Tonawanda News — In the last game of his football career, North Tonawanda’s Jon Zellner wanted to show all of Western New York that the Lumberjacks were a playoff caliber team.
It was the senior’s final game in blue and red, and NT coach Tony Truilizio knew before the game even started that the Zellner was ready to play.
“John Zellner just had a look that I haven’t seen in a very long time,” Truilizio said. “He was focused from the minute he got on the bus to immediately after the game.”
Zellner carried 21 times for 147 yards and his three touchdowns led the Jacks to a 36-29 win — NT’s sixth straight — over Hamburg Wednesday night at Tonawanda’s Clinton H. Small Stadium in the championship game of the Chuck Funke Memorial Classic.
“It meant a lot to the program to show that we should’ve been in the playoffs and to show what we are made of and to show what we can do,” Zellner said.
Hamburg had a first down at North Tonawanda’s 7-yard line early in the fourth quarter, looking to take control of the game. The Jacks had just taken their first lead at 29-22 on the strength of 14 unanswered points. But the Bulldogs responded by driving down the field from their own 39-yard line and seemed poised to tie the game.
It appeared Hamburg had tied the game when junior quarterback Alex Suchan found junior receiver Griffin Ryan in the back of the end zone, but the play was called back on an illegal man downfield call.
Hamburg had three more shots at the end — all pass attempts — but failed to move any closer to the end zone, and the Jacks took over on downs. They drove 88 yards and scored on a 1-yard Zellner rush with 1:53 left in the game to take a 36-22 lead and seal the game.
Senior wide receiver Jake Ferry broke the single season receiving yards record on a 35-yard pass in the second quarter that moved the Jacks to Hamburg’s 3-yard line and helped set up Zellner’s second score of the night.
Ferry finished the game with four catches for 96 yards. His season total of 802 yards is 40 yards better than the old mark of 762 yards.
“As a team we came out slow and we had to pick up the pace, and that first catch that I had really picked it up for team,” Ferry said. “The second one, it gets the momentum rolling when you have a passing play because a lot of teams just aren’t used to it.”
The Bulldogs scored first and capitalized on two interceptions, a fumble and blown coverage downfield on passing plays in the first half, but only led by a point at halftime.
Coming out of the half, junior running back Mark Myles returned the kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown to extend Hamburg’s lead to eight points.
Those were the last points the Bulldogs scored until late in the fourth quarter.
The Jacks answered the kickoff return with a three-play drive culminating in a 41-yard touchdown run by junior quarterback Chris Woodard. The Jacks also went for two and got it to tie the game.
Those were the first of 22 unanswered points scored by the Jacks to put the game away.
Truilizio thinks the win was a big one for the seniors and the program.
“We are moving in the right direction and this was very important to the program,” Truilizio said. “Overall, the seniors that I’ve had the opportunity to coach for the past two years did a wonderful job of leading this group tonight.”