After the graduation of standouts Joe Licata, Kevin O'Connell and Phil Stasiak, the win cements this group's achievements as their own, according to Falzone.
"We've been playing together since eighth grade and we've worked our butts off to return to The Ralph and get a 'W' this time," he said. "Our work is not done."
The South offense was a juggernaut throughout, accumulating more than 400 yards. Quarterback Trent Ferguson completed 22-of-36 passes for 244 yards and three touchdowns, two of which were hauled in by Billy Jacobi (10 catches, 146 yards) in the first two quarters. Kyle Lewandowski (five catches, 42 yards) also caught a first-half touchdown.
In the second half, it was the Billies' running game that exploded. Falzone (16 carries 109 yards) scampered 71 yards on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter to give South a 26-20 lead.
NT went up early in the fourth quarter as Pat Angelhow found a streaking Ian Gilhousen for a 50-yard touchdown pass. Luke Topolski's extra-point kick gave the Jacks a 27-26 lead.
With 7:23 remaining in the contest, Falzone dove into the end zone from 4 yards out for the go-ahead score. A two-point conversion connection between Ferguson and Falzone gave the Billies a seven-point advantage.
For NT (7-2), Angelhow racked up 164 yards passing and 80 yards on the ground. He threw for two touchdowns and ran for another.