By MATT PARRINO
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Jon Zellner normally doesn't get the headlines. He does all his work in between the tackles, battling for the tough yards, and usually the speedy guys in the backfield get all the glory.
Not on Thursday night.
With his team down by a point and time running off the clock, the junior rumbled into the endzone from 10 yards out to give NT a 23-18 victory. It was the second fourth quarter-comeback win at George Vetter Stadium this month for the Lumberjacks (3-5, 1-5 A North).
Zellner picked up the Jacks and rushed for the final 23 yards en route to the endzone, but he gave all the credit to the big men up front blocking.
"The line made a beautiful hole and I saw it and put two hands on the ball — we weren't running anything special," Zellner said. "I wanted to make sure I wasn't losing that ball and I wanted to go as far as I could."
The Tigers (1-7, 1-5 A South) rushed for 217 yards in the game and seemed to have things under control late, holding the Jacks to a field goal deep in Bennett territory on NT's second-last drive. Bennett got the ball back and converted one first down, putting a scare into the NT faithful in attendance.
On 4th and 11 and with NT out of timeouts, Tigers quarterback Tondre Bolden broke a run outside to the left hash mark and looked ready to break a big one. But the NT defense zeroed in on him and three players gang-tackled Bolden, giving the Jacks the ball for what would be their game-winning drive.
NT coach Tony Truilizio was happy with the win and said it's an important one despite it only being an exhibition.
"I knew (Bennett was) a good team and I couldn't believe they were 1-6," Truilizio said. "We had a strong finish and we made plays in the fourth quarter."
Truilizio has noticed the progression of the Jacks this season and he said his team's maturity is starting to have an impact in games.
"They have great composure. The team has grown as a unit and they've matured," Truilizio said. "You can tell we're starting to turn the corner in a lot of aspects. We're finishing games now that we wouldn't finish. I know it's a consolation game, but we finished and it's a good victory."
Getting the call up from junior varsity on Thursday night was sophomores Tyjier Brandy and Sean McDonough. Both players had an impact on the game.
Brandy paced the Jacks on the ground, rushing nine times for 51 yards. McDonough left his mark on defense despite playing a series at quarterback for the Jacks.
"After the game the first thing I did was acknowledge those two guys," Truilizio said. "Tyjier had some great runs and some great first down plays. McDonough made some big plays in run support. Both guys really stood out. From a coaching staff standpoint, we believed in them. This proved to them that they can play at the varsity level."
The usual running combo of sophomore Nehemiah Stone and junior Christian Mahoe wasn't as effective against a fast and hard-hitting Bennett front seven. Stone finished with only 12 yards on nine carries and Mahoe ran three times for 15 yards, but both backs scored a touchdown.
Senior wide receiver Ian Gilhousen had a big game for the Jacks. He had two interceptions on defense and made a diving 28-yard catch in the second quarter to set up NT's first score. He also caught a 22-yard pass from quarterback Chris Woodward on the game-winning drive to help the Jacks get into Bennett territory.
NT's final game is scheduled at 6 p.m. next Thursday at home against South Park.Contact Sports Editor Matt Parrino at 693-1000 ext. 4117 and find Tonawanda Sports on Twitter @tonanewssports.