FREDONIA - When the pass from Southwestern quarterback Jim Rauh landed perfectly in the hands of a streaking Jake Swan down the Fredonia sidelines and raced 85 yards for a touchdown on the game's first play, many in the crowd were probably thinking Fredonia had no chance of staying with the highly-touted Trojans.
For those who had that thought go through their minds, they were wrong, as Fredonia (5-1) gave Southwestern (6-0) a run for their money, ultimately falling in the Class C South matchup, 27-20.
"I had a feeling in the paper when (Sirianni) said that (John) Mistretta was their runner and he was going to get all the touches, I had a feeling something like that was going to come up," Fredonia head coach Bob Ball said of the Trojan's first play from scrimmage. "And we told them that they had to watch for a big play right off the bat. We saw it coming, we just didn't defend it."
Southwestern’s Jake Swan (9) fights for extra yards as teammate John Mistretta (34) leads the way during Friday night’s Class C South victory over Fredonia.
Photo by John Conti
See SWCS, Page B-2
With the win, Southwestern, which is New York State's top-ranked Class C team and top team in the Small School rankings for Western New York, captured the Class C South title and extended their state-best winning streak to 35 games. However, Southwestern coach Jay Sirianni was in no mood to look back on any of the team's 29 wins prior to the start of the 2010 season.
"This is the toughest one because it happened right now," Sirianni said of his team's game against Fredonia. "We've had tough games in the past. The LeRoy game a couple years ago, but this was pretty nice. We earned that victory. This was our sixth win of the season. I could care less about any other streaks. We're league champs, we're 6-0 and we're going to the playoffs. That's what I care about."
Rauh added the extra point to make it 7-0 with less than 20-seconds off the clock. And after the Trojans forced the Hillbillies to go three-and-out, they were back in business at the Fredonia 41-yard line. Fredonia's defense did its part on the first three plays of the drive, but on fourth-and-2 from the Hillbillies' 34-yard line, Rauh found Evan Watson, who broke a tackle and raced up the Fredonia sideline for the Trojans' second touchdown of the opening quarter.
"We were inside the 35-yard line," Sirianni said. "We weren't going to punt, especially that early in the game. Our quarterback stepped up and made a play. He hit Watson who came back with the ball and then made a nice move down the sideline."
Down 13-0, Fredonia answered back on their next play from scrimmage, as quarterback Shane Smith found Dylan Cassidy up the home sideline for 67 yards and a touchdown.
"It was big," Ball said of the touchdown to Cassidy. "They were playing with no safety and pretty much saying we could take a shot at it, so we did."
The point after kick was no good, leaving the Trojans ahead, 13-6 with 9:05 left in the opening quarter.
"I thought that it was going to be a track meet," Sirianni said. "We scored on the first play and then they have a long pass, but our defense started to play very, very well. We settled down a little bit and made some plays."
Not to be outdone, Southwestern added another score on its next drive, getting a good start after the ensuing kickoff was returned to the Hillbillies' 48-yard line.
Rauh ran a keeper up the middle for 11 yards on the drive's first play, then 14 yards off the right side on the next, leaving the Trojans at the Hillbillies' 23-yard line. Mistretta took over from there, chewing up the remaining 23 yards on three plays, helping Southwestern build a 19-7 lead.
"We've got to make tackles," Ball said. "They've got a good back and they're a good team. Sometimes we made those tackles and sometimes we didn't and against good teams very rarely are you going to make them all, but if you can make your fair share of them you can keep yourself in the game, which I thought we did. I thought we did a good job against the running game."
Fredonia had a chance to cut into the visitors' lead on the ensuing drive, as it got down to the Trojans' 13-yard line, but a bad option toss led to long third- and fourth-down situations, with the Hillbillies eventually turning the ball over on downs.
"It's disappointing," Ball said of not getting any points after having a first-and-10 at the Southwestern 13-yard line. "They basically shut down our run. We had very little ability to run, so we pretty much had to throw it and mix it up. Our short passing game basically became our running game. We got down there a few times and made some plays and we got down there a few times and didn't. That's the way the game goes."
Southwestern took over on their own 14-yard line and proceeded to go on an eight-play 86-yard drive that took 8:32 off the clock.
"The drive at the beginning of the second quarter was big," Sirianni said. "We were able to move the ball down the field and punch it in on the ground."
The drive was capped off by Rauh's second touchdown pass to Swan. This one a 17-yard strike.
Fredonia was able to add seven points to its score as the clock hit zeroes on the scoreboard to end the first half as Smith hit Tyler Buckley on a short pass up the Fredonia sideline. Buckley broke free and out ran the Southwestern defense for the touchdown.
Right before half time, Rauh was hurt while playing defense, and was unable to return, putting a damper on the Trojans' offense.
"We were down a guy," Sirianni said. "So we had to make some adjustments at halftime, so our offense was a little bit limited. Swan is capable of doing the job, but he doesn't get the reps in practice that he should get and that showed a little bit. He's a player, and he's going to pull through and get the job done when we need him to."
Fredonia's defense did well to stop the Southwestern offense in the second half, not allowing the Trojans to score any more points, but the Hillbillies' offense could only manage seven more points, leaving them a touchdown and extra point shy of a possible tie or upset.
"It was a great game," Ball said. "I thought our kids played well. They didn't hang their heads when we faced adversity early and I can't ask for anything more from our football team than the effort they put forth. Congratulations to Southwestern for being league champs and hopefully we'll see them again some day."
The Hillbillies final touchdown of the game came on a 3-yard scamper by Smith with 9:55 left in the fourth quarter.
NOTES: Smith finished 15-of-33 for 321 yards passing, two touchdowns and two interceptions while leading the Hillbillies defense with nine tackles and an interception ... Cassidy finished with five receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown ... Buckley had three catches for 92 yards and a score ... Mistretta finished with 112 yards on 19 carries and one touchdown ... Rauh was 6-of-8 for 172 yards and three touchdowns ... Swan had five receptions and two touchdowns ... Swan, Watson and Nick Austin had an interception each for the Trojans' defense. ... Justin Funcell had nine tackles, David Tapia had eight tackles and recovered a fumble and Swan had seven stops. ... Sirianni said he didn't believe Rauh's shoulder injury was serious.