By Brandon Koch
The Tonawanda News
The 102nd installment of the T-NT Classic ended in similar fashion Friday night — with North Tonawanda on top.
The Lumberjacks carried a 34-0 lead into the fourth quarter before pulling their starters en route to a 40-14 win in the vaunted rivalry game between the Twin Cities in front of a packed crowd on a windy, damp night at George J. Vetter Stadium.
Though Pat Angelhow and the North Tonawanda (6-1) offense dictated the score, the Jacks starting defense pitched yet another shutout, this time against the visiting Tonawanda Warriors (3-4), to extend their winning streak to six games. Through the first three quarters, Jed Jastrzemski and the NT defense allowed but one Tonawanda first down.
“T-NT is scary. ... Anything can happen in this game,” NT coach Rick Tomm said. “That’s the bottom line. It doesn’t matter what the records are, throw it out. It’s been played for years. Tonight, the ball bounced in our favor.”
The ball bounced right into the host Lumberjacks’ hands on the opening drive as linebacker Derek Wasielewski gobbled up a low snap on a Warriors punt on their own 30, and on the very next play, Ian Gilhousen took an end-around 30 yards for six. And the rout was on.
“NT controlled the line of scrimmage, both sides of the ball,” Tonawanda coach Rob Gross said. “They smacked us in the mouth and made some nice drives and we didn’t respond to mistakes in the first minute in the game. Our kids played hard. Our kids went all out every play. But NT had a better night.”
Tomm, whose family roots run deep in Tonawanda and North Tonawanda, is happy to get a victory in his first season at the helm.
“To win the first one, as a head coach, to me I knew the T-NT rivalry when I was a JV coach when we lost by a PAT conversion. You knew right there that it was a different game. All the kids know that you want to win that game,” said Tomm, whose parents graduated from Tonawanda, while both his grandmothers grew up in NT. “I’ve been around this history a really long time so I’m really excited about it. This is something my father’s friends would really lay in to me about.”
Following the opening score, North Tonawanda stuffed Tonawanda for another three and out, but the Warriors defense came up big defensively, stalling the Jacks 6 yards short of the end zone to take over on downs. Tonawanda, though, could not move the ball on offense.
The defenses traded stops again but soon after Angelhow followed his blockers on an option dive, keeping the ball and going the distance to give the Jacks a 12-0 lead with 10:12 remaining in the half.
NT stymied the Warriors for another three-and-out drive before waltzing on a 10-play, 60-yard scoring drive capped off by a Tyler Durham plunge from 7-yards out. Angelhow hooked up with none other than Jastrzemski on a 2-point conversion to up the NT lead to 20-0 with 3:31 remaining in the half.
The Warriors answered on their next drive with their first first down of the half. Corey Law lined up in shotgun and took the snap for a gain of 12 yards, finally getting past the sticks to move the chains with 1:55 remaining. Four plays later Tonawanda turned the ball over on downs, and the lightning-quick Jacks were in the end zone less than a minute later when Angelhow floated a deep ball into the hands of Gilhousen with 13 ticks on the clock to make it 26-0. Shaun O’Lay punched in a 2-point run and the Jacks coasted into the break with a commanding 28-0 lead.
“They were very physical and we were a step behind at times,” Gross said. “Their defense played great. Jed Jastrzemski is all over the field. It was a whole defensive effort on their part.”
Tonawanda picked up some momentum at the start of the third, stopping NT a yard short of a first down on the Warriors 30, but could not respond with a single first down of their own on offense.
Angelhow made sure to put the game away on the ensuing drive with a 39-yard touchdown run to put an exclamation point on an eight-play, 66-yard drive, as well as a near flawless night for the NT starting unit.
“Same play. It’s just an option read,” Angelhow said of his two touchdown runs. “Whatever they do is not going to be the right thing, basically. That’s the way it is with our offense.”
Angelhow finished with 186 yards and two scores on 19 carries and 3 of 6 passing for 35 yards and another TD. Durham chipped in 10 carries for 72 yards and a TD, while Gilhousen caught two passes for 35 yards to go along with his two scores. And once again, Jastrzemski led the way with 11 tackles in just three quarters of work.
Law led the way for the Warriors with five carries for 42 yards and a late TD, his first on the varsity level. He also had nine tackles and three assists defensively. North Tonawanda’s Chris Woodard added a late score for the Jacks, while Tonawanda’s Tyler Hughes capped off the game’s scoring with a 17-yard run in the fourth.
“We’re better and we need to learn from this and we need to put four quarters together against a good football team,” said Gross, whose Warriors will learn their postseason fate Sunday morning.
The Jacks, their first season in Class A North, will host a playoff game at Vetter Stadium next week.
“We have a lot of work from here to do,” Angelhow said. “I don’t know who’s next, but I know we have a home playoff game. We’re just coming out and going to keep working from here because we have a lot of work to do.”