Weekly Feature

2018-10-10 / Sports

Football team wins Homecoming Game

Fed playoff hopes remain with victory over Hutch Tech
Sports Reporter

Jon Stevens makes a valiant attempt at catching the ball in the end zone during the second quarter of Clarence’s 26-14 Homecoming-Game victory over Hutch Tech Friday. 
Photo by Jim SmerecakPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Jon Stevens makes a valiant attempt at catching the ball in the end zone during the second quarter of Clarence’s 26-14 Homecoming-Game victory over Hutch Tech Friday. Photo by Jim SmerecakPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Hutch Tech hadn’t quite landed the knockout blow when its first score of the game, a 10-yard pass with less than a minute remaining in the first half, pushed the Engineers out front 8-7 — but Clarence coach Paul Burgio could see them setting the Red Devils up to extinguish their hopes of a Federation playoff berth.

But then, the unthinkable happened. With Alex Sykas waiting patiently — as he has for the past few weeks — to return a kick, Hutch Tech sent the ball right to him rather than squib it through Clarence’s up blockers. Sykas, whom Burgio called “by far the fastest kid on our team,” saw things fall into place in front of him as he hit the afterburners and raced 96 yards up the players’ sideline, untouched, to give the Red Devils the lead back, 15-8, with four seconds to play in the half.

It was the defining moment of Clarence’s 26-14 Homecoming Game victory Friday, as the win left the Red Devils in contention for the final spot in the Class AA bracket of the upcoming playoffs.

“When they took the lead after putting together that nice drive and two-point conversion, you could almost feel from our kids that, ‘Oh man, we’re going to be playing from behind again’ feeling,” Burgio said. “But, [assistant] coach [Tim] Myslinski always sets up a great return play, and Alex hit second gear and he was gone. That play pretty much saved our whole season because it changed our attitude going into the locker room for halftime for sure.

“I was certainly surprised that that’s how they chose to kick it to us. I had some kids moved up just in case they squibbed it. But our guys were just amped up all game; you could tell they knew what was on the line before the game in the locker room.”

Clarence, which took an early 7-0 lead on Zach Norton’s 1-yard run in the first quarter, pushed its advantage to 18-8 in the third quarter after Jon Stevens connected on a 37-yard field goal, which helped negate the blow delivered early in the fourth quarter when Hutch Tech trimmed the Red Devils’ lead to four points, 18-14, on a 30-yard strike.

Clarence had one more score up its sleeve, however, as Norton broke free for a 37-yard run late in regulation to put the game out of reach.

“We were just way better on third down this week, defensively, other than the one or two passes they hit on us,” Burgio said. “We’ve given up a lot of big plays this season on third down, so this past week we brought in the chains and down markers to practice to really put into the boys’ heads that they need to know what the down and distance is on every single play. I really think that helped everyone out a ton.

“But I think it helped that Norton and [Jack] Putney both had big games for us,” Burgio continued. “The theme in our three wins this season seems to be that when Zach runs for more than 100 yards and Putney gets more than 100 yards, we do OK out there. It just seems like when we can run the football well, not only does it settle us down, but it also opens up the pass for us.”

Norton finished the game with 101 yards on 17 carries to lead Clarence’s rushing attack, while Putney, who also completed two passes for 16 yards, added 91 yards on 13 carries. Both Cole Harris and Ryan Culhane had a single catch for 8 yards each.

Defensively, Quinten Burke had 11 tackles, two interceptions and a fumble recovery to lead the way. Stevens chipped in with nine total tackles and a pass deflection, while Mason Davis had eight total tackles and half a sack. Both Jason Berchou (6 total tackles, 2 passes deflected, 1 forced fumble) and Ronny Kiener added an interception for the Red Devils (3-3, 2-3 Class AA), who remain in do-or-die mode when they host Orchard Park (5-1, 4-1 Class AA) Friday night at 7.

“The key from our standpoint is that Orchard Park isn’t a home run type of big play team,” Burgio said. “They like to keep the ball in front of you and keep things short, so the key for us is going to be stopping them on third down in order to get them off the field. And with them upsetting Bennett, we’ve got to beat them, and then we have to beat Lockport in two weeks and they need to lose to Lancaster in two weeks for us to have a shot. All we can do is control our part of it and beat Orchard Park first this Friday.”

email: jnadolinski@beenews.com

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