JAMESTOWN – How does a team bounce back from a so-so start?
With a sensational finish, like the one the Jamestown Red Raiders and star running back Jaylen Butera delivered Friday night, as it overwhelmed Section V champion Canandaigua.
As a result, the unbeaten Red Raiders (12-0) are now two wins away from adding to their collection of New York State Public High School Athletic Association championships.
Jamestown made sure Section VI didn’t go winless during the first day of Far West Regional football action. Playing before the home fans at Strider Field, Butera scored four touchdowns, while the Red Raiders defense bent but did not break during a 35-14 triumph in the Class A contest.
Canandaigua (11-1), which has won the last three Section V championships, was no push over. The Braves made it tough for Jamestown to find its offensive rhythm as Butera was limited to 67 yards during the opening 24 minutes. They had success moving the ball with their assortment of weapons.
But Jamestown battled and then seized control after the intermission, forcing two turnovers during 14-0 finish.
“We know what we wanted,” said Butera, who rushed 33 times for 182 yards and had 48 yards on two receptions. “We came out and turned the intensity up. We weren’t going out like that on our home field in our last home game. I kind of told the guys we still have two quarters left let’s go finish it.”
They listened and their reward is one more football game.
The Red Raiders return to action Friday at Cicero-North Syracuse where it plays Section III champion Syracuse CBA in the state semifinal. It’s Jamestown’s first Final Four appearance since winning the Class AA championship in 2014.
Butera’s four total touchdowns now give him 43 for the season – which is four shy of the Western New York record set by former Jamestown star Aaron Leeper. Butera scored on runs of 7, 7 and 29 yards after taking a shovel pass 36 yards for a touchdown that helped Jamestown tie the game at 14-14 in the second quarter.
Butera had a couple other big gains called back due to penalty. But he embodied the determination of his team as he absorbed a lot of hard hits, including having his jersey torn on a good old-fashioned shirt tackle by a Canandaigua team that played physical but with discipline.
“They’re tough,” Butera said. “They didn’t want to lose either.”
“Jaylen can take over a game,” Jamestown coach Tom Langworthy said. “As the game gets tighter and more competitive, I think he plays even harder and better and that’s what competitive excellence is, that’s what being a competitor is. When the game is on the line he can make those plays and he’s shown he can do that many times over his career and multiple times this year and he showed it again tonight.”
Canandaigua utilized a no-huddle attack and had the Red Raiders on their heels with its speedy weapons, especially on its second drive of the game. The Braves even converted a fourth-and-19 play to get to the 11. They got as close as the 4 facing a fourth-and-3, but a bad snap rolled all the way past the 30 and out of the diving quarterback’s grasp. Radon Wright scooped it up and returned it 68 yards for the touchdown. Ella Propheter’s extra-point kick gave Jamestown a 7-0 lead.
“Any time you get a turnover, especially a scoop and score, that’s a huge momentum changer and that was a huge play in the half,” Langworthy said.
The Braves responded on their next drive as Ryan Gavette scored on the sixth play of the possession on a 39-yard run. Canandaigua went ahead 14-7 on its next drive on an 8-yard run by Boldin.
Jamestown quarterback Trey Drake’s delayed shovel pass to Butera for a 36-yard touchdown capped an eight-play drive with 5:18 left that enabled the Raiders to tie the game. The Raiders defense held the Braves without any points on their next drive, opening the door to take the lead before halftime.
Jamestown did that by first letting Drake take to the air as he completed passes of 10 and 38 yards to Darius Freeney. Butera did the rest, capping the 67-yard drive by diving over the pile on a fourth-and-goal from the 1 out of the wildcat formation just before the end of the second quarter.
Jamestown’s second drive of the third quarter proved to be productive although it also had some frustrating moments due to false start and delay of game penalties. The end result: the Red Raiders milked more than 6 minutes off the clock and increased their lead to 14 points as Butera capped the 75-yard drive with a 7-yard touchdown run with 59.1 left in the period.
With Canandaigua in need of points, it tried to go vertical but Butera picked off Boldrin and returned it 27 yards to mark the end of the quarter.
“We knew what we wanted,” Butera said. “We played like it at the end.”