By MATT PARRINO
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Kenmore East at North Tonawanda, 7 p.m. today
The Lumberjacks (0-3, 0-3 A North) have been searching for answers ever since their week one, 46-19 blowout loss against Sweet Home.
Last Saturday coach Tony Truilizio watched his team make adjustments and come within a few breaks of knocking off Williamsville North on the road.
"We solidified a lot of our defensive problems this week and it showed on the field," Truilizio said after the game. "We had a lot of great plays on the defensive side of the ball."
The Jacks' defensive effort was impressive at each level. Players made plays in the secondary and in the run game, but it was the improved play of the defensive line — providing pressure in the backfield on runs and passes throughout the game — that was most apparent.
Truilizio said he's unsure of what team will show up when NT hosts Kenmore East tonight.
"The short week sort of hurts us a little bit," he said. "They know what's going to go on in the game. I think we're the more talented team but we have to execute — not taking anything away from them. East is a much improved team. We watched film and have a lot of respect (for them)."
Key defensive players Leroy Goldsmith and Taylor Mellott — who were injured in week one — will miss one more game as they continue to recover. Players like senior linebacker Ian Gilhousen have stepped up in their absence and it will need to continue.
Gilhousen had a monster game for the Jacks last Saturday, recovering a fumble and intercepting North quarterback Ryan Majewski deep in NT territory.
Truilizio called Gilhousen an unstoppable force on the football field when he's locked in and focused on his assignments. But the coach also noted some parts of the senior's game that have to improve.
"When he plays defense the way he's supposed to play, he's incredible and it shows with the interception," Truilizio said after the game. "When he plays his own game, things happen negatively. He still has some learning to do, but he's an incredible ball player and he's obviously one of the best players on the team."
The Jacks are game planning to stop the Bulldogs' passing game and Truilizio said he thinks the matchup between Ken East's quarterback Connor McMahon and the NT defense could decide the outcome.
Tonawanda at Lackawanna, 7 p.m. today
The Warriors (0-3, 0-3 Class A) may be winless, but coach Rob Gross thinks his team is on the verge of putting everything together on the field.
Tonawanda running back Tim Barnard ran well last week against Maryvale in place of injured back Tyler Hughes. The Warriors have to control the pace of the game when they take on Lackawanna on Friday Night and they'll need a big effort from their defense.
"Lackawanna is extremely athletic," Gross said. "We need to contain and try and stop them. When we have a chance to finish a drive we have to finish."
Warriors quarterback Clayton Hess came out of the gates on a tear, running for three touchdowns against Cheektowaga in week one. But the senior has been hamstrung the past two weeks.
Teams are gearing their game plan to stop Hess and he is still trying to adjust to all the attention. Gross said he's been happy with his quarterback's play despite the lack of offensive production.
"He's done a good job and he's made correct reads," Gross said. "Some of the plays aren't completely his fault."
This week in practice Gross had his team focus on Lackawanna's speed and prepare to slow them down. He said his defense has started to play well and he's looking for that to continue against Lackawanna.
"We need to put ourselves into position so speed doesn't hurt us," Gross said. "We cant give them any breaks and we must play smart football. We have to make sure we're doing our job on every down."
Riverside at Kenmore West, 2 p.m. Saturday
The Blue Devils (1-2, 1-0 Class AA) host an athletic and fast Riverside squad this week, and coach Rich Harris has his players focused on running the table.
"Riverside will be our second division game and the goal of the team now is to win out, win the division and go into the playoffs with some momentum," Harris said. "We're a young football team and they're going to learn under fire. We'd like to get it going now and see if we can win this North Division."
Ken West played Sweet Home tough in the second half and Harris said their overall team speed was a good warmup for the Frontiers.
Harris also thinks his younger players are starting to mature, but he said the passing game took a small step back against the Panthers. The entire blame shouldn't be pinned on junior quarterback Adam Fron, according to Harris, but the young signal caller has to keep progressing for the Blue Devils to reach their goal.
"He was under a lot of duress, they put a heck of a pass rush on you," Harris said. "They pin their ears back and come after you ... As far as the options, he's progressing very well and we also ran some speed option last week. He made some great reads on some of those."
Harris said his Blue Devils will need a huge effort from their offense line. Riverside stunts a lot on defense and the unit has a ton of speed.
"We're going to have to try and take care of the line of scrimmage," Harris said. "They're one of the fastest teams in the division."
St. Joe's at O'Hara, 2 p.m. Saturday
Talk about two teams in two very different places.
The Hawks (0-3) have been decimated by injuries, while the Marauders (3-0) have looked impressive in every game this season and are coming off an emotional victory over St. Francis last week.
St. Joe's coach Dennis Gilbert said his team is going to do what it always does — score points.
"I think if they're going to beat us they have to do it in air," Gilbert said. "They're going to try and take the run game away, but I like that matchup for us. We're going to do what we do every week and get people in space and force them to stop us."
In the late '90s, the Pittsburgh Steelers made Kordell Stewart famous in his role as "slash" for the black and yellow, and Gilbert is utilizing Nigel Davis in a similar way. The junior runs out of the backfield, lines up at wide receiver, returns kicks and last week against the Red Raiders, he played quarterback for Marauders.
No matter if it's Davis, Ilo Noble or Rod Payne, the Hawks are going to have their hands full on Saturday with a group of young men that can make the big play on any given down.
O'Hara quarterback Anthony DiFrancesco has been carrying the Hawks and Gilbert said O'Hara goes as he does.
"We havent put together a consistent four quarters yet," Gilbert said "We've been concentrating on being disciplined because when you are focused during the week you have a leg up on your opponent."Contact Sports Editor Matt Parrino at 693-1000 ext. 4117 and find Tonawanda sports on Twitter @tonanewssports.