BY ERIC KEPPELER
The Tonawanda News
CITY OF TONAWANDA — Senior Tyler Hughes rushed 37 times for 195 yards and two touchdowns to lift the Tonawanda Warriors to a 26-6 win over the Amherst Tigers in a Class B-West contest on Friday at Clint Small Stadium.
Warriors quarterback Clayton Hess also connected with Tristan Boling on a pair of touchdowns as the Warriors (1-4) notched their first win of the season.
“Getting this first win was huge,” Hughes said. “It gets us started – hopefully, it gets us on a roll so we can finish strong.”
Tonawanda dominated the clock and owned both sides of the line of scrimmage as the Warriors wore the Tigers out. The defense pitched a shutout as Amherst’s only score came on a 95-yard kickoff return from Tadriek Johnson.
“Our offensive line was tremendous tonight,” Tonawanda coach Rob Gross said. “And our defensive line had a great pass rush all night. We felt like we could pound them in the trenches, and our lines did exactly that.”
The Tiger loss ruined the homecoming of former Tonawanda coach Jason Beckham, who agreed that the Warriors won the game by dominating the line.
“We knew going in that they have some big linemen,” Beckham said. “My hat’s off to them – they played a great game. Especially Clayton and Tyler.”
The Warriors set the tone on the opening drive with an 11-play drive that burned almost 6 minutes and ended with a 9-yard scoring run from Hughes. They made it 14-0 on their next possession when Hess hit Boling with a short crossing pass over the middle on third-and-19 that went 65 yards for another score.
Johnson ran the ensuing kick back 95 yards for a touchdown to cut into Tonawanda’s lead, but the Warrior defense held Amherst (1-4) at bay for the rest of the game.
Hess and Boling hooked up on a 21-yard touchdown pass with 1:32 left in the half for a 20-6 Tonawanda advantage. Hughes closed out the scoring with a 13-yard TD run with 1:35 left in the game.
“We put it all together tonight,” Hughes said. “The offensive line in front of me was awesome. They opened up all kinds of space for me. It was just great to get that first win.”
The Tonawanda defense wasn’t on the field very much, but it dominated when called upon. Tim Barnard had a fumble recovery and Hughes had an interception, while Dominic Reed, Nick Pullo and Steven Warthling each sacked Tiger QB Justin Twarog.
“I’m so happy for our guys,” Gross said. “They’ve worked hard and they’ve stayed positive no matter what. They didn’t hang their heads, and it’s nice to see them get rewarded.”