By Mike Pidanick
After winning just two games last year, Maritime Charter/Health Sciences coach Tyree Parker knew his team would be better. Not this much better.
The Falcons’ remarkable ride continues after a 34-20 win over a game Albion team in the Class B Section VI championship game on Friday evening at New Era Field.
“I didn’t think we’d get here this fast,” Parker said. “I knew we’d be better than last year. I knew the type of kids we had so I knew it wasn’t going to be 2-6 again but I’d be lying if I said I thought we could be here and win this championship game. But that goes to show the character of our kids and the hard work they put in.”
After a 1-6 record in its debut season last year, the Falcons won a matchup game against Sweet Home. The stakes are much higher this year and Maritime has answered the challenge.
The Falcons improved to 9-1 this year – the lone loss coming to Monsignor Martin Athletic Association power Canisius.
“This feels amazing,” said sophomore Addison Copeland, who scored two touchdowns. “We were playing games for no reason last year - we weren’t even suited up at this time last year. It feels great.”
The Falcons - ranked No. 2 in The Buffalo News Small schools poll and 12th in the state - will play in the Far West Regionals at 3:15 p.m. next Saturday at SUNY Brockport. The Section V championship game between Livonia and Honeoye Falls-Lima is set for 7:30 p.m. tonight at St. John Fisher.
“It’s going to be a great ride,” Parker said. “We’re going to enjoy this for a few days and then Sunday when we get the film we’re going to go work and try to get to states.”
Maritime outgained Albion, 384-226, and collected 327 yards on the ground. John Washington ran for 141 yards and two touchdowns to lead the way.
“My line played a heck of a game,” Washington said. “The holes were wide open, I didn’t have to do much. I just followed my lead blockers and made some plays.”
Maurice Vaughn ran for 89 yards and another TD and topped the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Mekhi Bridges ran for 52 yards and quarterback Jion Washington threw for 57 yards and ran for 24 more.
Bridges – who broke his fibula in the last game of the junior varsity season in 2018 - led the way on defense with 11 total tackles.
“That’s what I like about my team, they don’t have any egos,” Parker said. “They play for each other and that’s why we’re winning.”
Copeland got the party started for the Falcons after the defense forced a three-and-out on Albion’s first series. He returned the punt 62 yards for a touchdown that gave his team the lead for good less than two minutes into the game.
“I just saw a lot of good blocks,” Copeland said. “My teammates put their lives on the line for each other. They got the good blocks so I could take it to the house.”
Maritime’s first offensive drive ended with a touchdown - a one-yard plunge by Maurice Vaughn.
The Purple Eagles got back into it with Deyonci Farley’s 5-yard TD run but John Washington tacked on a 16-yard touchdown run - on a third-and-goal play - with 26 seconds left in the second quarter for a 20-6 halftime lead.
Copeland added a 1-yard TD run on Maritime’s first drive of the second half but the Purple Eagles bounced right back into the game with a 30-yard touchdown pass from Tom Furmanski to Kevin Hillman.
Albion got within 26-20 on Fairley’s 26-yard TD run with 6:54 left in the fourth but Reuben Hampton returned the ensuing kickoff to the Purple Eagles 3 and Washington scored on the next play.
“That was a dagger to the hearts for us,” Albion coach Adam Krenning said. “That hurt.”
An errant snap led to a safety for Maritime’s final points.
“Shout out to Albion,” John Washington said. “They’re a great team, not going to lie, they played great. But fortunately we were able to pull through.”
Albion finished the season at 8-2. The Tigers reached the sectional championship game for the first time since 2002.
Brilliance Johnson ran for 76 yards and a two-point conversion for Albion. Furmanski finished with 57 yards passing.
“I thought we had a good game plan coming in here but at the end of the day, they got the W,” Krenning said. “My guys have been awesome all year. They fought and fought and fought every single time.