Tonawanda News —
CHEEKTOWAGA — The Tonawanda football team's move to Class C became official Saturday afternoon when it took on the North division's reigning regular season champion JFK Bears.
But it was Tonawanda that looked like title contender after the final whistle blew on a rain-soaked JFK field.
Senior running back Tim Barnard ran for 168 yards and two touchdowns in only two quarters of play, leading the Warriors to a blowout 27-0 victory over the Bears.
Tonawanda put up all 27 of its points on the board in the first half and used ball control in the second to secure the shutout.
Warriors coach Rob Gross said after the game that the victory was a complete team effort, and the outcome is a special reward for his players that have put in so much work in the offseason.
"The defense swarmed the football, the offensive line got a ton of movement and guys made the right reads," Gross said. "It was just a great day for our program."
Junior Tristan Boling looked the part in his first game as starting quarterback. He completed only one pass, a 32-yard laser to tight end Connor Pumm down the left sideline, but his 65 yards on the ground and two rushing touchdowns helped the Warriors to victory.
Gross was impressed with the way Boling handled himself in his first game under center.
"Even though he has a full year of varsity experience as a two-way starter, it's always different for someone's first game starting at quarterback. He showed good poise and leadership," Gross said. "We know he's a guy we're going to count on in the offense this year."
Boling made a number of quality plays throughout the afternoon, but the most memorable may have been his 22-yard TD run in the second quarter on a fourth down play. The run was a designed quarterback keeper and Boling made his way through traffic like a Ferrari, making several JFK defenders miss on his way to the end zone, to give the Warriors a 20-0 advantage.
Barnard got the Warriors on the board early with a 37-yard touchdown run. The senior broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage, then broke his run to the outside and burned down the left sideline for the score.
As the Bears continued to struggle offensively, the Warriors didn't waste any time, scoring on a 1-yard Boling keeper after Barnard intercepted an errant JFK pass and ran it back 40 yards, before getting caught right at the goal line.
Gross was thrilled with the offensive production, but he said the defensive effort, led by Paul Palladino (eight tackles) and Barnard (seven tackles), was special.
"It was awesome team defense. It wasn't just one red helmet on the football, it was five, six and sometimes even seven," Gross said. "If a guy happened to break a tackle we were right there ready to make a play. We were extremely physical and I'm so proud of our defense to put up a shut out for us."
Barnard closed out the scoring late in the first half with a four-yard run. He gave all the credit for his performance to his offensive line.
"I couldn't have done anything without the offensive line. They blasted the d-line back, making huge holes for me," Barnard said. "I couldn't have done it without them. ... It's always great to come out and execute. Everybody was playing as hard as they could on every play."
Gross said Barnard is able to be successful because the game comes naturally to him.
"Tim has a great feel for when to stay on his line, when to cut back or when to bounce the play," Gross said. "It's a natural thing. We give them techniques and reads, but he just has a natural feel to carry the football. He's doing a great job."
The Warriors will look to start the season 2-0 when they host Lackawanna in the first game at the new Clinton H. Small Stadium on Sept. 13. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.Tonawanda 27, JFK 0 Tonawanda (1-0) 14 13 0 0 -- 27 JFK (0-1) 0 0 0 0 -- 0 1st Quarter T: Barnard 37 run -- Missed extra point T: Boling 1 run -- Barnard rush 2 pt 2nd Quarter T: Boling 22 run -- Failed extra point T: Barnard 4 run -- Barnard extra point Find Tonawanda News sports @tonanewssports and the sports editor @MattParrino on Twitter for complete high school sports coverage.