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Cheektowaga wide receiver Tamell Bass finds value in work off the ball

Tamell Bass had never been as smothered as he was Friday night at Iroquois. A week after he exploded for 200 receiving yards and three touchdown catches, the Cheektowaga wide receiver couldn’t find any space in the Warriors’ 39-0 win Friday at Iroquois.

“All kinds of coverage,” Bass said. “Double teams, presses, they played all kinds. It was a lot. But it was a good learning experience, because I’ve never been double-teamed before. Not a day in my life. I’ve been pressed. I’ve been played off. But I’ve never been double-teamed.”

Iroquois’ secondary effectively neutralized the 6-foot-4 senior, and Bass took it as a compliment and as a learning experience.

He only had a fraction of his production from the previous week. Bass finished the win with a touchdown and 20 yards on two catches, a fraction of his career-high in a 31-0 win Sept. 7 against East Aurora/Holland.

“If you have success, other teams are going to focus on you,” Warriors coach Mike Fatta said. “That’s something Tamell has to get used to and take pride in, that he’s in that position.”

But he did his work in other ways Friday to help the Warriors (3-0) post their third consecutive shutout.

His blocking, especially inside the opposing 15-yard line, helped set up two of Cheektowaga’s touchdowns.

“I just made sure that when we ran the ball, that my players could trust me when it came to blocking,” Bass said. “And not just blocking on the first play they run, but blocking downfield. That’s valuable.”

Blocking, Bass knows, is an overlooked part of football. People are apt to look at the scoresheet to see how many touchdowns someone scored, or how many yards someone ran for.

But making the right pivot or pushing someone out of the way to help a teammate execute a route is essential in game execution.

“If I don’t block for my team, there’s no trust,” Bass said. “Say I miss a block but my teammate still pops a run for 100 yards. He scores, but he wouldn’t trust me because I still missed that block. So, I’m just making sure that my team and my coaches all have trust.”

Bass’ blocks don’t go down on the stat sheet. But Bass’ work away from the football showed his maturity to Fatta.

“We always tell those guys, ‘when the receivers are out there, they aren’t out there just to catch the ball,’ ” Fatta said. “It takes a bunch of guys to block for him, and that’s something those guys should take pride in, their blocking, because that’s a big part of the game. That’s the ultimate team contribution, to block for your teammate.”

One would think a connection between Bass and Warriors quarterback Keshone Beal would be automatic on the football field, at this point. They began playing together when they were freshmen at Cheektowaga, but the chemistry wasn’t instant.

Beal admits there was a getting-to-know-you phase between the two players, and they’ve worked out together each summer, meeting at Town Park in Cheektowaga.

“That’s all we do in the summer, running all types of different routes, doing scramble drills, and just do what we can to get the feel for the game,” Beal said. “Doing that, it’s only going to make us better and it’s only going to make it harder for the other team to cover him.”

That wasn’t the case Friday at Iroquois. A few of Beal’s passes to Bell were just out of reach of the receiver, and he struggled to gain separation from the opposing secondary.

Bass’ absence on the scoresheet, however, allowed his teammates to play to their strengths. Jason Saloman opened the game with a 64-yard touchdown run on the Warriors’ first play from scrimmage, and Beal ran for 280 yards and two touchdowns, including a 61-yard scoring run with less than five minutes left.

Beal didn’t have a viable passing option in Bass, but it forced Beal to better evaluate his reads, and to make quicker decisions on the field.

“With him being in double coverage, it opens up doors for the rest of our offense,” Beal said. “They can’t stop all of us.”

Bass also factored into Cheektowaga’s special teams. He kicked three extra points as a stand-in for the Warriors’ kicker, who was unavailable to play Friday. A couple of those went high and wobbled as they sailed into the air, but dipped just inside the crossbar of the goal posts.

“I need to work on special teams,” Bass, said, smirking.

But Beal knows Bass will put forth his best effort when he doesn't have the football. Bass, he said, understands that responsibility.

“He still is going to contribute every week,” Beal said. “He is going to do his job and help the team out. He’ll make sure that if he’s not having a good game or his best game, coverage-wise, he’s going to step up in some other fashion.”

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