Jamestown wrapped up its postgame talk in the middle of a mud-caked Crosby Field by lifting their helmets skyward and giving it a 1-2-3: "Ralph Wilson!"
The Red Raiders, steady visitors to the Home of the Bills during the 1990s ushered in their first return trip since 2000 following a 33-7 win over Kenmore West in a Class AA semifinal played on a cold, rainy Saturday. The Red Raiders (8-1) will play Orchard Park (9-0) next Friday at 9 p.m.
"In the preseason we set a goal to go to Ralph Wilson Stadium. Week by week we took care of our business and OP [a Week Two loss] was a real eye-opener," said Jamestown running back Spencer DeCinque. "After we lost our coaches said, 'hey, we're in this for the rest of the way. We can't have this slow us down.' Everyday we just try to play our best, do our best and right now it's within our grasp."
The only thing that came close to slowing DeCinque were the field conditions that he described as "horrible." He resorted to short, choppy steps instead of taking full strides and finished with 119 yards on 26 carries and two touchdowns -- both during the Red Raiders' 20-point third quarter. He goes into the final with 1,232 yards.
A game that was tied 7-7 at halftime, quickly swung after Jamestown scored on its first three possessions of the third quarter. The game got chippy as it became more lopsided resulting in unsportsmanlike penalties on both teams, a Kenmore West player being ejected and plenty of trash talk.
"We were able to run the ball better in the third quarter, and that set some things up and we were able to get up by a couple scores and then force them into some mistakes," said Jamestown coach Tom Langworthy, whose team has won seven in a row. "At halftime we talked about believing in each other and getting this thing done."
Jamestown's defense played a big role as well holding a Kenmore West offense which had been averaging 34.8 points per game to a single touchdown in the first quarter, a pretty 32-yard crossing route to Chris Reimondo from Marcus Lobdell.
Martin Bailey, who came into the game with 1,235 yards for West, was held to 33 yards on 13 carries.
A pair of freshmen defensive backs made it impossible for Ken West to move the ball through the air as Branden Kellam had two interceptions and Zach Panebianco had one. Ben Whitney had 13 tackles and also powered his way into the end zone for Jamestown's first score in the second quarter, and QB Dennis Drew completed nine passes for 116 yards and scored the go-ahead TD on a 1-yard run.
The odds of Kenmore West mounting a comeback grew even slimmer when the team's hardest hitter, linebacker Nick Hersey, injured his knee on the first play of the second quarter. He was unable to return.
"It just got away from us in the third period," said Kenmore West coach Rich Harris. "The punt return, the interceptions, the turnovers, the onside kick. . . Their field position was unbelievable, I mean, c'mon. They had all the momentum. Outstanding football game, a lot of physical play."