It’s no secret John Dolac III is a special player.
He’s a three-year starter for West Seneca East who rarely takes a play off. He runs hard when he totes the rock. He’s a punishing tackler and disruptive force on defense.
And on Friday night, he showed that he can be a difference-maker on special teams, too.
The senior blocked two extra points to help the Trojans escape Howe Field with a 21-20 win over host Hamburg in a thrilling Class A South clash that seemed to be devoid of late drama only to be overflowing with it at the end. The suspense ended once sophomore Jared Maurino calmly scooped up a bouncing onside kick attempt by the Bulldogs with 1 minute, 35 seconds left. That came after Hamburg’s Jason Shuttleworth successfully executed one nearly two minutes earlier when his hot bouncer pin balled off a couple Trojans into the grasp of a Bulldogs teammate.
“Both teams fought very hard,” said Dolac, who rushed for 88 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries and also scored on a two-point conversion. “We just gave that extra push at the end. … We had just enough at the end.”
West Seneca East (3-0) seemingly had this game wrapped up with 3:55 left after Ray Ray Johnson’s 62-yard touchdown run made it 21-6, the Trojans’ third touchdown in as many second-half drives.
Anyone who knows Hamburg (2-1) understands it’s not over until it’s over. The Bulldogs, who rallied from an 18-point deficit to earn a Section VI quarterfinal win at Williamsville South last season, needed just 35 seconds to pull within 21-12. The reason they didn’t have 13 points after that 5-yard TD catch by Jason Jaskolka nor a 7-0 halftime lead was because of Dolac.
Dolac burst up the middle so cleanly to bloc Shuttleworth’s first extra-point try that he was practically on top of the kicker as he made contact with the ball. On the second block, he gained enough penetration to get a hand on the ball, keeping it a two-possession game instead of one, which proved to be huge since it forced Hamburg into a position where it would have to successfully execute two onside kicks in order to pull off a miraculous victory.
The Bulldogs went 1 for 2.
How did Dolac do it?
“When you figure it out, let me know,” Trojans coach Jim Maurino said. “I don’t know how he does a lot of stuff. He’s unbelievable.”
“I was looking at the ball both times and as soon as the center snapped it I just went and came in clear both times,” Dolac explained.
While Hamburg did a good job limiting the Trojans’ running game and Dolac in the first half a week after he rushed for 200 yards, he still made his presence felt when it mattered and sparked the ground assault.
He rushed for 43 yards on the opening drive of the third quarter, which covered 80 and burned nearly six minutes of clock. He gained 6 yards on fourth-and-1 play from the Trojans’ own 29. He also gained 9 yards on another third-and-short run that got West Seneca East inside the red zone. He capped that drive with a 2-yard run that tied the game at 6.
“After the first half we were getting frustrated but we calmed down,” Dolac said. “We made some adjustments. We just kept pounding them and they eventually got tired so we just kept running the ball, going no-huddle. It was a big win for the team.”
Quarterback Austin Breidenstein played a role in getting the running game going by completing 9-of-12 passes for 94 yards. That forced the Bulldogs to play a more honest defense, one not devoted to just stopping Dolac and Johnson, who rushed for 155 yards on 10 carries.
That made it easier for linemen Joe Ramunno, Joe Ciraulo, Greg Bruenn, Jason Barblock and Anthony Boylin to take over the line of scrimmage for East.
“We came out hard,” Dolac said. “Once we came out firing, we kept doing it.”
With Dolac having a hand in all three phases.
Eighty-eight yards rushing.
Two blocked kicks.
Several crushing blocks to help give Johnson room to run.
“I just play football. I love the game,” Dolac said. “We had to step up.”