End of the road

GOWANDA – Gowanda’s bid to end its season with a win fell short Wednesday as the Panthers (2-7) lost to Maryvale (2-7), 23-13, in a non-league football game at Hillis Field.

“For the people who just see the scoreboard, and that’s all they see, for them, I am sorry,” Gowanda head coach Sean Gabel said. “It wasn’t what we wanted to do, but for those who see more than the scoreboard and see the kids increasing their talent level and increasing their mental toughness, this program is getting better. It’s building upwards and I just hope I’m around to see it happen.”

After a scoreless first quarter, Maryvale was able to take advantage of a short field set up by a high snap over the head of Panthers’ punter Seth Halftown that left the Flyers with a drive start at Gowanda’s 6-yard line. One play later, Marcus Ford punched it in, helping Maryvale to a 7-0 lead with 11:53 left in the second quarter.

“Field position was the key for us,” Maryvale head coach Jeff Buccieri said. “I thought both defenses played great and neither of our offenses, for the most part, were able to get any traction. That field position was the clincher for us. That gave us the edge that gave us the victory (Wednesday).”

The Panthers answered right back with a nine-play, 49-yard scoring drive of their own, that was punctuated by a 7-yard pass from Lucas Brawdy to Jon McCarthy.

See GOWANDA, Page B4

“The record doesn’t show anything of what our kids put in this year,” Gabel said. “And I’m very proud of them.”

“Gowanda is a good football team,” Buccieri said. “Tough-nosed kids. They made us earn it and they made us earn it the hard way.”

Not to be outdone, the Flyers took the ball 63 yards on eight plays for the go-ahead touchdown – a 3-yard run by Michael Kelleher.

“He’s a load,” Buccieri said of Kelleher, the 5-foot-11-inch, 240-pound junior fullback. “So we like to feed him the rock and yeah, he’s a tough kid to tackle, and he was able to blast through there and get that score.”

With the extra point, the Flyers had all the points they would need Wednesday night to pick up their second win of the season.

“That was important for our program,” Buccieri said of ending the season with a win. “We’ve been struggling the last couple of years here, we haven’t had a lot to feel good about, but the guys never quit and they fought hard all year. They were hungry to come in and end their year on a positive note.”

Maryvale added its final touchdown with 48 seconds left in the first half after Kelleher hit paydirt from 2 yards out after the Flyers were set up by John Hewitt’s 54-yard interception return down to the Panthers’ 1-yard line.

“We’ve got a sophomore quarterback who was struggling a little bit,” Gabel said of Brawdy. “He matured a lot this year, but a couple of those interceptions were costly. We had three interceptions (Wednesday) and it’s tough to pull out a win with that many turnovers.”

Neither team scored in the third quarter, but running back Brennan Geiger, who finished with 135 yards on 25 carries, surpassed the 1,000-yard mark on the season during the frame.

“The kid worked his butt off,” Gabel said of Geiger. “I wish it could have ended a little differently for him, but he’s going to have a very successful career whether it be in football or just in college. He’s a great young man, a leader and I’m very proud of what he’s become.”

“He’s a hell of a running back,” Buccieri added. “We put all of our attention on him and we were able to keep him in front of us early on.”

The Panthers were able to turn a turnover into points in the fourth quarter. Walker Cygan fell on an Austin Reamsnyder fumble at the Flyers’ 37-yard line and on Gowanda’s next play, Brawdy connected with Chase Williams on a 37-yard touchdown strike to cut the Maryvale lead to 21-13 with 8:54 remaining in the game.

“We scored more points (Wednesday) than we did the last few weeks,” Gabel said. “It’s a positive. I saw some good things with the younger kids coming up, we had a 1,000-yard rusher, but it’s never the way you want to end it. But what is? There’s only a couple of coaches who have it end the way they want to end (the season), but this program has taken a step forward.”

The Flyers were able to put the game out of reach after Edwin Soto hit a 32-yard field goal with 5:41 left in the fourth quarter.

“The mental aspect (of the game), we never quit,” Gabel said. “We stuck together, there was no throwing helmets, there were no bad attitudes and for that, we’re quite proud, because that’s what we preach in our program.”

NOTES: Brawdy finished 12 of 29 for 179 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions … Williams had 126 yards on six receptions … Jamie Jensen led the Panthers with seven tackles … Ford led the Flyers with 115 yards on 18 carries … Mike Cammarano had 15 total tackles in the win.