MAYVILLE - For the first time in over a year, Chautauqua Lake (2-0) was in danger of losing a football game.
But for the 11th straight game, the Thunderbirds came off the field with a win, as they dropped Portville (1-1), 12-6, in Class D football action Friday night on the Chautauqua Lake Central School football field.
"Whether you need (a test) or not, that's what you're going to get out of the (Class D league) every game," Chautauqua Lake coach Dan Greco said.
Chautauqua Lake’s Adam Carpenter carries the ball while Pine Valley’s Kevin Flagg attempts to bring Carpenter down during a Class D football game on Friday night.
P-J photo by Roger Coda
"So yeah, we needed it, we got it, and we're going to get it again. That's every week. Sometimes you come out on top, sometimes you don't."
Down 6-0 with 11:49 left to go in the game, the Thunderbirds were able to rattle off 12 unanswered points to keep their winning streak alive.
"It's only tough if you don't get better," Portville head coach Gary Swetland said of his team's loss. "I'm sure all of our players are disappointed. I'm disappointed, the coaches are disappointed and I'm sure Chautauqua Lake's excited and happy and tickled to death."
After forcing the Panthers to punt, the Thunderbirds took over at their own 31-yard line with 11 seconds off the clock in the fourth quarter.
Having struggled on offense for much of the game, the Thunderbirds' drive soon resulted in yet another punt, but this time, Chautauqua Lake caught a break as the Panthers' Gunnar VanCuren was hit with a roughing the kicker call on Jeremiah Russin. The call gave Chautauqua Lake new life and a first down at the Portville 25-yard line.
"That was a controversial call," Swetland said. "I didn't like it, I thought it was a bad call. I'm not making excuses. You've got to play. I've been on these sidelines a long time ... That was a controversial call at best."
"We've got to go by (the referees') interpretation," Greco said. "I liked the one on the kicker, it definitely helped us. You live by (the referees') calls."
Chautauqua Lake took advantage as Miller took the ball up the middle for 3 yards and the game-tying touchdown with 5:46 left in the game.
The Panthers were unable to take advantage of a pass interference call on the ensuing drive and were forced to punt the ball away, with the Thunderbirds taking over on their own 27-yard line with 2:54 left in the game.
Carpenter, who rushed for 178 yards on 24 carries last week against International Prep at Grover Cleveland, had little success against the Panthers' defense for much of the game.
However, when his team needed him the most Friday, Carpenter came through as he broke off a 61-yard scoring run to put the Thunderbirds ahead to stay.
"I don't know how many times he carried the ball, but we certainly gave it to him enough times," Greco said of Carpenter. "He's a tough little guy and he just keeps carrying it."
The Panthers did not go quietly however, as VanCuren took the ensuing kickoff down to the Thunderbirds' 36-yard line.
Five plays later, and facing a third-and-5 at the Thunderbirds' 5-yard line, Chautauqua Lake's Dustin Graziano made the biggest defensive play of the second half, bringing down Marcellin at the Thunderbirds' 11-yard line and leaving the Panthers with a fourth-and-11 with less than 30 seconds left on the clock. Marcellin's final pass fell incomplete and well out of the reach of a diving Wood in the end zone, giving the Thunderbirds an important Class D win.
The Panthers got on the board first when Waugh finished off a 12-play, 67-yard drive with 4:28 left in the third quarter.
Baker finished the game with 17 total tackles (nine solo) and the interception.
"I'll tell you what, that's the best (darn) free Friday night of football anyone is going to see in a long time," Swetland said.