For much of his tenure at his alma mater, Southwestern football coach Jay Sirianni knew what to expect just about every time his team took the field.
''We were good and there were no questions,'' he said.
For much of the first half of Friday night's Class C South home opener against Allegany-Limestone, however, he had few answers.
Southwestern coach Jay Sirianni discusses strategy with Kyle Moran (55) during Friday night’s Class C South game against Allegany-Limestone. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Scott Kindberg
''We just had too many missed opportunities and too many mistakes,'' he said. ''We were missing guys wide open, we were fumbling inside our 10-yard line and coming away with no points, we played three (defensive) downs with 10 guys on the field and there were mistakes on my part, too.
''We have to get that figured out.''
They certainly seemed to after intermission.
Junior quarterback Noah Weinstein connected with junior Mike Sandbloom for a third-quarter touchdown pass, senior Tanner Hoose booted a 22-yard field goal in the final period and the defense pitched a shutout as Southwestern pulled away for a 23-12 victory at Charles A. Lawson Field.
The win raised the Trojans' record to 2-0 with Olean coming to town next week.
''To describe us,'' Sirianni said, ''we're a work in progress.''
Given the number of underclassmen who have been handed prominent roles, it's almost understandable. Still, Sirianni - despite the early frustrations - felt good about the way his crew put it together after intermission.
''In the first two weeks, I like the way we've played in the second half,'' he said. ''We won the second half the last two weeks. I felt like were getting stronger as the game went on.''
Weinstein finished 6-of-13 for 110 yards and two touchdowns, including one to freshman Niko Pannes from 13 yards out; junior Hunter Peterson ran for 86 yards; sophomore Brendan Kennedy rushed for 57 yards and recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown; and junior Nick Swanson added 50 yards on the ground.
That's 193 rushing yards from underclassmen.
''We still have elements of our spread, a little bit of wing-T and we just kind of (put) everything together a little bit,'' Sirianni said. ''These are the type of kids we have. Again, we're working on it.''
Early on, though, not much was working right for the Trojans.
The Gators (0-2) scored a touchdown on their first possession of the first quarter on senior quarterback Zach Johnston's 7-yard keeper. The drive was 46 yards in length and came after Southwestern lined up only 10 defensive players on three successive snaps. The two-point conversion pass failed, but Allegany-Limestone had the 6-0 lead and the momentum with 3:32 left in the period.
The Trojans took the ensuing kickoff and advanced all the way to the Gators' 10 only to fumble again. This time, Allegany-Limestone recovered to thwart a golden scoring chance.
''We make some young mistakes,'' Sirianni said.
Finally, Southwestern put together a complete drive on its third possession, highlighted by Weinstein completions of 24 yards to Sandbloom and 13 yards to Pannes, the latter for the score. Hoose booted the first of his two successful extra-point attempts to give the Trojans the lead for good with 10:44 remaining in the second quarter.
After forcing another Allegany-Limestone punt, Southwestern took over at its own 43 and needed seven plays to push its lead to 14-6, when Kennedy alertly fell on a Swanson fumble in the end zone for the score.
''(Kennedy) ran hard, played hard and covered up the ball,'' Sirianni said.
The touchdown loomed large as the Gators pulled to within 14-12 inside the final minute of the first half when Johnston (7-of-13, 80 yards) connected with senior Thomas Nye on a 12-yard touchdown pass.
After intermission, the game belonged to the Trojans, whose defense - led by junior Jordan Bryerton (15 tackles) and senior Kyle Moran (13 tackles) forced two punts, picked off a pass (by senior Josh Ulinger) and forced a turnover on downs.
Meanwhile, Southwestern's offense scored a touchdown (on Weinstein's pass to Sandbloom) and Hoose booted the field goal to push the lead to 23-12 early in the fourth quarter. The outcome might have been even greater, but Weinstein was picked off in the end zone midway through the final period.
NOTES: Ulinger (interception) and junior Peter Page each had eight tackles apiece for the Trojans. ... The ''Character of the Game'' Award was presented to senior Nick Gustafson of Southwestern and senior Pete Harris of Allegany-Limestone. The award is sponsored by Section 6 and Cross Training Football. ... Senior Todd Mason left the game with an injury in the first quarter, but returned late in the fourth.
Allegany-Limestone6 6 0 0 - 12
Southwestern0 14 6 3 - 23
A-L-Johnston 7 run (pass fail)
SW-Pannes 13 pass from Weinstein (Hoose kick)
SW-Kennedy recover fumble in end zone (Hoose kick)
SW-Sandbloom 13 pass from Weinstein (kick blocked)
SW-Hoose 22 field goal