Tonawanda News — A historic and memorable Tonawanda football season continues tonight when the Warriors (2-2, 2-2 Class C North) look for their third win of the year in the second game at the new Clinton Small Stadium in its inaugural season against new league rival Wilson.
Before tonight’s game the Warriors will honor the 1963 Tonawanda team that went undefeated, and coach Rob Gross said his players are excited to be a part of the event and to meet players from the 50th anniversary team.
“They’re excited to have a home game and meet some of the players from the ‘63 team,” Gross said. “We can’t put any extra pressure on ourselves, but they’re excited to do their part.”
The Warriors are coming off a tough 33-22 loss against Akron last week, but the final score wasn’t really a great indicator of how well Gross felt his team played. If not for a few big plays by the Tigers the Warriors would have been in position to win in the fourth quarter.
Gross said his team must take care of the football and execute to beat Wilson.
“We can’t give Wilson opportunities with mistakes and we’ve done a great job with football security. One or two big plays have really been the issue in our losses,” Gross said. “We’ve made big plays in every game, but we’ve given up big ones in two. We have to make sure we are the team making big plays and take care of the basics.”
The Lakemen have struggled this season, but Gross said Wilson is always a formidable opponent. He expects a tough game tonight.
“Wilson likes to try and spread it out and put you into situations defensively where they can outnumber you. Their quarterback is a very good athlete and they have good receivers and running backs,” Gross said. “Our division is tough and physical. Wilson is well-coached and coach (William) Atlas does a great job. He has a tradition and a history of success.
“They are a good football team and I told our guys on Monday this team is much better than their record. They’ve been right there in a couple games. We need to play like we would against any other team. It helps that we came from a very tough division, so we don’t know any other way.”
Starpoint at North Tonawanda, Friday 7 p.m.
After their opening-week victory over Lake Shore, the North Tonawanda Lumberjacks have gone into a slump.
Three straight losses to Grand Island, Kenmore East and Sweet Home would be enough to send any team into a tailspin that it can’t get out of. But that won’t happen to the Jacks, according to coach Tony Truilizio.
“To be honest with you, after losses you have to be able to move onto the next challenge immediately,” Truilizio said. “Yes, we didn’t play well, but that’s it. You’ve got to move on. You can’t dwell on the past, you have to be able to focus on the present and the future.”
No one on the roster would like to move on more than junior quarterback Chris Woodard. The QB, who was responsible for four interceptions in the Jacks’ loss to Sweet Home last Saturday, has been working hard to improve his game going forward.
“We decided go back to the basics this week in order to clean our play up,” Truilizio said. “Woodard is a tremendous quarterback, in my mind. I think he’s one of the top five signal-callers in Western New York. He’s very intelligent, so he’ll definitely learn from any miscues that he has and get better as time goes on.”
The first opportunity for the Lumberjacks to change their fortunes will come on Friday night against Starpoint — a team that Truilizio has high regard for.
“You’ve got to respect the program that they have at Starpoint,” Truilizio said. “They’ve got good players on offense, especially at running back. We’re going to have to stop their running game if we want to beat them on Friday. We’ll see what happens.”
— Anthony Fiorello
Kenmore East at Niagara-Wheatfield, Saturday 2 p.m.
Conventional wisdom says that in football, defense wins championships.
Kenmore East is hoping that that saying will hold true for the rest of their season.
Even though the Bulldogs allowed 34 points to Grand Island last week, the team is allowing an average of just 13.7 points per game, a number that pleases coach Matt Chimera.
“I think we’ve played pretty well on that side of the ball for most of the season,” Chimera said. “We’ve still got some work to do over there — namely fixing our fundamentals in tackling and in short-yardage situations — but I like how we’ve played on defense. Hopefully we can continue to improve.”
The Bulldogs look to bounce back on Saturday against a Niagara-Wheatfield Falcons team that has yet to win a game, but should still provide a physical test for Chimera’s squad.
“Everyone that I’ve talked to has said that the Falcons are a physical, bruising team,” Chimera said. “They’re hard-hitting on defense, and they held Grand Island to only 13 points two weeks ago. The Vikings are a pretty good team, so I was impressed by that. I expect it to be a tough matchup and for us to come away with a win.”
— Anthony Fiorello
Frontier at Kenmore West, Saturday 2 p.m.
Frontier has powered its way to an impressive 4-0 start in a brutal Class AA league and is coming off a 49-0 drubbing of West Seneca West.
Kenmore West stands at 2-2 and is still searching for some stability this season despite winning two in a row. The Blue Devils knocked off Clarence, 33-31, but the Red Devils almost pulled off a late comeback on the final drive of the game before failing on a two-point conversion on a late touchdown.
Expect Ken West to rely heavily again on senior RB Alex Price, who turned in his best performance of the season against Clarence. He ran for 137 yards and scored four touchdowns to lead the Blue Devils.
St. Joe’s at St. Francis, Friday 7 p.m.
The Marauders (3-1, 1-0 MMA) were the hottest team in Western New York, racing out to a perfect record with big wins over St. Anthony’s and Clarence under their belts. But last week St. Joe’s ran out of gas against Section V power Aquinas, losing 31-21.
Aquinas has knocked off both Canisius and St. Joe’s this season.
The Marauders will look to get back on track against league rival St. Francis tonight.
O’Hara at Timon, Friday 7 p.m.
Cardinal O’Hara’s record may be 1-2, but there is reason for optimism on the horizon for the Hawks.
A narrow 23-16 loss last week to Eden showed head coach Angelo Sciandra that his team could hang tough with good teams and that the Hawks have the potential to start winning more games.
“Last week’s result was disappointing, for sure,” Sciandra said. “We had a 16-15 lead going into the fourth quarter and we got down to the 10-yard line and could have taken control of the game. Instead, we turned the ball over, which led to Eden scoring. If we can play well in the fourth quarter, I think we’ll become a better football team.”
Another promising sign for the Hawks is the continuing development of junior quarterback Donel Cathcart. Plagued by inconsistency all season, last Saturday’s contest proved to be his best effort of the season.
“Cathcart played really well for us last week. He was outstanding,” Sciandra said. “His accuracy was much better, his foot speed and his decision-making were much better and quicker, his mechanics were better. That was a huge positive to come out of that game. I’d like to see that continue for the rest of the season.”
Cathcart’s turnaround may be just what the doctor ordered for the Hawks’ next matchup — a date with Bishop Timon-St. Jude on Friday night.
“Timon’s a fast, physical team. They’re a tough-minded team too,” Sciandra said. “It’s going to be a challenging test for us, for sure. I think if we can take some things from last week — for example, Cathcart’s play — and fix up our play in the fourth quarter, we’ll be in a good position to win.”
— Anthony Fiorello