NIAGARA FALLS – Hutch-Tech’s Daemani Devonshire suffered a cut lip and also got kicked in the face during the course of Saturday afternoon’s hard-hitting football game against Niagara Falls.
The 5-foot-5 senior defensive back looked like he had been through a battle because that’s playoff football.
He may have appeared battered but he still had his wits about him in crunch time, recognizing what was coming his way on fourth down with the Wolverines driving for the tie.
Instead of trying for an interception or a pass breakup, Devonshire let Falls receiver Cortese Myles catch a quick slant in front of him and then made the one-on-one tackle to all-but wrap up a historic victory by the Engineers.
Hutch-Tech earned its first Section VI football playoff triumph, defeating the Wolverines, 14-6, in a Class AA quarterfinal contest at the Niagara Falls High School Athletics and Recreation Complex.
An estimated crowd of 1,000 watched as Devonshire stopped Myles 2-yards shy of the end zone on a play from the 10 with roughly 45 seconds to go to secure a win that’s been years in the making for an Engineers program. Hutch-Tech (6-2) also extended its record for wins in a season since the Buffalo Public Schools’ football programs joined the Section VI Football Federation in 2010.
“Making the tackle was easy because I knew the play they were running because they ran it earlier in the game,” said Devonshire. “It took a lot of heart to win this game. … I told the team I got y’all.”
Devonshire sure did have his teammates’ back, but he wasn’t the only Engineer to rise to the occasion. Hutch-Tech received contributions from many in advancing to Friday’s Class AA semifinals at South Division champion Lancaster.
“Everybody thinks we can’t do it,” said senior running back Shawn Faulk, who rushed for a game-high 84 yards, including a 55-yard touchdown to break a scoreless tie late in the first quarter. “We had to come out here and show everybody we’re not the same Hutch-Tech team (that struggled). I’m loving it.
After averaging around two wins the previous three seasons, Tech is looking like the contender it used to be during its Harvard Cup days. This edition of the team has earned triumphs in hard-to-win places like Jamestown and last week at Class AA North champion and fellow semifinalist Clarence.
“To win six games in Class AA … is huge,” said Hutch-Tech coach Chris Gelsomino.
The Engineers will likely be underdogs at Lancaster, where they lost 51-24 two weeks ago.
They’ve come to embrace that role during their rise to contender status, especially Saturday in the Cataract City where the Nick Todaro-coordinated defense limited Niagara Falls to just 45 yards, including minus-22 in the first half.
“Our defense gave it their all, Rodney Bailey, Markeith Adams, Michael Carr-Johnson, everybody,” Faulk said. “I’m really proud of my boys.”
Two plays prior to Devonshire’s game-saving tackle, teammate Kevin Barney played the role of savior as he dove to bat away a pass intended for a wide-open Falls receiver in the end zone.
Those plays became necessary after the Wolverines received new life following Lawrence Spencer-Watson’s 29-yard touchdown run with 3 minutes, 49 seconds left that made it 14-6. Che’Kore Moore returned the ensuing kickoff 35 yards and a late-hit penalty moved the ball to Tech’s 31.
Falls gained most of its yards for the game on that final possession, but it needed 31. The Wolverines came up short.
“For the first three quarters they just dominated (the line of scrimmage),” Niagara Falls coach Don Bass said. “That was the difference.”
Early on it didn’t look like the Wolverines needed to worry about losing the battle in the trenches, especially on defense. Led by junior defensive tackle Syquan Rawlands, Niagara Falls stopped Hutch-Tech for losses on four of its first 10 plays. The other six yielded little gain.
The 11th play out of the wildcat formation changed things and gave the Engineers momentum and reason to believe. Faulk leaped to grab a high snap, ran up the middle and was gone – 55 yards for the score. Waulik Jeader’s conversion pass to Dimitrius Simmons made it 8-0.
Both teams made their share of mistakes but the Engineers’ ones came at times that threatened to derail the victory march.
Rawlands’ tackle for a 6-yard loss on first-and-goal from the Falls’ 7 contributed to the stalling of the Engineers’ quest to build on the lead late in the second quarter.
An early third quarter interception by Tee Hunt set up twin brother Dee Hunt’s 4-yard touchdown that pulled the Wolverines within 8-6. Flags for aiding the runner and a personal foul sabotaged Hutch-Tech’s goal-to-go drive that started at the 10 early in the fourth quarter.
Then there Moore’s kick return on a deep boot that was supposed to be a squibbed after Watson’s TD.
But the Engineers overcame the negative plays. They persevered because that is what good teams do during the playoffs.
Can they do it again, at Lancaster?
“In a single-elimination tournament, an underdog always has a chance,” Gelsomino said.
“We’ve always been known as an underdog or a bad team,” Barney said. “This year our goal is just to show we’re a new Hutch-Tech team.”