Dylan Mack delivered lead blocks, made tackles, picked off a pass and rushed for a touchdown.
The halfback/linebacker made an impact for the Frontier football team during Friday’s triumph over West Seneca West. He also contributed to the Falcons’ season-opening win at Williamsville South.
There was no Gatorade shower or impromptu bath from a water bucket following the first victory of Bryan Gorman’s career as interim head coach of Canisius High School football.
The 5-foot-10, 200-pound Mack hopes to continue being a factor at 7 p.m. Friday at Strider Field when the Falcons take on News No. 1 large school Jamestown in a Class A South Division clash.
It is one of several key games slated for this week, which includes unbeaten Class D division co-leader Randolph making a rare trip to Erie County to face Depew in a non-league game at the Constantino Complex.
Another dandy features Orchard Park travelling to Foyle/Kling Field to face five-time defending Class AA champion Lancaster in a rematch of the last two finals. The News' No. 2-ranked Canisius hits the road to face McKeesport (Pa.) at Edinboro University.
The only game that matters to Mack, obviously, is Frontier at Jamestown. Both teams come in unbeaten, with the winner having a chance to control its own destiny in the quest for a No. 1 seed in the playoffs.
Frontier comes in confident after earning a 21-12 win in a hard-hitting contest against West Seneca West, the same crew who opened the season by beating defending Class A champion South Park.
Bennett's Dominic Allen started what turned out to be an eye-opening day for him by capping the opening possession with a 5-yard touchdown run against the defending Class B champion Western New York Maritime/Health Sciences.
Mack did his part. He rushed 27 yards for the game’s first touchdown. He helped pave a path for Vinnie Monaco's 9-yard touchdown run in the second quarter that gave the Falcons the lead for good. Monaco rushed 23 times for 185 yards, with Mack knocking several would-be tacklers out of the way. Mack had a fourth-quarter interception and nearly had a second one, which sailed just high enough to slip through his fingertips.
For the season, Mack has rushed nine times for 149 yards and three touchdowns. At linebacker, he has nine tackles, an interception and one pass defensed.
“It feels good knowing I can make an impact,” Mack said. “It’s mainly a team effort, but once I can get out there and make big plays and everything, I think it gets everyone up. It gets everyone going. I think it all contributes (to team success).”
It’s something the team missed last season during the abbreviated Fall II campaign in the spring.
Mack tore his MCL and just avoided an ACL tear in his left knee during the first week of practice in March. The injury happened on an innocent football play gone awry.
“I was just running to make a block and somebody on my team just kind of caved in on my knee and it buckled,” he said. “It was an accident.”
He initially thought he’d be back in time for the playoffs, provided Frontier made it. He admitted he wouldn’t have been at full strength.
Mack, who plays hockey during the winter, also missed lacrosse season. He said his knee finally felt full strength two months ago. He said he feels so strong due to the physical therapy and work he did with a personal training facility that sometimes he forgets which knee was injured.
Playing football has been a life-changing decision for Kooper Aiken, one that has enabled the West Seneca East senior diagnosed with high functioning autism to live the life of a normal student-athlete.
Coach Richard Gray said the team missed his presence during the Fall II season, as a Falcons crew playing in Class AA finished 2-3 and just out of the abbreviated Section VI playoff tournament.
“Dylan, he’s a great leader,” Gray said. “He leads by example … a very (smart) player. Whenever you have a player like that missing … that really hurt us. Having him back this year has just been wonderful. He gives us that threat at running back. … He gives us a great blocker and a very, very hard runner as a running back and his linebacker skills, he’s a very, very good OLB. That’s where we really missed him last year.”
Mack hasn’t been able to play and contribute since his freshman year at St. Francis. He didn’t play football as a sophomore, but paid attention to his friends on Frontier’s junior varsity team experiencing success. He transferred to Frontier before his junior year, putting in extra time in the weight room to get into football shape, only to be nicked by the injury bug.
“It was pretty frustrating because I worked my whole body up and got into shape again,” Mack said. “But then I did what I always do, put in the work to get back for this year. It’s amazing. It feels really good. I missed it.”
Odds and ends
• Sophomore quarterback Noah Willoughby broke the South Park single-game passing yards record during last week’s win over Amherst. He passed for 384 yards and five touchdowns, eclipsing the mark of 368 held by 2015 Dick Gallagher Buffalo News Player of the Year Tyree Brown.
• Some leaders to watch entering play this week: Orchard Park’s Ben Gocella leads the area with 10 TD passes and 675 yards passing. Willoughby is second in both at 655 yards and 8 TDs. Jamestown senior running back Jaylen Butera has 532 rushing yards and nine TDs on the ground. Kegan Mancabelli of OP has caught 11 passes for a section leading 221 yards. OP teammate Dylan Evans leads the section with six TD catches.