The Southwestern seniors - 15 in all - and their coach, Jay Sirianni, slowly made the walk to one end of Charles A. Lawson Field on Friday night. It's a long-standing tradition that the Trojans observe after playing in their final home game of their career.
What was discussed in the shadow of the goal post remained private, but that was understandable.
After all, Southwestern did its figurative talking the previous two hours, and the message was loud and clear.
Sparked by a record-setting performance by senior wide receiver Nick Austin, the Trojans, the top-ranked team in the state, routed Salamanca, 37-0, in a Section 6 Class C semifinal game. The win, the Trojans' 38th straight, vaulted them into the sectional title game against Fredonia, a 45-20 winner over Grover Cleveland. That contest will be played at 6:30 p.m. next Friday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
''That's what you want, the two best teams in the section at the stadium and I think that's what you have,'' said Sirianni, who saw his team edge the Hillbillies, 27-20, in Week Six. ''We've got to get to work, look at some film and game plan for next week.''
The film the Southwestern coaches will watch of last night's game should make them happy, especially the performance turned in by Austin.
At left, Southwestern’s Nick Austin takes off after making one of his school record-tying 10 catches Friday night in a 37-0 Section 6 Class C semifinal victory over Salamanca. At right, quarterback Jimmy Rauh (7) and John Mistretta became the first quarterback-running back combination in school history to pass for and run for more than 1,000 yards in a season. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photos by Scott Kindberg
The 6-foot, 170-pounder tied a school record for receptions in a game (10), shattered the mark for receiving yards in a game (215) and a career (1,227) and made a highlight-reel, 76-yard catch and run for a touchdown, one of his two TD receptions on the night.
Senior quarterback Jimmy Rauh, meanwhile, completed 14-of-21 passes for 276 yards - the second-most passing yards in school history - and three touchdowns; and senior running back John Mistretta rushed for 128 yards and two TDs. Together, Rauh and Mistretta became the first Trojans' tandem to pass and run for 1,000 yards in the same season.
Tack on a stellar effort by the defensive unit - Salamanca managed just three first downs and punted nine times - and it appears Southwestern is hitting on all cylinders heading into next week's rematch against Fredonia (8-1).
''We came in and wanted to stop (running back) Ben Haas,'' Sirianni said, ''and I thought we did a nice job of that. We achieved our goal and got a shutout, so it was nice.''
As has been its custom, Southwestern put the game out of reach early.
Mistretta scored on a 3-yard run early in the first quarter, a touchdown set up by a 46-yard pass from Rauh to Austin. Rauh booted his first of five successful extra points to give the Trojans a 7-0 lead.
On its very next possession, Rauh went deep to Austin again and the athletic wideout went up and caught the perfectly thrown ball with one hand and sprinted the rest of the way to the end zone for the score.
''The (defensive back) saw that I had him beat, so he pulled my jersey and my hand got caught up with him, so I only had one hand to use,'' Austin said. ''I just stuck it out and looked at it and the ball was in my hand. It was a great, great throw.''
Added Rauh: ''I had a perfect view. It was one of those things that was like, 'Wow, did that really just happen?' Nick just made a play.''
Salamanca coach Jason Marsh was certainly impressed.
''I really don't remember a receiver that good,'' he said. ''His routes are perfect, he's fast and he has great hands. Then you have a quarterback who puts the ball on the money nine out of 10 times.''
With the Warriors (5-4) unable to move the ball again, Southwestern took over at its own 40 and four plays later Mistretta broke loose on a 43-yard TD run, courtesy of a splendidly executed draw, pushing the lead to 21-0 with 11:10 remaining in the second quarter.
The score remained that way until halftime, although the Trojans had a couple of drives stall deep into Salamanca territory, one thanks to an interception in the end zone by the Warriors' Brett Smith. It was Rauh's first pick of the season.
In the second half, Rauh tossed TD passes of 5 and 1 yards to senior David Tapia and Austin respectively; and Southwestern was credited with a safety when Salamanca punter Jackson John threw the ball out of the end zone after the snap sailed over his head.
The Trojans left the field knowing they had achieved one more goal - winning all their home games. Next on their list? A sectional title.
''It's going to be a battle up there,'' Sirianni said.