Weekly Feature

2017-10-12 / Sports

Central gridders put EA/Holland away early

¦ Thirty-point first quarter propels Warriors to victory
by JASON NADOLINSKI
Sports Reporter

Cheektowaga’s football team made sure to send its fans — and its plethora of seniors — home happy from Friday’s Homecoming Game, as the Warriors put up 30 points in the first quarter en route to earning a 44-12 victory over East Aurora/ Holland on a night that also served as the Warriors’ Senior Night.

Not even a 28-yard interception return for a touchdown by Ben Schweikhard with just over five minutes to play in the first quarter could slow down the Warriors, who still managed to add a pair of touchdowns before the end of the frame to take a commanding 30-6 lead by the end of the opening stanza.

Joseph Deni tries to find the angle to break past Cheektowaga defender Alekzander Bryant during East Aurora/Holland’s loss in the Warriors’ Homecoming Game Friday. Joseph Deni tries to find the angle to break past Cheektowaga defender Alekzander Bryant during East Aurora/Holland’s loss in the Warriors’ Homecoming Game Friday. The Warriors would add their final two touchdowns in the second quarter to push their advantage to 44-6 heading into halftime and were then able to focus on solidifying their defensive effort — while getting the team’s reserves and seniors an abundance of playing time — to close out the contest.

“It was a fun night for sure,” Cheektowaga coach Mike Fatta said. “The kids played well, and it was nice celebrating all of our seniors. We definitely wanted to start quickly to try and make sure we could get everyone in with it being Senior Night, so it was good that we were able to do that. We still were able to improve on the things we’ve been working on, so all in all it was a really good night.”

Cheektowaga kicked off its night with a 29-yard touchdown run by Michael Gray, and then added a 10-yard touchdown strike a few minutes later on a connection between KeShone Beal and Tommy Zolnowski. Following Schweikhard’s pick-six that pulled the Blue Devils back within a score, 14-6, the Warriors closed out their first-quarter surge with an 11-yard connection between Beal and Jaquan Pugh, and a 39-yard run by Beal with just over a minute to play in the first quarter.

“Anytime you’re playing in someone’s Homecoming Game, it’s tough because they’re coming out amped up to begin with — and then Cheektowaga is just loaded with talented athletes they can get the ball too as well, so even if you can contain one or two guys, which we actually did, they’re going to be able to take advantage of their athleticism,” East Aurora/Holland coach John Swiniuch said. “The score doesn’t necessarily show it, but we played one of our best defensive games of the year. It’s just that Cheektowaga is loaded, so after a while they just had better kids and they were able to get the ball in their hands.

“We were definitely thinking on the sideline that maybe we could turn [the interception return] into something bigger when it happened,” Swiniuch continued. “We did a great job of getting them in three fourth-down situations and multiple thirds and long, so we made them earn their points and really work to move the ball.”

Cheektowaga did continue to work hard to move the ball, which resulted in additional scores by the Warriors in the second quarter. Jaquan Bush capped an early drive with a 3-yard run to push the Warriors’ advantage to 37-6, while Beal to Rayshawn Minter pass went for 5 yards to close out the victors’ scoring.

“The challenge their quarterback presents is that he’s a big kid and a tough runner, so not only can he throw the ball well but, of all the quarterbacks we’ve faced, he’s by far the biggest and toughest for us to try and bring down,” Swiniuch said of Beal. “He was definitely a difference maker for them because East Aurora/Holland’s Connor Boss tries to bat down KeShone Beal’s pass attempt while getting pressure on the Warriors’ quarterback during the Blue Devils’ 44-12 loss Friday. Photos by Jason NadolinskiPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com East Aurora/Holland’s Connor Boss tries to bat down KeShone Beal’s pass attempt while getting pressure on the Warriors’ quarterback during the Blue Devils’ 44-12 loss Friday. Photos by Jason NadolinskiPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com he could pick up yards when they needed them. Our kids did a good job of trying to contain him, but their tailback, Gray, when they needed the yards, he could pick them up too.”

East Aurora/Holland closed out the game’s scoring in the fourth quarter via quarterback Paul Nellis’ 8-yard run, but by that point the Blue Devils were too far behind to make a realistic push for a comeback.

“There was talk about how this might be the last game we play on this field with the new field that’s being built for next year, so we definitely wanted to win and wanted to give everyone one last chance to play on it,” Fatta said. “It was nice to see everyone do as well as they did on both sides of the ball for us that night.”

Beal finished the night 8-of-22 for 84 yards through the air to go along with his 78 yards on six carries. Gray guided the Warriors’ running game, meanwhile, with 99 yards on five carries. Minter finished with 35 yards on three carries, while Keon White chipped in with 26 yards on four carries. Dayvon Garvin and Javaughn Williams each contributed 24 yards on six and four carries, respectively.

Defensively, Cheektowaga was led by John Sweat’s seven total tackles, while Luke Mortellaro added four total tackles. Alekzander Bryant added a pair of interceptions for the Warriors (5-1, 4-0 Class B-1), who travel to crosstown rival Maryvale Friday for the teams’ regular season finale.

Cheektowaga hopes to find a way to extend its current streak of five wins in the last six meetings with the Flyers, but the Warriors know it’s going to take a Herculean effort to add to their 16-6-2 lead in the series’ all-time standings.

“Maryvale does a good job over there, and their coaching staff and ours are good friends,” Fatta said. “There’s a lot of pride that goes into that game, so it should be a fun night. They’re going to be tough to defend, though. They run an offense that’s tough to take on, given all their weapons, so we’ll just have to try to slow them down however we can. And, like always, we want to execute on offense as well.”

East Aurora/Holland, meanwhile, was led by Colin Russell’s 55 yards on 10 carries. Both Jack Rogers and Joseph Deni added nine yards, while Nellis finished the game 4-of-12 for 18 yards. Connor Boss had two of those catches for 15 yards.

Defensively, the Blue Devils were led by Austin Sitarek’s 12 tackles, while Jonathan Anstett finished with 10 tackles — including three for a loss — and a sack. Hunter Ehrenburg also had eight tackles and a sack, while Patrick Nolan chipped in with five tackles and a fumble recovery that he returned 60 yards.

The Blue Devils (0-6, 0-4 Class B-1) close out their regular season Friday by traveling to Lew-Port (0-6, 0-4 B-1). Injuries haven’t been helping East Aurora/Holland’s chances this season, but Swiniuch is hopeful that his squad can be the one to end its season-long losing streak this weekend.

“We need to clean up some things with our blocking, but with us down to six linemen because of injuries, we’ll probably work to simplify things to give us a better chance of generating some offense and not have as many three-and-out series,” Swiniuch said. “We have to be able to sustain some drives and generate some consistent offense so that we can get our defense off the field and manage the game better. If we can put together 10- or 12-play drives and get our defensive kids some rest, it’ll make it a much more manageable game. The kids felt great about their effort this past Friday, so we’ll see if we can build off that.”

email: jnadolinski@beenews.com

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