ORCHARD PARK - Surrounded by a horde of media near midfield at Ralph Wilson Stadium, Silver Creek coach Sean Helmer broke off his answer in mid-sentence and bolted for a photo opportunity with his football team.
There would be no such Kodak moment for the Randolph Cardinals.
Sparked by three long touchdown-producing plays and several time-consuming drives, the Black Knights raced out to a 21-0 lead and then held on for a 21-14 victory over the Cardinals Thursday night in the Section 6 Class D championship game.
The Silver Creek Black Knights beat the Randolph Cardinals, 21-14, in the Section 6 Class D champion
The win advances No. 2 Silver Creek (10-0) into the Far West Regional at 6 p.m. Nov. 12 against the Section 5 champion at All-High Stadium in Buffalo. The Cardinals, the defending state champs, end their season 9-1, snapping a 21-game winning streak.
"They were doing just like we did to a lot of teams,'' Randolph coach Pat Slater said. "They were holding the ball, making first downs and breaking them out. They were doing a good job."
The Black Knights, whose previous sectional crown came in 2005, were impressive indeed.
Above, Zach Williams of Silver Creek dives through a big hole for yardage against Randolph during Thursday night’s Section 6 Class D football championship game at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Below, Randolph’s Brent Robbins races around the end.
Photos by John Conti
Senior running back Zach Williams rushed for 133 yards on 32 carries, senior quarterback Cody Hehir ran for one touchdown and passed for another and senior Frank Sterlace added a 66-yard TD dash on the game's third play. When added together, it was just enough to prevent the Cardinals from claiming their fourth sectional title in six seasons.
''Tonight we're just going to take it in,'' Helmer said. ''This is the best team in the state, I think, but everybody else out there is working hard, so we'll see what we can do.''
It didn't take the Black Knights long to show just how good they are.
The crowd had barely settled into their seats when Sterlace broke free at the line of scrimmage and raced 66 yards for a touchdown. Steven Myers booted the first of his three successful extra points and Silver Creek led, 7-0.
The game was only 90 seconds old.
''I think it told (Randolph) that (we're) pretty good,'' Helmer said, ''and I thought we had their guard down for a little bit.''
And once the Cardinals were forced to turn the ball over on downs at the Black Knights' 10-yard line later in the opening period, Silver Creek went 90 yards in 15 plays, capped by Hehir's keeper from 31 yards on a fourth-and-8 play. The quarterback was briefly stopped at the line of scrimmage, but he spun out of a tackle and sprinted to the end zone for the touchdown.
''I kept my legs moving and I spun out of it,'' Hehir said. ''It was wide open from there.''
Armed with a 14-0 lead, the Black Knights appeared in control the rest of the half and into the early stages of the third quarter when Hehir connected with a wide-open Zeddie Williams on a 51-yard touchdown pass.
''I made the call, but (Hehir) made up the play in his head, because that tight end wasn't supposed to go out (in the pattern),'' Helmer said.
''We had a missed assignment,'' Slater added.
Meanwhile, Silver Creek's lead had ballooned to 21-0.
But Randolph finally came up with a big play to close the gap as junior Brent Robbins (15 carries, 118 yards) took a handoff, bounced to the outside and outraced defenders 58 yards for the score. Senior Nick Milliman booted the first of his two successful extra point attempts, cutting the deficit to 21-7 with 6:37 remaining in the third quarter.
After an exchange of punts, the Black Knights put together another impressive drive, taking the ball from their own 4-yard line to the Randolph 1. The march consumed more than eight minutes spanning the third and fourth periods, but the Cardinals made three stops for no gain, including one of Zach Williams on fourth down, to take over possession just inches from the goal line with 3:50 remaining.
''I thought ... we were going to drive it in and score,'' Helmer admitted, ''but we didn't. You let your guard down and the next thing you know it's a nail-biter.''
On the very next play, Randolph junior quarterback John Morgante went deep, hitting junior Mason Burch in stride en route to a record-setting 99-yard touchdown. The bomb broke the previous Section 6 championship game mark of 95 yards set in 1994 when Falconer's Dana Washer connected with Fred Carder.
''That's called momentum,'' Slater said. ''Our heads were down and we were feeling bad and then all of a sudden there was that big play and you're right back in it.''
The Cardinals nearly recovered the subsequent on-sides kick, but somehow Silver Creek gained possession and it ran out the clock. The key play on that final drive was Zach Williams' 3-yard run on fourth-and-inches at the Silver Creek 38 with 2:40 left.
Helmer said he never gave a thought to punting.
''Zach is the real deal,'' he said. '' ... There are things you can stop, but you can't out-will him.''
Without a timeout, all Randolph could do was watch the clock count down to a Silver Creek championship.
''Let's hope they win it all,'' Slater said.
NOTES: Zach Williams led the Black Knights' defense with 10 tackles. Juniors John Jimerson and Andrew Lanphere added five apiece. ... Seniors Thomas Cornell (10 tackles), Andrew Grover (seven), Kyle Luce (seven tackles) and Ben Fluent (five), and junior Andrew Schwartz (five) were the top tacklers for Randolph.
Randolph0 0 7 7 - 14
Silver Creek7 7 7 0 - 21
SC-Sterlace 66 run (Myers kick)
SC-Hehir 31 run (Myers kick)
SC-Zeddie Williams 51 pass from Hehir (Myers kick)
Ran-Robbins 58 run (Milliman kick)
Ran-Burch 99 pass from Morgante (Milliman kick)