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  • Writer's picturetgardner1167

Resilient Warriors return stronger

Cheektowaga had good reason to hit the panic button in 2017, but they didn’t and ended up with a State semifinal appearance.

They could’ve hit the panic button last offseason after being upset by Dunkirk in the sectional final; last August, when they realized how young their offense was going to be; when WR Tamell Bass went down with a high ankle sprain in the first game of the season; or a week later when they lost to Sweet Home.

But the Warriors persevered through the adversity and not only won their third sectional title in four years but were a game away from a trip to Syracuse for a State Championship.

“We had to overcome our offensive guys being really young,” Cheektowaga coach Mike Fatta said. “It was a challenge to overcome. But they worked hard and got better as the season went on.”

After falling 40-35 to Sweet Home in week two the Warriors, 10-2 (6-0 Class B1), ran the table in Class B1 earning the No. 2 seed in the playoffs. They avenged last year’s sectional final loss with a 52-15 stomping of Dunkirk in the semifinals and came up with a stop on a two-point conversion in overtime to beat Maryvale and win the Section VI Class B crown. Cheektowaga went on to beat Section V champ Hornell in the Far West Regionals before falling to traditional state power Chenango Forks in the State Semifinals.

“You just have to work hard,” senior KeShone Beal said, “throughout the whole offseason and even during the season. Nothing is going to be given to you.”

At 5′ 8″ and 225 pounds Beal brings a ‘fullback’ mentality to the quarterback position. However, his arm is just as good – if not better than his legs. Last season, Beal countered his 969 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground with 1,286 yards and 17 touchdowns in the air, a performance strong enough to be chosen as a Connolly Cup finalist.

“I’m just playing football,” Beal says. “I have to be smarter because I’m shorter so I have to figure out ways to make myself see through the line. I like running the ball, but when I get to throw it – that’s the fun part for me.”

Bass was expected to be one of Beal’s top targets last year before getting injured in week one. It appears the 6′ 2″ wide out has made a full recovery and the Warriors have high expectations for his senior year.

“He missed pretty much all of last year,” Fatta said. “He has looked very good this offseason.”

Senior LB Taivaughn Roach, who made the Class B first team All-NYSSWA team in 2017, will be a leader for the Warriors this year.

Roach will be joined by classmates SS Lamar Reeves III and CB Daron (Malkey) White.

Cheektowaga is looking for big things from JV call up sophomore LB Isaiah Sharpe.

The Warriors will have big holes to fill on the line as Trench Trophy finalists Terrance Bass and Tariq Whitaker, along with WR Tommy Zolnowski graduate.

Cheektowaga is also excited to be playing on their brand-new turf field this season.

“I don’t know if it has hit us yet,” Fatta said. “I’ve been in school all summer so I’ve watched it develop. It’s going to be really exciting.”

It would be easy for a program like Cheektowaga to set goals like a sectional title or win a state championship every year, but the Warriors believe you have to take it one step at a time.

“Same as always,” Roach said about his team expectations for this season. “Play week by week and try to get as far as we can.”

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