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  • Writer's picturetgardner1167

Gowanda/Pine Valley Snaps Post-season Drought

The Gowanda/Pine Valley Panthers hosted the John F. Kennedy Bears on Friday night at a soggy and muddy Hillis Field at Gowanda High School. Both teams’ offenses surprisingly came out fast and were battling to advance in the Class C portion of the Section VI Football playoffs. Gowanda/Pine Valley’s offensive success in the second half proved to be the primary factor for the Panthers’ 19-8 win over JFK.

The Panthers win is a very special one. It’s the first playoff win for the Gowanda football program since the 2002 season, the same year when the Panthers were crowned champions of Class C in Section VI. The Panthers then eventually lost to LeRoy in the Far West Regional, by a score of 29-6.

Gowanda/Pine Valley’s offense heavily relied on the run game, as the Panthers only attempted two passes in the treacherous weather conditions that encompassed all of Western New York. Kameron Alexander was the main focus for the Panthers as he scored a 57-yard rushing touchdown that gave the Panthers the lead for the remainder of the game.

Alexander declined to be interviewed by WNY Athletics, but Alexander has had an extremely exciting season for the Panthers. The 6-foot-1, 203-pound senior running back shattered the school’s single season rushing record, amassing over 1,600 rushing yards and averaging three touchdowns per contest coming into the playoff bout. In his potential final home game ever at Gowanda, Alexander unofficially ran 19 times for 153 yards and one touchdown.

Not only did Alexander play an impressive game, so did his fellow running mates, Gilberto Ortiz and Connor Halftown. Ortiz and Halftown unofficially added 131 yards combined, scoring touchdowns of 30 and 11 yards, respectively. As a team, Gowanda unofficially ran the ball an impressive 37 times for 282 yards and three scores. The Panthers rushing corps were extremely impressive in the win, despite the less than optimal conditions at Hillis Field.

“It’s a family,” Gowanda/Pine Valley head coach Sean Gabel proudly stated following the win. “That’s how we played all year, we all came together. Thick and thin, like I told them all year, you never get through so many emotions in a two-hour game. All the emotions come from [Hillis Field]. I’m proud of these boys.”

JFK’s offense started the game off with a bang, handing the ball off to Jeff Rashko, who was arguably the Bears’ best player in the past couple of games. Rashko finished the night off unofficially amassing 78 rushing yards on 20 attempts, while finding the end zone once on a 12-yard score that gave the Bears an 8-7 lead, which they held for a fairly decent amount of the game.

“The offense couldn’t get it done when we needed to,” JFK head coach Jeff Sabatino said following the loss. “Blame the weather, blame this, and blame that, we didn’t capitalize. All year we counted on our offense to make plays, and today we didn’t click.”

Gowanda/Pine Valley, the 2nd seed from Class C South, will await the winner of the Chautauqua Lake and Cleveland Hill game that will be played at Cleveland Hill on Saturday at 2:00pm. If Chautauqua Lake were to win the matchup, Gowanda would host the Thunderbirds next Friday at 7:00pm. However, if Cleveland Hill defeats Chautauqua Lake, the Eagles would host Gowanda/Pine Valley next Saturday at 2:00pm.

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