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News Player of the Year Shaun Dolac kept going and going for West Seneca East

As Shaun Dolac kept making play after play for West Seneca East during its New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association Class A semifinal victory against Indian River, a young reporter in the press box uttered the words, “He’s like a machine.”

The reason?

Dolac hardly ever came off the field.

Yet as that game went on, the Trojans’ senior and 6-foot-1, 215-pound battering ram defied logic by continuing to get stronger, finding ways to repeatedly deliver in the clutch while demoralizing the opponent.

Dolac finished the back-and-forth, 50-42 victory with 236 rushing yards and five touchdowns – scoring East’s final four TDs. He also completed 4-of-6 passes.

That wasn’t the first time Dolac took over to push his team to victory. He made it a habit and was a difference-maker for West Seneca East, especially during its run to the state championship game.

For that reason, Dolac has been selected as the 2018 Buffalo News Football Player of the Year.

Dolac’s selection headlines the 61st edition of the All-Western New York team, as chosen by The News in conjunction with Prep Talk Awards Hall of Famer and Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Famer Dick Gallagher and area coaches.

“It’s an honor, it feels great,” Dolac said. “I couldn’t have done it without my O-line and D-line. Since January, I’ve been working my butt off for this. It feels great.”

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During a season in which two Section VI champions and the Monsignor Martin High School Athletic Association champion each reached state title games, Dolac played the biggest role in his respective team’s success.

Need a momentum-turning touchdown? Dolac delivered.

Need a big stop on defense or a takeaway? He delivered.

Need a booming field-flipping punt? He delivered.

Need the holder to get the snap down cleanly for extra points and field goals? Guess who delivered.

“I made sure I was conditioned enough to be going into the fourth quarter when everyone else was gassed,” said Dolac, whose offseason training included running the steps of the Trojans’ stadium in the morning and evening on non-school days and lifting and running the stadium steps with his older brother, John, a former first team All-Western New York selection, on school nights.

Dolac set school records for tackles in a season (145), rushing yards (1,993) and total touchdowns (36). He rushed for 27 touchdowns, averaging 6.9 yards per carry. He made 112 solo tackles, forced eight fumbles and made three interceptions. He also averaged 37.5 yards per punt and served as the holder on field goals and extra points. He also passed for 505 yards and four scores.

“He meant so much to our team,” coach Jim Maurino said. “Not just the obvious things on the field but his leadership and drive in practice. It’s tremendous what he was able to do. A lot of times it just looked like he put the team on his back and took over.”

That was particularly true in the postseason.

• In a 30-13 comeback win against Grand Island in the Section VI semifinals, Dolac scored on touchdown runs of 3, 79 and 11 yards. He finished with 185 rushing yards, 15 tackles and two interceptions.

• In the 20-13 win against West Seneca West in the sectional final, the Trojans overcame a 13-7 deficit through three quarters as Dolac scored twice during the final 12 minutes – catching a 17-yard TD and scoring the tiebreaking touchdown later on a 1-yard run. Dolac finished with 20 tackles and rushed for 93 of his game-high 135 yards during the second half as West Seneca East won its first sectional title since 1981.

• In the 15-8 Far West Regional win against Irondequoit, Dolac set up the game-winning TD early in the third quarter when he forced a fumble that teammate Cam Cacciotti recovered at the Eagles’ 6. Devare Mathis broke an 8-8 tie on the next play with his 6-yard run. Dolac finished with 31 rushes for 137 yards and a touchdown and also made 10 tackles.

• In the state semifinal win against Indian River, Dolac scored four of his five touchdowns in the second half. His penultimate one gave the Trojans the lead for good, while the last – a 51-yard dash with less than two minutes remaining proved to be the perfect capper to punctuate East’s first trip to the state final.

• Though West Seneca East fell just short of winning its first state title, Dolac almost willed the Trojans to victory at the Carrier Dome – delivering a two-touchdown, 178-rushing yard performance that included seven tackles on defense in a 21-14 loss to Cornwall.

“He’s a driven kid not afraid of hard work,” Maurino said. “A lot of it was for his dad (who passed away two years ago), but he was motivated to be the best he could be for his team.

“This is quite the honor.”

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