By Jim Riggs
The Aquinas Institute football program has been, to say the least, rather successful. The Little Irish won Class A state titles in 1998, 2001, 2002, 2007, and 2010. They also won seven straight Section 5 Class A championships.
The Jamestown Red Raiders, seen posing for a photograph after winning the Section 6 Class AA title last Saturday, will take on top-ranked Aquinas of Section 5 in the Class AA Far West Regional at 6 p.m., Saturday at Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Jim Riggs
The Jamestown High School coaching staff was all smiles last Saturday after the Red Raiders defeated Frontier, 42-7, to capture the Section 6 Class AA football championship at Ralph Wilson Stadium. From the left are Michael Baker, Richie Joly, Dave Munella, head coach Tom Langworthy, statistician John O’Brien, Ryan Calkins and Arrick Davis. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Jim Riggs
The Little Irish moved up to Class AA last season and won a Section 5 title again and made it nine straight when it defeated Rush-Henrietta, 50-6, last Saturday night.
Those Class AA sectional titles put Aquinas in the Far West Regionals and that's as far as the Little Irish have gone. Last season it lost to Orchard Park and the Jamestown Red Raiders would like to continue that trend on Saturday night at 6 p.m. at Sahlen's Stadium in Rochester.
While the Little Irish, who are ranked No. 1 in the state, were winning their sectional title last Saturday night, Jamestown, ranked sixth in the state, was defeating Frontier, 42-7, to claim its first Section 6 championship since 2000.
Red Raiders coach Tom Langworthy knows all about the Little Irish's storied past, but Jamestown's football history isn't too shabby either with 11 sectional titles and three state championships.
''Now this is our chance to make our own memories,'' Langworthy said. ''We've already made a ton of memories, we've had a great season full of unbelievable experiences. This is going to be another one Saturday.''
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He added, ''Aquinas has earned the right to be there, they've had a great season, but we've earned the right, too, and we're excited about the opportunity and we feel confident.''
Even though the Red Raiders have not played Aquinas, the Little Irish are not strangers. The coaching staff has watched four games from last season and two games from this year on tape and they also attended one Aquinas game this season.
''So we're not lacking in our prep,'' Langworthy said.
And he is not surprised that, just like his Red Raiders, Aquinas is 10-0.
''They're very fundamentally sound,'' Langworthy said.''They don't do a ton of things, but they do them well. They're going to make you execute to beat them. You're not going to be able to luck into a play.''
In the win over Rush-Henrietta last week, sophomore quarterback Jake Zembiec threw three touchdown passes and tailback Donato Clemente ran for two touchdowns. Also, senior fullback Luch Pietropaola rushed 19 times for 165 yards and two touchdowns.
For the season, Zembiec has completed 87-of-148 passes for 1,256 yards and 18 touchdowns while Pietropaola leads in rushing with 135 carries for 937 yards and 11 touchdowns.
When asked which the Little Irish prefer, the run or the pass, Langworthy said, ''They run more. They're probably 65-35 run to pass.''
One area that stands out for Aquinas is the size of its offensive line. Its linemen average 254 pounds while Jamestown's average is 213 pounds. And if you take out 400-pound junior tackle Wyatt Foringer, the Red Raiders' average drops to 204.
But that doesn't concern Langworthy.
''We've been outweighed by linemen all season,' he said. ''We've never made that an excuse. I have faith in our line, I think we can do a good job on the offensive and defensive line. We've just got to have a tenacious spirit and we can't be afraid to get into somebody and lock up with them.''
Then he noted, ''I think the traditional Jamestown powers never had big guys. It's kind of our heritage to have teams that are a little bit undersized and make up for it with heart.''
The Little Irish defense is impressive, allowing only 6.9 points per game. They have 12 players with 20 or more tackles, led by senior linebacker Charlie Rist with 98.
The Jamestown defense has allowed 17.8 points per game and there are 16 players with 20 or more tackles led by Kevin Mosley with 88. And Langworthy thought his team had its best defensive performance against Frontier.
It's the Jamestown offense that has everyone talking. The Red Raiders are averaging 54.2 points per game compared to 32.7 for Aquinas.
Senior quarterback Jake Sisson added to his impressive passing statistics by completing 13-of-29 passes for 402 yards and two touchdowns last week. That yardage gave him the Section 6 season yardage record.
Sisson also rushed 18 times for 100 yards and Zacc Kinsey ran five times for 86 yards.
Zack Panebianco caught five passes for 181 yards, all in the first half, and that set the record for receiving yards in a Section 6 title game.
In all, Jamestown compiled 607 total yards which set a record for the sectional finals.
But when asked to rate last week's performance, Langworthy said, ''I would call it in the middle of the road. I thought offensively it was good, but we missed opportunities. We came up without points in the red zone two or three times. Defensively, I thought it was one of our best games. But I thought our special teams were poor. We had a blocked punt, we faked a punt and didn't get it. And on our third punt I thought our protection was poor.''
So that's why he says, ''I don't think it was our best game yet and I think we can play much better.''
And Saturday night would be the perfect time.
''There's only eight Double A's left and we're one of them, so let's buckle it up and see who can advance to the semis,'' Langworthy said.
The winner moves on to the Class AA state semifinals at Sahlen's Stadium on Nov. 23 at 6 p.m., against the winner of Christian Brothers Academy and Elmira Free Academy/Southside game.