Weekly Feature

2011-09-15 / Sports

East ends Iroquois football’s domination

Interception return for touchdown proves costly as Chiefs remain winless

West Seneca East’s Josh Carbone, left, works his way by an Iroquois defender on one of his five runs in the Trojans’ 24-21 victory over the Chiefs Friday. 
Photo by John NormilePurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com West Seneca East’s Josh Carbone, left, works his way by an Iroquois defender on one of his five runs in the Trojans’ 24-21 victory over the Chiefs Friday. Photo by John NormilePurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com For quite some time — and especially as the teams’ league rivalry has heated up over the past few years — Iroquois’ football team has found a way to prevent West Seneca East from engineering a way to win.

Friday night, West Seneca East flipped the tables and kept Iroquois from cracking the win column for the first time this season — despite the Chiefs’ desperate fourth-quarter rally — in what was a crucial Class A South clash.

Dakota Michels provided what would ultimately be the fatal blow to the Chiefs’ chances when he intercepted a Matt Keating pass and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown that gave East a 17-7 lead in the third quarter. The Trojans’ pass defense came up big again in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, knocking down Keating throws on Iroquois’ final two plays to come up with their first win over the Chiefs at Iroquois in quite some time.

“Dakota’s interception was huge, the play of the game,” East coach Jim Maurino said. “We came out for the game fired up, and we played well on both sides of the ball. Getting this win was these kids’ goal all week. They knew it’s been a while since we’ve won at their place, and they wanted to be the team to break that streak.”

Iroquois, which pulled within three points with about three minutes to play on Jimmy Kloc’s 6-yard run, did move the ball down to East’s 28-yard line on its final drive before stalling with 20 seconds to play. Rather than attempt a 45-yard field goal to tie the game, Iroquois coach Keith Marshall opted to have the Chiefs go for the win.

Despite not getting the win, Marshall and the Chiefs wouldn’t change the way they played their final drive.

“We’re disappointed that we didn’t get the win, but our kids showed a heck of a lot of resolve,” Marshall said. “The kids showed they have a lot of guts. For us to score twice more after they got that interception return, I thought that was a nice thing to see out of such a young club.”

East squeezed out a three-point halftime lead, 10-7, on Andy Smigiera’s 29-yard field goal after he scored the Trojans’ opening touchdown on a 23-yard run in the first quarter. Keating scored earlier in the second quarter, on a 1-yard run, to make the score 7-7 at the time.

Scott Ackerman scored East’s final touchdown in the fourth quarter, on a 1-yard run, to give East a 24-7 lead before Iroquois made its late charge, which started with Madison Wesolowski’s 7-yard touchdown reception that gave the Chiefs hope.

“When they pulled within three, they were playing well and the momentum was changing a little bit, but our kids didn’t get too worried and just responded well to the challenge,” Maurino said. “We didn’t give them anything easy on that final drive.”

East combined for 209 yards on the ground for the game, led by Smigiera’s 83 yards on 13 carries. Smigiera also completed 5-of-10 passes for 53 yards, with Jarmell Caldwell catching four of those passes for 48 yards. Ackerman finished with 57 yards on 16 carries, while Josh Carbone added 41 yards on five carries.

Defensively, Michels also had 10 tackles to go along with his score for East, while Zach Osmanski added seven tackles. Smigiera, Carbone and Ryan Johnson each chipped in with five tackles.

Iroquois was led offensively by Kloc’s 63 yards on 15 carries, while Mason Bonafede added 41 yards on 10 carries. Keating completed 13-of-25 passes for a career high 156 yards, with Wesolowski grabbing four of those passes for 71 yards. Nate Wilkinson had three catches for 43 yards.

Bonafede led the Chiefs defensively, meanwhile, with 10 tackles, while Tyler Miller and Matt Castellana each added six tackles. Miller also had a sack.

East (2-0, 2-0 league) faces another crucial hurdle in its quest for a division title Friday when it travels to Amherst (2-0, 2-0 league). Maurino and his players know that there is a lot riding on this game, but with the success East has enjoyed so far, don’t expect many changes to occur within the Trojans’ game plan.

“This is one of the biggest games our program has been in over the last couple of years; whoever wins puts themselves in a real good spot in the division standings,” Maurino said. “They’ve got quite a few weapons who will definitely be a force for them, but we’re taking the approach of just doing more of the same. We’re going to keep working hard in practice and focusing on the little things, because we’ve definitely got a lot to work on this week.”

In a related note, East will be holding a chicken barbecue sale from 4-7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, prior to the Trojans’ game against Bennett. Dinners cost $9 pre-sale or $10 on game day. For pre-sale orders, call Joe Beres at 587-2460.

Iroquois (0-2) will look to earn its first win of the season when it faces non-league opponent McKinley Friday, and so long as the Chiefs can execute, Marshall is confident they can have a good shot at visiting the win column for the first time this fall.

“McKinley has a tremendous amount of speed and athleticism on its roster, and they just played Sweet Home pretty tough last weekend,” Marshall said. “We’ve got to do a better job of limiting our turnovers, because turnovers will crush your dreams when you play as tough of a schedule as we do.” email: jnadolinski@beenews.com

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