Making a statement
Fredonia (8-0) scored early and often Friday night, as it rolled to a 43-7 win over Tonawanda (3-5) during Section 6 Class C quarterfinal football action at the Orange Bowl.
“They’re an outstanding football team,” Tonawanda head coach Rob Gross said of Fredonia. “We knew that coming in and we knew that we had to do a couple of things coming in to be successful. One was to make sure we didn’t let them get off to a fast start and two, don’t give up big plays. Unfortunately, those were the two things that happened to us early on.”
The Hillbillies scored their first three touchdowns on six plays as they built a 20-0 lead before the first quarter had ended.
“It doesn’t get any better than that,” Fredonia head coach Mike Marshall said. “And when you can do those types of things, and put a team in that deep of a hole that quick, with that few plays, it just takes the wind out of the sails of any opponent.”
Matt McCarthy scored Fredonia’s first two touchdowns, the first on a 62-yard run on the Hillbillies’ second play from scrimmage and the second on their fifth play, a 47-yard run which helped the home team to a 13-0 lead with 6:03 left in the opening quarter.
“When we watched him on video, I don’t know if I’ve seen a running back break more tackles this season,” Gross said of McCarthy. “Just based on the three games of scout video, he does a great job of making the first man miss, or making the first man bounce off and he does a great job of (gaining) yards after initial contact. He’s tough to bring down, he’s a very good player.”
After the Hillbillies’ defense forced the Warriors to turn the ball over on downs, Cody Smith got into the action, as he raced 32 yards to paydirt, helping Fredonia to a 20-0 lead with 40 seconds left in the first quarter.
“This is the first week that he’s come back from a severe ankle sprain (and played on offense),” Marshall said. “One week he was out completely, and then he limped back and played on defense, where he didn’t have to put as much pressure on (his ankle).”
The second quarter didn’t go any better for the visiting Warriors. Weston Ley, who finished 6 for 6 for 113 yards and two touchdowns, found Cam Voss from 26 yards out to help build the Hillbillies’ lead to 26-0, then found Dylan Meyer from 10 yards out for his second touchdown pass in as many possessions.
“He was on fire tonight,” Marshall said of Ley. “And those are the types of things we have to do. It’s like we’ve talked about before, we have to have no turnovers, play smart with the ball.”
Fredonia’s final touchdown of the night came on a 75-yard jaunt by Smith, and after Nick Johnston connected with the back on the two-point conversion, the Hillbillies had a 40-0 lead with 40 seconds remaining in the first half.
“I think it was an execution issue,” Gross noted of his team’s slow start. “They were ready to play. We had a couple of missed tackles early on, a couple of missed opportunities that turned into big plays … They have some very good athletes and that one missed tackle, or that one missed seem, is all they need to break a big play.”
Before the first half ended, heavy rains moved in and put a damper on both teams chances at success on offense in the second half.
“We still were putting the ball in the air and we still were running around the end,” Marshall said, noting that his team’s offensive game plan didn’t change as the field conditions began to deteriorate. “Our biggest advantage was to have the field stay in the condition it did, for as long as it did.”
The Hillbillies managed just a 25-yard field goal by Johnston in the second half while the Warriors’ only score came on a 4-yard pass from Tristan Boling to Connor Pumm.
With the win, Fredonia moves on to host Akron (6-2), which was a 41-28 winner over Southwestern (4-3) Friday night. As for where the game will be played, Marshall noted that if the conditions of the Orange Bowl field don’t improve, he will be looking to reach out to other area schools to host the game.
“I would like to try to do it according to what the field is like and see if it’s real soupy out there,” Marshall said. “I’ve got to get in touch with the athletic director and see what direction we want to go in.
“Once (the field) gets in the condition it’s in right now, it basically stops both teams from doing anything,” Marshall continued. “So the (team) that gets the break is going to win, not the one that’s more talented.”
NOTES: McCarthy finished with 138 yards on 7 carries … Smith added 107 yards on three carries while adding 12 tackles on defense … As a team, the Hillbillies rushed for 260 yards on 27 carries … Jake Rinus added seven tackles and two sacks on defense.