FREWSBURG - Encircled by his players, Chautauqua Lake football coach Dan Greco gave an impassioned postgame talk Friday night and then excused himself so he could reunite with his 2-year-old grand-daughter.
When Greco returned to answer questions from the media - the little girl cradled in his arms - the smile on his face lit up the Frewsburg Central School football field.
The play of the Thunderbirds had the same impact.
Jeremiah Russin (42) carries the ball for Chautauqua Lake while Nick Munella of Frewsburg makes the tackle in Friday’s Class D football game.
P-J photo by Scott Kindberg
Sparked by two second-half touchdowns and a pair of stalwart goal-line stands - one in each half - Chautauqua Lake knocked off Frewsburg, 16-6, in a Class D showdown.
The win improves the Thunderbirds' record to 4-1 overall and 4-1 in the division, while the Bears fell to 3-2 and 3-2.
''This is a big win,'' Greco said. ''I hope, and I want to believe, that four wins will get us a first-round home game, but that's in the future.''
For now, the Thunderbirds can spend the weekend feeling pretty good about how they played.
Sophomore Ryan Miller scored on a 3-yard touchdown run, junior quarterback Kyle Mayer connected with senior Jeremiah Russin on a 62-yard scoring strike and the defense, led by sophomore linebacker A.J. Hulton, stood strong when it needed to.
''Those defensive stands were really big,'' said Greco, who watched his team stuff the Bears on fourth-and-goal from the 1 on their first possession of the game and again on their last. ''The kids have a lot of heart. That's it.''
With the defensive stops as bookends, the Thunderbirds' offense came alive after intermission, jump-started by a heads-up special teams play by Russin early in the third quarter that led to Chautauqua Lake's first touchdown and placed the momentum squarely in its favor.
With Russin in punt formation and Frewsburg, which was already leading, 6-0, poised to regain possession, the snap from center sailed over his head. He kept his poise, however, scooped up the ball and ran for 11 yards and a first down. Eight plays later, Miller scored from 3 yards out to tie the game, 6-6, with 3:52 remaining in the third quarter. Junior Nick Zentz, who finished the game with 117 yards on 12 carries, tacked on the two-point conversion and the Thunderbirds were in the lead for good.
''I'm telling you, Russin's been almost in traction all day,'' Greco said. ''He's been hurting, but he's a senior. It's what we ask of them and he came up big.''
The Bears, whose only touchdown came on senior Nick Munella's 47-yard touchdown pass to Robbie Stearns in the second quarter, continued to drive into enemy territory in the second half, but failed when they reached the red zone.
''When they took the ball down to the goal line, they finished and we were unable to do that,'' Frewsburg coach Terry Gray said. ''We missed opportunities. ... In big games, you don't get to reload. You don't get those second chances.''
Chautauqua Lake closed out the scoring when Russin hauled in Mayer's underthrown pass and burst down the far sideline for a 62-yard touchdown with 11:06 remaining in the game. Hulton caught a two-point conversion pass from Mayer to push the lead to 16-6.
''Jeremiah can adjust to the ball when it's in the air,'' Greco said. ''He's as good an athlete as any we have.''
There were a couple good ones on the defensive side of the ball. Hulton, playing his first game at middle linebacker, was credited with 17 tackles, Anthony Pezzulo had 10, and Cody Thomas and Russin both picked off a pass.
Munella led the Bears with 127 yards on 14 carries, while Nick Fardink chipped in with 84 yards on 13 trips.
Fardink led the defense with seven tackles, while Kevin Rogers, Cody Haller, Austin Lynn and Nick Long all had six. Garrett Steele intercepted a pass and Lynn recovered a fumble.
''They were very physical and very well-coached, and when we found a weakness, (Greco) fixed it before we could do it again,'' Gray said. ''That's good coaching.''
Chautauqua Lake is back in action next Friday when it entertains Randolph, a 42-6 winner over Portville last night. Frewsburg entertains Silver Creek, which defeated Cattaraugus-Little Valley, 30-20.
Chautauqua Lake0 0 8 8 - 16
Frewsburg0 6 0 0 - 6
Frews-Stearns 47 pass from Munella (kick fail)
CLCS-Miller 3 run (Zentz run)
CLCS-Russin 62 pass from Mayer (Hultin pass from Mayer)