ORCHARD PARK - It was half a yard, but it might as well have been a mile as far as the Jamestown Red Raiders were concerned.
On their first possession of Friday night's Section 6 Class AA football semifinal game at Orchard Park, the Red Raiders were faced with a fourth-and-goal play 1 yards from the end zone. Running back Joe Campion was called on and gained only 1 yard. The Red Raiders were half a yard short and turned the ball over on downs.
The game was still scoreless, but it could have been a major momentum booster for Jamestown to take an early lead. Not only didn't the Red Raiders score then, but they also didn't for the entire game as Orchard Park (9-1) went on to record a 26-0 victory and will move on to face Clarence in the Section 6 Class AA championship game Friday at 9 p.m. at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Jamestown quarterback Dennis Drew (11) gets sacked by a swarm of Orchard Park defenders during Friday night’s Section 6 Class AA semifinal game.
P-J photo by Jim Riggs
When asked about coming up half a yard short of taking an early lead, Jamestown coach Tom Langworthy said, ''That definitely hurt us we didn't get in. We're down there fourth-and-goal from the one and we definitely want to get in there. If we did, maybe the game is different. But it's a 48-minute game and for 48 minutes tonight they were the better team.''
Orchard Park coach Gene Tundo also noted that was a huge turning point, even though it was early in the game.
''Our defense played awesome,'' he said. ''I give them all the credit in the world. To shut that team out and do what they did was incredible. We played the game of our life on defense.''
Jamestown finishes 5-4 in a season that saw it win a Section 6 playoff game for the first time in 10 years. But the Red Raiders were also hoping to reach Ralph Wilson Stadium for the first time in 10 years.
''Tonight's going to sting for a while because we're one game short of our goal,'' Langworthy said. ''Tonight I feel for our seniors.''
Orchard Park had taken the opening kickoff, but went three-and-out and punted.
Then came the drive that ended half a yard short.
Jamestown started from the Quakers' 45 and reached the 9, mostly with runs by Campion. From there, he rushed for 1 and then 7 to put the Quakers up against their goal line. Then Campion was dropped for a 1-yard loss on third down and on fourth down the ball was a 1 yards away. That's when he gained only 1 yard and Orchard Park took over.
Orchard Park eventually went three-and-out for the second time, but Jamestown again turned the ball over on downs and the defensive struggle carried into the second quarter.
After an exchange of punts, Orchard Park's Okoya Anderson finally got his running game in gear with gains of 16 and 11 yards to put the Quakers in Jamestown territory. Later on a third-and-three play, he picked up 23 yards to the Red Raiders' 9. Two plays later, quarterback Kyle Witkowski rolled out to his right and hit a diving Ben Johnson with a 7-yard pass in the end zone and Austin Reese's extra-point kick gave the hosts a 7-0 lead with 6:22 left in the first half.
After the kickoff, Jamestown was forced to punt away and Orchard Park began driving again. The Red Raiders stopped them at the 7 on a fourth-and-two play and Reese kicked a 24-yard field goal to increase the Quakers' lead to 10-0 with 5.7 seconds left in the half.
A turnover early in the second half led to another Orchard Park score.
Jamestown had taken possession at the Quakers' 43 after Gerald Dixie picked off a pass and returned it 11 yards. But the Red Raiders turned the ball back over when quarterback Dennis Drew went back to pass and the ball was batted out of his hand. It continued to roll behind him and as players tried to pick the ball up it was kicked and slapped. It was finally recovered 41 yards later by Orchard Park's Zach Schenk at the Jamestown 11. Three plays later, Witkowski hit Ross DeLisle with a 16-yard touchdown pass.
Reese was attempting the extra-point kick when the Red Raiders were penalized for being offsides. But before he could stop, a Jamestown player attempting to block the kick dove into Reese and the kicker left the game with a possible broken leg.
''It's not good because he does all of our kicking and he plays guard for us,'' Tundo said. ''He's a big-time kicker. He's not a guy that kicks it 30 yards (on kickoffs), he kicks it in the end zone.''
Without a place kicker, the Quakers went for two points and Anderson carried it in for an 18-0 lead with 5:47 left in the third quarter.
Then Orchard Park used another turnover to set up its final touchdown.
After the kickoff, Drew attempted a pass on a third-and-seven play, but the ball was tipped. Quakers' lineman Mike Fischer intercepted and rambled 2 yards to the Jamestown 10. On the first play from there, Witkowski tossed a touchdown pass to Connor Hicks and then he completed a two-point conversion pass to Jim Fitzgerald for a 26-0 lead with 4:20 left in the third quarter.
''I think our line wore them down,'' Tundo said. ''Our line is a big line. They (Jamestown) take chances a lot on their defense, blirtzing from different spots and eventually we made some big plays.''
In the fourth quarter, the only highlight for Jamestown was that Dixie recorded his second interception.
The top Red Raiders' tacklers were Eric Tyra with 14 and Ben Whitney had 12.
After a slow start, Anderson finished with 122 yards on 23 carries for Orchard Park.
Coming off 43 carries for 210 yards last week at Riverside, Campion led Jamestown with 28 carries for 70 yards.
Orchard Park will be seeking revenge when it meets Clarence in the title game. When the teams met in the regular season, Clarence rushed for 300 yards and won, 36-28.
Jamestown0 0 0 0 - 0
Orchard Park0 10 16 0 - 26
OP-Johnson 7 pass from Witkowski (Reese kick)
OP-Reese 24 FG
OP-DiLisle 16 pass from Witkowski (Anderson run)
OP-Hick 10 pass from Witkowski (Fitzgerald pass from Witkowski)