NIAGARA FALLS, NY – – Defense wins you games. In the first half, it was all the McKinley Macks and their defense as they led the Niagara Falls Wolverines going into halftime. The Wolverines countered the Macks’ attack with their own lockdown defense that enabled them to push past the Macks in a non-league contest, 20-18, on Saturday afternoon.
McKinley’s defense looked like they would not be able to be stopped in the first two quarters after scoring 12 points of their own. The first defensive score came off a fumbled snap by the Wolverines quarterback Jhamir Isom. The ball was not picked up until the ball lay inert in the end zone after bouncing 26 yards backwards before McKinley pounced on the ball to get the defensive score to go up 12-0.
Following a touchdown pass from Isom to Che’Kore Moore to trim the Macks’ lead to 12-6, Cortese Myles intercepted a McKinley pass from quarterback Taelon Hollamon. The interception was the queue for the Macks defense to strike again. Anthony Arguelles intercepted an Isom pass (his first of two in the game) that he took 70 yards to the end zone as time expired in the 1st half to give the Macks an 18-6 halftime advantage.
“Anthony is a senior, he’s a captain, and does everything for us,” McKinley head coach Brian Hillery said about Arguelles’ play. “He kicks our field goals, punts, he’s a reserve running back, but he’s also a starting safety and he did a phenomenal job today.”
Once the teams returned to the field for the 2nd half, the Wolverines defense took control of the game recovering a botched McKinley snap deep in their own territory that led toward a touchdown pass from Isom to Rodney Barnes to make it an 18-12 game with 11:51 left in the 4th quarter.
Niagara Falls’ offense couldn’t capitalize on a 4th and goal situation, giving the ball to McKinley inside their 5 yardline, but the Wolverines defense attacked McKinley’s offensive line on the first play of that drive. This led to a safety making it an 18-14 game with 6:54 remaining in the game.
“The play we got stopped on was a mistake,” Niagara Falls head coach Donald Bass said after the game. “The call was there, but the guy that took the ball shouldn’t have taken it. He was already cramping up, so he couldn’t get to the edge, so that hurt us. But then the defense bailed us out like they did all day today by stuffing them on the next play for a safety.”
The kickoff following the safety was kicked out of bounds and a little over a minute later, the Wolverines scored to take their first and last lead of the game off a 3-yard rushing touchdown by Haseen Pruitt to put them up 20-18.
Both teams had very athletic players and made the game extremely entertaining, especially in the 4th quarter when the game was coming down to the line. The game for McKinley was a very good test, especially being a member of Class A South with the likes of South Park, West Seneca East and Bennett.
Niagara Falls (1-0) will travel to Lockport a week from today, as they will take on the Lions in a Class AA North matchup. The Lions were devoured 60-6 against perennial powerhouse Canisius in non-league action today. McKinley (0-1) will play their first Class A South divisional game against a very tough Bennett squad, who defeated West Seneca East, 30-13 on Friday night, at Riverside Field next Saturday.