Tonawanda News — North Tonawanda quarterback Chris Woodard’s desperation pass with six seconds left from the Grand Island 25 yard line fell incomplete, and the Grand Island Vikings escaped George J. Vetter Stadium with a 20-14 victory in a Class A North showdown Friday night.
Woodard had time for one last desperation heave, but the Vikings pass rush hurried his throw, and the pass was batted down.
He led his team from his own 18 to the Grand Island 25 with no timeouts and 1:18 remaining, but could not complete the comeback. Woodard’s pass with 25 seconds left to Jake Ferry in the Grand Island went in and out of his hands.
“We expected the game to come down to the end,” Grand Island head coach Dean Santorio said. “Even at 20-7, you’re one shot away from letting someone get back in the game. We feel very well about the win.”
Grand Island built a 20-7 halftime lead based on the running of of Paul Sukmanowski (25 carries, 142 yards) and Giuseppe Campanella, who completed 8-of-15 passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns. Campanella’s main target was Ben Goc, who had six catches for 85 yards and a touchdown.
“He came through huge today when we needed him,” Santorio said. “Our entire offense played real well today.”
Grand Island won the field position battle in the first half. Their last two touchdown drives started from midfield and the NT 46, respectively.
“We just couldn’t get the ball out of our 10, 20 yard-line,” NT coach Tony Truilizio said. “When we flipped field position, it was a different game.”
Campanella got the start for Quinn Corrao, who was out with a high-ankle sprain. He led the Vikings to a mistake-free game, and perhaps made his biggest play of the game by recovering a Grand Island fumble at midfield, not allowing the Lumberjacks to gain momentum and prime field position.
“Everybody, from the backs to the lineman, played well today,” Campanella said. “It was a great group effort. We had a good game plan and executed well.”
Grand Island fumbled the ball four times in the second half on the messy terrain, but recovered each time. North Tonawanda fumbled once, and a promising drive was ended with a recovery by Grand Island lineman Dominic Petrilli on the Grand Island 43. It was the only turnover in a game played mostly in rainy conditions.
North Tonawanda took the opening kickoff and went 80 plays in just four plays to take the 7-0 lead. Woodward faked to Jon Zeller and faked out a Grand Island defender on an impressive cut and ran untouched on a 34-yard touchdown run.
Not to be undone, the Vikings marched 65 yards on just four plays as well, finishing off the drive on a one-yard run by Joe Chiaravalle. The Vikings, which scored touchdowns on each of its first three drives, built its lead on two TD passes from Campanella, 35 yards on a play-action pass to Sukmanowski, and a 18-yard pass to Goc, who beat the North Tonawanda defense on a double-move.
“We didn’t tackle in the first half, and in the second half, we did,” Truilizo said. “It’s as simple as that.”
NT shut out the Vikings for the second half, and cut into the Grand Island lead with a one-yard Woodard sneak with 6:48 remaining. Woodard, stymied by the Vikings in the first half other than his TD run on the first drive of the game, finished with 114 yard passing and 78 yards rushing, including both touchdowns and both PAT conversions.
“When you play a team like NT that runs the option, you have to play assignment football,” Santorio said. “We did a good job of staying in our lanes today.”
While moral victories don’t count in the standings, Truilizio was proud of his team’s effort.
“I don’t want to discredit Grand Island, but I thought we were the better team.” he said. “I told the team I hope this loss stings for a bit, because it’s one we should have won. This will definitely be a learning experience.”
North Tonawanda was without the services of Taylor Mellot, who was out with a knee sprain.