ALLEGANY - Entering Friday night's game against Allegany-Limestone, the Southwestern Trojans still had aspirations of winning another Class C South league title. Following their 34-13 loss to the Gators, those hopes have been dashed.
''Coming off last week we put ourselves in a position to at least battle for a league title,'' Southwestern coach Jay Sirianni said, referring to last week's thrilling overtime victory over previously unbeaten Salamanca. ''Now we're battling just to make the playoffs.''
The decisive game will come next weekend, when the Trojans take on Cassadaga Valley.
''If we lose next week we're out, if we win next week we're in,'' Sirianni said. ''That's all it comes down to. We have to beat Cassadaga and if we don't we're not in the playoffs.''
Southwestern (2-3, 2-2) kept its league title hopes alive through three quarters Friday night, but the Gators (3-2, 3-1) made all the plays over the final 12 minutes to put themselves in position for a top seed in the Section 6 playoffs.
After trailing, 14-7, at halftime, the Trojans scored a touchdown midway through the third period on a 10-yard pass from Jake Pilling to Ryan Schutte. A bad snap prevented the extra point attempt, but Southwestern was down just a point with plenty of time left.
But Allegany-Limestone put together a 60-yard touchdown drive to build its lead back up to seven points in the final minute of the third quarter and, after a Southwestern three-and-out, the Gators drove the ball 62 yards for another touchdown and a 13-point lead with seven minutes remaining.
''The second half has been our problem here at home,'' Allegany-Limestone coach Chad Lyter said. ''We've been ahead all three of our home games and lost the other two because we allowed the other teams to take control of the game. They didn't do that today. They're growing up. They came out and they responded. I'm really proud of them. They played well.''
During the 11-minute span that followed Southwestern's score to pull within a point, the Trojans held the ball for less than a minute. On the second play of their three-and-out, Pilling hit one of his wide receivers with a pass that would have easily given Southwestern a first down, but the ball was dropped. The Trojans never seemed to recover from that play, which didn't please Sirianni.
''I'm disappointed in our composure,'' he said. ''It was 20-13 and we had the ball. We dropped a sure first down and we fell apart. We fell apart. Our composure is very, very poor. The way we reacted to that drop, we had no bounceback. That's what's disappointing. The loss isn't as disappointing as our character and composure. Those things are a sign of leadership. It goes to the top and I'm at the top.''
Allegany-Limestone had four different ball carriers rush for more than 40 yards. Trevin Barber led the way with 18 carries for 93 yards and a touchdown and the senior also added a 10-yard touchdown reception to open the scoring.
Quarterback Kyle Stover rushed 14 times for 74 yards with a touchdown, Josh Harrington had seven carries for 72 yards and a touchdown and Todd Mason added nine carries for 46 yards, all in the first half.
Harrington and Mason each caught two-point conversion passes from Stover and Cole Papasergi had a 45-yard interception return for a touchdown that capped the scoring.
After Allegany-Limestone scored on its opening possession to take a 6-0 lead, Southwestern responded with a 65-yard drive that Pilling capped with a 10-yard quarterback keeper for a touchdown. Tanner Hoose's extra point gave the Trojans their only lead of the game, 7-6.
The Gators scored two minutes later and Southwestern never caught them again.
Pilling finished with 13 carries for 54 yards and completed 10 of 27 passes for 92 yards with the one touchdown and the one interception.
''I don't know the last time we beat Southwestern,'' Lyter said. ''They're a good football team. I watched them play Salamanca and they were really good in that game and I thought they played well today. I just thought we were a little bit better. I don't know that we're 20 points better but we were a little bit better today.''
Southwestern lost two straight games before bouncing back to beat Salamanca last weekend. The Trojans need to bounce back again next weekend, with their shot at the playoffs on the line. Does Sirianni think his team has it in them?
''I do,'' he said. ''I really believe that and I believe that if we do win next week and make the playoffs, I think that we pose problems for other teams. It comes down to next week. It's do or die next week.''