Tonawanda News — North Tonawanda felt the pain of its opening week loss against Sweet Home last Friday — and not just on the scoreboard.
The Jacks lost three key performers in sophomores Taylor Mellott and Tanner Colucci, and senior Leroy Goldsmith, and it hurt — most noticably on the defensive side of the ball.
Colucci will return this Saturday when NT travels to Grand Island to battle the Vikings, but Mellott (out indefinitely) and Goldsmith (expected to return next week) will remain on the sidelines.
“We’ve been preaching since day one that if you’re penciled in as the No. 2 guy, you’re a day away from being in,” said Jacks coach Tony Truilizio.
The rash of injuries couldn’t have hit the Jacks at a more important time, as they are trying to build chemistry on the field and get more in sync with their new coach.
Grand Island has a lot of size and some speed in a couple of key positions, according to Truilizio. He thinks it’s going to be a very close game and a good one for fans to watch.
The Vikings struggled a bit last week getting their offense going in a 26-14 win over an improved Kenmore East squad.
This week Truilizio has stressed to his team the importance of containment on defense. Sweet Home broke off a couple big plays last week and the Jacks will look to avoid that same fate against Grand Island.
Truilizio wants his guys active on defense and thinks the key to the game will be forcing turnovers and limiting mistakes.
”This game has playoff implications for us and we need to win,” Truilizio said. “A loss will send us to the back of bus, so to speak. We need to win this game as a program — it’s a must win for our team. The way we figure it 4-2 is about where you’ll be to get into playoffs.”
Tonawanda at Lew-Port, 7 p.m. Friday
The Warriors hung tough for most of the first half in week one, but mental mistakes allowed Cheektowaga to run away with the game in the second.
Tonawanda coach Rob Gross wants to see his team build on last week’s performance.
”I was happy with a lot of things we did offensively,” Gross said. “I thought our offensive line did a great job of moving the line of scrimmage and giving our quarterback time. We were consistent and we converted third downs.”
The Warriors had 17 first downs in the game and ball possession is going to be a big factor when they take on Lew-Port on Friday night. Tonawanda quarterback Clayton Hess ran all over Cheektowaga last week, totaling 60 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns.
Gross is hoping to utilize a consistent running game to take out an athletic Lew-Port team. He has a lot of respect for the Lancers, noting their aggressive style and ability to throw and run the football.
Lancers coach Jon Hoover said Tonawanda has a reputation for being a tough football team that tackles hard and likes to hit. He’s been preaching that to his teams this week, imploring his players to be more aggressive tonight. He added that his defense will have its collective eye on Hess and running back Tyler Hughes. The goal is to contain the duo as much as possible and limit the big runs.
”We’re two evenly matched teams and we both like to run the ball,” Hoover said. “We both like to use the play action pass to get the ball down the field.”
Every game is a tough one in the Class B West division, according to Gross.
”I think our whole division is even and I’m not just saying that in coach speak,” Gross said. “There are very good teams on our schedule.”
Kenmore West at Hutch-Tech, 1 p.m. Saturday
Blue Devils coach Rich Harris always likes it when his team is able to start its schedule with a non-league game. It let’s his players work out the kinks before the important, meaningful games begin.
Despite Kenmore West’s first-week matchup being somewhat of a rivalry game, Harris was happy the loss didn’t come in league. That’s not the case this week against Hutch-Tech.
”It’s not a matter of losing two in a row — this is a league game,” Harris said. “You want to beat Jamestown but I look at it more like a scrimmage.”
Harris is hoping his players used last week’s game as an educational tool. He doesn’t want players to keep making the same mistakes.
Hutch Tech is a big and physical team, and Harris said they’re able to move the ball with some consistency. The Blue Devils can’t afford any turnovers and must take advantage of red zone opportunities.
Last week Ken West had a few drive stalls because of bad execution close to the goal line.
”We have to cut down on penalties, mistakes and turnovers,” Harris said. “We have to have the mental part in check — physically we’re ready.
St. Joe’s at Bennett, 7 p.m. Friday
Bennett allowed 48 points to West Seneca East last week in a big time blowout. The bad news for the Tigers is that their week two opponent may be an even tougher challenge.
The Marauders hung 56 points on Wilson-Magnet last week and junior quarterback Tyler Hill put his stamp on the game. He threw for 197 yards and four touchdowns.
Bennett was without 12 players because of ineligibility, but they should be back this week and Marauders coach Dennis Gilbert said the Tigers have a lot of talented ballplayers.
St. Joe’s has two lethal playmakers in Ilo Noble and Nigel Davis and they’ll test Bennett at every spot on the field. The duo has really helped Hill while he adjusts to life as a starting quarterback.
”Ilo is so dynamic. His skill set, his speed — he’s a freak,” Gilbert said. “Every time (one of the playmakers) touches the ball they have the physical ability to go the distance.”
Gilbert said he focused on mechanics with Hill this week and expects his young signal caller to play even better this week. St. Joe’s is excited to play under the lights at All-High Stadium and because of the proximity of the schools, Gilbert said he wouldn’t be surprised if there was a rivalry feel on Friday night.
He said his team is ready to play.
“Our pace in practice this week has been good, attention to detail has been good, and — knock on wood — we’re healthy,” Gilbert said. “We had a crisp walkthrough (Thursday). We were excellent and sharp.”
Gilbert is looking for his secondary to recover from a subpar performance. The group allowed three touchdowns to receivers that were all but uncovered.
Batavia at Cardinal O’Hara, 2 p.m. Saturday
The Hawks started off their season in impressive fashion, falling to Edison — a AA school out of Rochester — 21-14. Cardinal O’Hara coach Angelo Sciandra thought his team gave a great effort and was impressed with the play of his young offense.
”Only one other time in my 32 years of coaching have I seen a team play as aggressive as we did,” Sciandra said. “They kept composure and executed very well. Proud of the way they played.”
The most impressive unit last Saturday was the offensive line, which dresses three sophomores and a freshman. The line led the way for quarterback Anthony DiFrancesca who rushed for 62 yards and threw a touchdown. Running back Kyree Wright scampered for 116 yards, helping the Hawks accumulate almost 300 total rushing yards.
Sciandra is hoping his team can duplicate those results this Saturday against Batavia.
”I drove down (there) to watch them play last Friday and they’re pretty good,” Sciandra said. “They have some really good skills players. They have a good wide out and some good backs, better than Edison but not as big.
The schedule only gets more difficult for the Hawks who are hoping to have more success finishing drives. Sciandra said his team moved the ball well but had trouble executing down close.
”Our passing game was nonexistent (last week) and we have to figure out what we’re going to do there,” Sciandra said.
Kenmore East at Sweet Home, 2 p.m. Saturday
The Bulldogs surprised some last week when they battled Grand Island tough, losing by only 12 points, 26-14.
Grand Island was able to rack up yards but Kenmore East played strong defense in its own end.
Ken East quarterback Connor McMahon was strong for the Bulldogs and connected with wide receiver Adam Geib for a 19-yard touchdown late in the game.
Sweet Home ran all over North Tonawanda last week and Panthers coach John Faller will look to utilize his team’s athleticism to hold off the Bulldogs.Contact Sports Editor Matt Parrino at 693-1000 ext. 4117 and find Tonawanda News Sports on Twitter: @tonanewssports.